Six-year-old Emma from North Carolina realized being a trans girl as she was 3. And now she is supported by her parents in a fight for the right to use bathroom facilities matched with her identity. She was assigned male at birth and her parents, Amy and Kevin, originally thought that their child would grow out of it. “She’s always been petite, she’s always been sweet like a little girl. Before we ever realized, she was always wanting pink and girls’ toys – dolls. We didn’t really know what was going on with it; we just thought: ‘Pink, blue, what makes a difference? We don’t care,’” the father says. .“We thought she was just really confused and we needed to explain to her the difference in gender,” the mother adds, “I said, ‘Let’s explain this: Boys’ pronouns are he and him. Girls’ are she and her.’ But Emma kept saying, ‘You’re he!’” Emma explained to her: “Well, if I’m a boy, you’re a boy.”
Contrary to some beliefs, transgender children like Emma do not undergo any form of medical transition or hormonal treatment. Medical interventions such as hormone blockers may be discussed once a child has reached puberty. However, these are reversible and simply pause bodily changes that are more difficult to reverse after puberty. Emma started school in 2016, in the middle of a fierce battle between lawmakers and trans rights activists in North Carolina due to the controversial anti-trans HB2.
And while Emma’s parents were supportive of Emma’s gender and social transition, her school was significantly less so. Amy and Kevin informed Glen Arden Elementary School that their child was transgender, and that though her birth certificate contained a different name, her name was Emma. The school refused to acknowledge this, teachers called her a boy in front of the class making her cry. There are only four single-stall bathrooms, and if Emma couldn’t reach any of these facilities, she was forced to either use the boys’ bathroom or wet herself. Emma was unable to reach adequate bathrooms twice during her time at Glen Arden Elementary, each time when members of staff would not allow Emma to travel to the single stall toilets. Prior to the second incident of Emma wetting herself, a member of staff told the six-year-old: “You’re going to have to hold it.”
The family began working with trans rights charity Tranzmission to lobby the local authority and school board into implementing an inclusive policy for trans students across the area. At the end of the school year, the family decided to move Emma to another school, separating her from her sibling, who remains at Glen Arden Elementary.