Ciera Taylor was 14 when she told her parents she was born in the wrong body and wanted to live as a girl. Now aged 16, she tells BBC News how her family and schoolfriends have coped with her momentous decision.
Less than two years ago, Ciera sat down with her mother and father in Leicestershire and told them one of the most difficult things a child can tell their parents.
Ciera was called Kieran and living as a boy. But she had increasingly come to feel she was meant to be a girl.
“I said I do want to change this body and I need to be able to look in the mirror and see me,” she says.
“It was a big shock for them and they didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t expect them to.”
Ciera says she had felt different from her peers for a long time before that day in March 2015.
She had always been “very small and quite feminine looking” as a young child.
“I thought I might be gay,” she says.
“I didn’t know what it was that was going through my head as a young boy; for a while I pushed those feelings aside.
“When I look back at old pictures of me I kind of see someone that’s not happy; probably smiling in the photo but not happy because that person doesn’t feel fulfilled in who they are.”
She says her parents’ shock initially deterred her from living as a girl.
“It put me off and I said I wouldn’t transition any more for the benefit of people around me who couldn’t cope with the loss of Kieran,” she says.
But a year later, one weekend in March 2016, she began to live as a girl.
Her dad, Andy Taylor, said he cried all day long.
“I think I bottled up quite a lot of emotion and it only came sort of bursting out when she transitioned,” he says.
Her mum, Rachel Taylor, felt just as emotional.
“I’d lost my little boy and I was grieving for my little boy,” she says.
“As a mum you know that your child’s going to take a certain path and you’ve got their future mapped in your mind.
“Now all of a sudden it was taking a completely different direction and I knew it was going to be a really, really hard journey.”
But seeing Ciera as a girl was also a relief.
“I just looked at her and I thought, ‘You should have been born a girl, you are a girl’, and actually from that day forwards a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, because my little girl was coming to me now,” she says.
“All the things she’s done since she transitioned, which was only March, it’s almost overwhelming,” says her dad.
Her mum adds: “We are so lucky because now we’ve got our daughter, and she is beautiful and she will be happy.”
On the weekend she transitioned, Ciera posted a selfie on Facebook revealing her new appearance. Her friends were quick to compliment Ciera on her “gorgeous” and “stunning” new look.
But as supportive as they were, Ciera knew she still had to face going to school as a girl for the first time on Monday morning.
Stonewall, the LGBT rights charity, said it was common for young transgender people to be bullied, and some even report being bullied by their teachers.
Ciera says she felt nervous, but fortunately had a “warm reception” from her school and peers.
A representative of the Young Transgender Centre of Excellence in Leicester – which supports 33 young people, including Ciera – was even invited into the school to speak at assembly.
“I’m very lucky,” says Ciera. “I’ve heard of other people having horrid experiences at schools. My school said ‘Give us more information’.”
Jenny McDonald-Brown, a student support teacher at Ciera’s school in Leicestershire, said the assembly helped the pupils understand transgender issues.
“I know a lot of them have said to me ‘We don’t know what to say to Ciera, because we might upset her, or we might say the wrong thing, or it’s awkward or we feel silly’, but now that they know the facts and it is an emotional thing that she needs to go through, then they can help with that and support her.”
What does it mean to ‘transition’?
- Transgender or trans people are those who have transitioned or want to transition to live as the gender they identify with, which differs from the gender assigned to them when they were born
- It can include both social and/or medical transition
- Medical transition can include hormone replacement therapy such as hormone blockers and cross-sex hormones (including testosterone or oestrogen) as well as different surgeries
- Transitioning socially is about how someone expresses their gender. This includes but is not limited to a change in name and pronoun use, wearing clothes typically associated with a specific gender and a change in hairstyle
- Transitioning socially is a big part of a young person’s life as they are not eligible for permanent medical intervention such as cross-sex hormones and surgeries until they reach adulthood and adult NHS gender identity services
Lisa Vine, Project Lead, Young Transgender Centre of Excellence
The reaction from parents has been positive too – even after Ciera was given the choice of using either the boys’ or girls’ toilets and changing rooms.
“We thought we may get issues from parents, they might say ‘We’re not happy’, but everybody has been fabulous,” says Ms McDonald-Brown.
“Not one person has come forward and said they’ve got an issue with it, which is really good for the school and it’s really good for Ciera.”
Despite assurances that she is beautiful, Ciera still feels insecure about her appearance and says “looking in the mirror is a challenge”.
She hopes to start taking hormone blockers in the next few months, and these will suppress the effects of puberty.
“I still see a lot of Kieran in my face only because of the effects that puberty has had on this face, that’s made a face that I can’t really relate with any more,” she says.
“I do wear make-up and I have to almost transition each morning to try and create a face that is presentable enough for me to the outer world.”
“For me, I do want medical intervention to change my hormones so it’s in line with how I feel inside; taking oestrogen when I’m older so my body would develop like a girl’s would.
“I will need surgeries for when I’m older, it’s just what I need to do, I know I will feel complete.
“For me, as a trans person, this is not the body I want. It’s not mine and I’m making this life-changing decision so I can live my life.”
Ciera met up with transgender campaigner Paris Lees while she was making the film about her experiences.
Paris said her own teenage years, in the neighbouring county of Nottinghamshire, were “tough”.
“I often felt unsafe just to come out of the house,” says Paris.
“People would call me a ‘poofter’ and just shout abuse at me in the streets.
“Kids who are not supported are much more likely to come into difficulties whether that’s homelessness, mental health issues, suicide.
“As a society we should be shamed when we know that 48% of young trans people have attempted suicide.”
Ciera says she was “really, really excited” to meet Paris, because she has been a role model for her for a long time.
And in the same way, Ciera herself is keen to help other young transgender people.
“I wish that I had been born a girl. I wish I hadn’t been born transgender but I’m happy and proud to be trans to raise awareness.”
You can see Ciera’s film in full on BBC Inside Out East Midlands at 19:30 GMT on BBC One on Monday 30 January or via iPlayer afterwards.