5-year-old Ellie began wearing dresses when she was 3 years old. Her parents, not surprisingly, just figured they had a son who liked to play dress up. They soon realized this was not the case–and that their son was really their daughter.
Vanessa Ford, Ellie’s mom, stated in Scary Mommy:
“We really just thought we had a son who liked dresses and felt more himself in dresses. And we were okay with that. We were like, ‘well, this is his path.’ We now know it was her path.
We saw a piece about a child transitioning young and it was the final thing that clicked for us to support Ellie in her transition.”
Ellie’s family has been inspired by other families who have publicly supported their transgender children, which is why they’re sharing their own story. Both Vanessa and her husband Ron wrote a letter to Ellie’s school, which reads:
“For a long time, we said, ‘Our son likes dresses but also ninjas’ to describe our child to others. However, we, and a number of experts and specialists, don’t feel that’s a fair description of our child anymore. Our child insists every day, in many ways that they are a girl and has for a long time. Our child has asked for us to call them her/she/sister and Ellie is a name she chose once she realized people would think she was a boy with her birth name.”
They went on to explain in their letter that Ellie told her parents she was a girl at age 4, often telling them point-blank that she is “a girl in my heart and my brain”:
“Most times when she says these things, she says them without prompting or questioning. She draws herself as a stick figure girl, says she’s a girl–often many times a day when playing (“I’m the girl power ranger, I’m Wonderwoman/SpiderGirl/BatGirl etc). We purchased a whole “girl” wardrobe after a tantrum one morning about having to wear “boy” underwear. Since that point, our daughter has truly emerged. She has blossomed, is happier and just seems more herself. It’s hard to explain. (Ellie chose her new name by the way. It’s the name of her lovey and it means “shining light”!)”
Luckily, Ellie’s school has been extremely supportive, which her parents explained in an op-ed for The Washington Post, adding:
“Ellie has blossomed in her school. She feels safe, loved, empowered and, most importantly, just like every other kid there.”
But the thing is, not all children are as lucky as Ellie. What if she was bullied incessantly by classmates, and ignored by staff and teachers? The Fords’ letter is completely right in pointing this out–because children’s lives depend on their schools to provide a supportive and loving environment. While acceptance and love results in a safe environment, an antagonistic environments breeds just that.
The Fords also pointed out this telling statistic: Over 50% of transgender teens attempt suicide, even higher for teens of color like Ellie. This statistic alone shows just how important it is to foster a loving environment. We hope all schools and families recognize this.