17/06/2014 14:21 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Transgender At 5. Parents Explain Why They Let Their Son Ryland Change Gender In Moving Video


Jeff and Hillary Whittington have shared the story of their transgender son Ryland in a moving video which has already been viewed over 350,000 times, touching viewers with its inspirational story and the parents' simple desire for their child to be happy in himself.

"We are overwhelmed with the kind, loving messages from many people," the family said in a statement.

"While this journey has been difficult at times, we have come to a place where our family is ready to come out and try to help other families facing similar situations. Our hope is that by sharing our story, we can begin to make the world a more loving place where people can be their authentic selves."

The family accepted this year's Inspiration Award at the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast, named after the first openly gay US politician, earlier this week where they showed their video and shortly afterwards uploaded it to YouTube.

At one year old, the family suffered the heartache of discovering their beautiful baby girl was deaf. Thankfully, cochlear implants allowed her to hear. But as soon as she could talk, her parents recall in the video, she would shout: "I am a boy."

At first, Jeff Whittington, a former firefighter-turned-real estate agent, and his wife, ignored the signs, thinking that Ryland was 'a tomboy', or that it was 'just a phase' that would pass.

But by the time Ryland turned five, he started actively rejecting everything feminine and soon was overwhelmed with a sense of shame.

"When the family dies, I will cut my hair so I could be a boy," Ryland told his parents.

Another time, the child exclaimed in anguish: "Why did God make me like this?"

The Whittingtons sought professional help and began researching the topic of childhood gender identity on their own. They were horrified to discover the number of transgender individuals, who convinced they were not accepted by society, had committed suicide.

Determined to prevent their child from becoming a statistic, the Whittingtons decided to let Ryland be his true self.

The parents cut their child's blonde hair, bought new 'boy' clothes and started using the male pronounces 'he' and 'him' when referring to Ryland. They also redecorated his girly pink room.

The seven-minute video celebrating the family's emotional, at times difficult but ultimately life-affirming journey, shows Ryland, now seven, being a boy and being happy.

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"Relative to the horrific things that people have to endure with their children all over the world, this is nothing," his parents wrote.

"One of the most inspiring things that Harvey Milk had done as far as our family is concerned," Jeff Whittington said to the crowd, "was to encourage people to come out; to let their voices be heard; break down the walls, break down the barriers and start allowing people to see them for their authentic selves and be true to themselves, and this is our coming out ... this is us making our voices heard."

More on Parentdish: Transgender girl, 6, wins right to use girls' toilet at school