This is Paddy McGuire. She's 8 and lives in Leicester with her mother, father and brother.
When Paddy was 5, she was given her first dress – after years of asking for one. It was then her mother, Lorna, realised that what was her son would likely become her daughter.
Lorna wrote a poem using caterpillars and butterflies to represent the process unfolding in her family. When Paddy was old enough to understand, Lorna read it to her. Watch the moment, captured for a new Channel 4 documentary, here:
Here's the text of the poem:
I had a little caterpillar, small, cute and blue
He reminded me so much of you
I loved him and fed him, tended his every need
But he wanted to change
I had to follow his lead
I loved and supported still wondering why
'Til the day my boy said goodbye
You spun your silk all round your shell
You wove your web and said your spell
The inside of your soul shone out
And the real you came about
I was amazed, what else could I think?
No longer a shy boy whose heart would sink
But a beautiful butterfly, loud, proud and pink
Sometimes I miss my caterpillar boy
But my butterfly girl fills my heart with joy
BuzzFeed News asked Lorna McGuire what inspired the poem, and how life has been since they realised Paddy wanted to be a girl.
BuzzFeed News: Why did you write the poem?
Lorna McGuire: It was to make sense of my feelings and the whole situation, and to put them down on paper. Paddy is still the same person, but there are things you envisage that child will be like when they grow up, so when you realise that they're not that gender that's all blown out of the water. So it was about the fact you're losing that side of them – you're losing what you thought would be. Paddy was named after her dad, so I imagined father and son fixing cars in the future. That's not going to happen, but we've embraced her being transgendered and love her just as much.
You still call her Paddy – will that change?
LM: A couple of years ago on Britain's Got Talent there was an old lady on it and her name was Paddy and when our Paddy saw that, she said, "Well Paddy's a girl's name, so I'm keeping it!' It may change in the future when she realises most people see it as a boy's name.
How old was Paddy when you wrote that poem?
LM: She was 5. But I wrote it more for me at that point, not to read it to her because I don't know if she would have understood it then. It was a way of talking about transitioning and becoming who you are – and beautiful with it. When I did finally read it to her she surprised me a bit because she's a lot smarter than I thought.
At what age did you realise Paddy felt like a girl?
LM: At 2 years old she was walking round with necklaces and handbags, with towels on her head pretending she had long hair. But we didn't realise what she was trying to tell us – it took us 5 years to catch up.
What did she used to say to you?
LM: She bugged me for two years from the age of 3 to buy her a dress. I don't know what it was that made me give in when she was 5, but maybe I thought, "Well I'll get her the dress and she'll grow out of it, and that will be that." But it didn't work out like that – as soon as she put the dress on that's when I knew. It was a eureka moment. A light bulb went on. As soon as she had the dress on and I saw her face, tears came down my eyes and I knew. Her face lit up. She was so happy, I've never seen her so happy in all my life.
What plans do you have for when Paddy reaches puberty?
LM: The [gender identity] clinic says that when puberty kicks in a lot of children change their mind. We always say, "If you want to go back to being a boy that's OK." But she turns round and says, "I'm not a boy, I'm a girl." You'll see on the documentary that I say to her if she ever wants her haircut and boys clothes, we'll do that and she says, "Mum, that's never going to happen." I don't think she'll ever change her mind but she will always have the option. There are 5 stages of puberty, and you have to wait until at least the second stage before the clinic will allow you to go on blockers [medication, also called "puberty blockers", that inhibit puberty].
Does Paddy go to school as a girl?
LM: No, as a boy. She has the option to go as a girl but she's afraid, and I think that's my fault. When she asked for a girl's uniform I said, "That's OK but people might laugh at you because they know you as a boy." So that stuck with her, even though her friends are all fine with her and some know she is transgender and a lot of them know she is very girlie. I was just trying to warn her.
What has been the reaction been like at school?
LM: They're all fine. There's one parent who wasn't happy, but all the other parents have shown support and the kids are all very accepting.
What is it like for Paddy going to school dressed as a boy and then coming home and being a girl?
LM: The day I told her people might laugh at her in a girl's uniform, she said, "I'll have the boys' uniform and pretend to be a boy at school." That was quite heart-breaking to hear because she shouldn't have to pretend to be someone she's not. It's hard – sometimes the girls play games that they don't want the boys involved in so she gets left out, and she doesn't want to play the boy's games, so she'll be wondering around the playground all by herself.
What does Paddy do when she comes home?
LM: She gets changed into girls' clothes. And in the school holidays it's always girls' clothes. The only time she wear boys' clothes is at school. She has one outfit of boys clothes in case there's a school trip.
What are your concerns for her, at the moment, and in the future?
LM: For now, bullying, and in the future, bullying. Dating as well, in the future, and having her own children, things like that. There are a lot of worries and concerns. It's not an easy life and that's why no one chooses this life. They're born this way.
How did your husband react to Paddy being transgender?
LM: I came round to the idea that Paddy was transgender first, I think it was harder for him to accept his son as a girl, as a daughter, but as soon as he came round to the fact Paddy was the same person and we should love her one way or the other, and she's happier this way, he soon came on board.
Why did you want to take part in this programme?
LM: I said no for about 6 months but then I thought, "I want a better world, a more understanding and better educated world for my child to grow up in. Whose responsibility is it to do the awareness raising but ours?" And Paddy wanted to take part on it. She was very excited about doing it. If she'd said she didn't want to do it we wouldn't have done it.
What would your advice be to a parent whose young child might be trans?
LM: If you think they're showing signs, take them to the doctor; they'll refer you on. But mostly just love your child the same, no matter what, and accept your child –they'll be much happier in the gender they are in their mind than they are in their body.
My Transgender Kid will be shown on Channel 4 at 10pm on 6 October
Patrick Strudwick is a LGBT editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Patrick Strudwick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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