“What do you want for Christmas?”, I innocently asked a group of six year old children. Angelic voices reeled off endless lists of materialistic gifts; iPads, animated dolls and action figures, all tied up with a big glittering bow. To my amazement, there was one child who didn’t want a toy doll or a computer game. That child didn’t want to see a mountain of presents, bigger than Everest, underneath an illuminated tree.
“I would like to be a girl.”
Briskly turning my head, I was greeted by a little boy whose gorgeous brown curls kissed his face. His marble, iridescent eyes illuminated my soul. I smiled as Jake* (a name I have used to protect his identity) went to town on explaining to the group, what it was he was hoping for from Santa.
“I would like to be known as Lilia. I want to have hair like Rapunzel and wear cherry red lipstick. I don’t want anything else. Just that.”
My heart melted, as he turned around and began mimicking moves from current musical icons. I couldn’t help but wonder how his parents were going to grant their six year old with his wish at Christmas. Before I had chance to finish my thought process. His mother, clutched my arm and warmly whispered.
“At first I thought this was a phase, but his association with being a girl is so much more than just wearing dresses. We call him Lilia at home and support all of his decisions. If he decides he wants to be Jake again, well, we will go with that too.”
I guess for most of us, being a boy or a girl, is something that feels very natural from birth. But naive as I am, having a preconceived idea that gender identity is only something that we become aware of in our adolescent years. Meeting Jake, changed my perception. I wish I was young enough to know everything!
I was so taken by my experience I began to educate myself in hope, I could expand my knowledge on the LGBT community. When I found that, Christmas and birthday wishes for one individual were made a reality 10 years ago. A 32-year old Transgender woman from London, who traded in her life as a male model, to create a new life as Chloe-Amelia Lapper. Her inspiring story reveals that, at the tender age of seven, she knew her sex didn’t define who she was on the inside. The numerous nights of painting her toe nails in secret, wishes of one day being able to wear open toe shoes in public, all became a reality in the year 2007. Chloe claims the choice of her transition was the ‘best decision of her life’. Despite some setbacks, Chloe radiates positivity on her social media platforms. She helps others know they aren’t alone and helped me understand the issues transgenders face daily.
“Humans are versatile and we can overcome anything as long as we put our minds to it. Do your homework, don’t suppress it and be patient, it is not a speedy process.” - Chloe Amelia Lapper
What a fantastic, diverse world we are creating for ourselves. I mean, 2017 has been the pioneering year that has encouraged people to exercise their rights to really be whoever they want to be, without facing prejudice. The LGBT community are paving the way and bringing awareness through the media. This month has seen Playboy feature its first transgender front cover. I think it is fantastic that we have positive role models, like Chloe, who are reaching out and helping those who need first hand support. But, I can’t help but wonder whether society is really supporting transgender people. As it is still considered a mental health disorder... * inserts angry emoji* There has been a new wave of retailers catering for gender neutral individuals along with a large increase in unisex facilities. Celebrities have claimed to be raising their children gender neutral. But I wonder if this going against everything a transgender person wants? Is gender a thing of the past now? For me, it all seems a little confusing. But I thank Jake and Chloe for opening my eyes and allowing me to view the world very differently. From an innocent child’s eyes to the eyes of someone who has been through the process.
There are lesson to be learnt, constant debates, different view points and opinions. Despite what is said, I think what really matters is everybody has the right to be who they are without living in fear. Embrace who you are and don’t let anyone make you feel inadequate. Life really is too short.