KHQ Exclusive: An 8-Year-Old's Transgender Transformation - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

KHQ Exclusive: An 8-Year-Old's Transgender Transformation

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“I just felt like a girl inside, even when I was a baby,” Aya Cox told KHQ’s Kelsey Watts “I just felt like a girl inside, even when I was a baby,” Aya Cox told KHQ’s Kelsey Watts
SPOKANE, Wash. -

Parents often dream about who their children will grow up to be, but sometimes the answer isn't at all what they had planned.

Rob & Shannon Cox are one example. Their 8-year-old daughter, Aya, was born Aiden.

"There wasn't that light bulb moment, we didn't really say, ‘Oh, we have a transgendered child here,'" Rob Cox told KHQ's Kelsey Watts.

Instead, it was a gradual realization. The Cox's say Aya identified as a girl from birth, asking for princess diapers and playing with mommy's clothes. But those little signs led up to one big announcement when Aya was just 7 years old.

"Without any coaching, without any prompting, without us saying, ‘Hey, you may be a transgendered child,' she just one day said, ‘I want to be called Aya and she and her,' and that was it," Rob added.

"I just felt like a girl inside, even when I was a baby," Aya Cox told KHQ's Kelsey Watts, adding that she felt nervous and happy to tell her parents. "I just wasn't born correct."

The Cox family found Spokane therapist Marybeth Markham – and also found, they're not alone. Markham sees 10-15 transgendered clients every week, as old as 72 and as young as 5.

For clarification, transgender refers to a person who was born one gender and identifies as the other. Transsexual refers to a physical change. The term ‘gender identity' refers to what you live your life as, while boys playing with dolls is an example of ‘gender expression.' Some studies say 1 in 500 children identify as transgender, others say it's closer to 1 in 100.

When asked if children this young can really know if they are transgendered, Markham replied:

"Absolutely, nobody had to tell me I was a girl, I just knew. These kids are the same."

Every month, kids like Aya come together for a playgroup at Markham's office, which is also a chance for their parents and families to connect.

"There's no fear of anyone discovering anything – ‘Hey, wait a minute. You're wearing a dress but you're really a boy,'" Rob added. "We can talk about how our family is dealing with it, how we're coping."

And while the Cox's are supportive, they are in the minority when it comes to Markham's clients. She says 50-75% of the parents of transgendered children she sees are not supportive.

"Sadly, I have some families come in and they're in shock and they say, ‘Can you please fix my child,' or, ‘Please tell me it isn't so, I'll do anything.' I've had parents say ‘I'd rather have my child be schizophrenic than transgendered,'" Markham explained. "It's heartbreaking when that happens, because the kids feel that. They sense that, they know their parents aren't supporting them and that's why a lot of kids stuff it down inside."

Markham says her work is all about meeting the child where they are at right now, and asking open questions about how school is going or how they feel.

And living as a transgendered child doesn't have to be permanent.

"I am not recommending children this age have surgery," Markham explained. "There's nobody who will do surgery on a child that young – if they do they should lose their license."

Children can take hormone therapies leading into pubescence; some of the treatments are fully reversible, others – like growing an Adam's apple – are not.

But as Rob and Shannon know, the life ahead will be hard. Discrimination against transgendered people is common and the suicide rate among the LGBT community is higher than any other at 42%.

Still, they say, they wouldn't have it any other way.

"I think these kids are coming out of the woodwork more and more, and families are finding each other," Shannon said. "We're good. And Aya is wonderful, you can see she's happy and that's the most important thing."

To learn when a child's behavior may be an indication of something more, or what parents need to know, you can reach Marybeth Markham through her website at www.marybethmarkham.com.

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