Second Nature

In an exclusive preview from our March issue, meet a local family that is raising a little girl born in the wrong body.

March 2008

During the period in 2005 when Dr. Holden was evaluating Luc and sharing her findings with his parents, Judy sat down to read Luc a bedtime story. They were working their way through the L. Frank Baum series of stories based on his first book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. They were on the second book in the series, The Marvelous Land of Oz. In this installment, the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow team up with a boy named Tip. They discover that the rightful monarch of Oz is a princess, but that an evil witch has hidden the princess, preventing the natural succession for the kingdom. The unlikely band discovers that when the princess was a baby, the evil witch turned the child into a boy. What's more, they learn that that boy is Tip. In the end, thanks to the good witch, Tip is magically transformed into the princess he was born to be. As Judy finished reading the scene, she looked down into the crook of her arm and saw Luc welling up. "This is what you want, isn't it?" She asked. Luc nodded and said, "Yes."

Following Dr. Holden's diagnosis, the Martins took Luc to another psychologist. The family made the change in therapists because Luc had come to think of Holden's office as the site of tests. After a year of follow-up therapy with the psychologist, who supported Holden's findings, the family opted to give Luc a break from the analysis. They decided it was up to them to do their very best as a family to support their child. The Martins had the diagnosis and had been through the counseling—it all made sense to them. It had been impossible for Luc to be happy with the way the world was because he wasn't happy with who he was, or, rather, who he was expected to be. He wasn't a little train conductor. Like Tip, Luc was really a princess.

The Martins read everything they could get their hands on about gender dysphoria and transgender. They found plenty of information about adults and teens, but hardly a thing about children. They found no template, no "right way" to handle a child's transition. Even their pediatrician, Dr. Richker, told them that for him this was uncharted territory. What the Martins found in much of the literature, and in the news, were the true tales of young transgender people who went without support, who were tormented and developed suicidal tendencies, and who struggled to be who they were meant to be.

Judy stopped taking Luc to the barber, and started taking him shopping, encouraging him to pick out whatever clothes he wanted. He picked out dresses and blouses—the most brightly colored, "girly" clothing he could find. One weekday, while Michael was at work and Luc's little sister, Kelly, was at school, Luc put on a purple floral-printed skirt with a matching knit top. He twirled about the house, looking at himself in the mirror. His hair was growing out. For the first time in the longest time, Judy says, he seemed happy. When Michael came home from work, Luc whirled up to the door, eager for Dad's opinion.

Michael stood in the vestibule of their home for a long few seconds. Talking about gender dysphoria and transgender was one thing, but looking at his firstborn, the child he had thought was his son, in a skirt, was another. Judy looked into Michael's eyes, conveying the message: This is our daughter, and she looks beautiful, right? In that moment, it became real. Michael no longer had a son; he had just met his new daughter. "You look beautiful," he said. Michael says it really didn't require much deliberation on his part: "This was my child. I have a wonderful daughter, and I love her." Later, one night when Michael was alone, he cried for the son he had lost, and for a life he knew had just become more difficult for his family.

In those early weeks of the transition, the Martins advised Luc to only wear the dresses inside. Making the transition gradually, they figured, would be best for both Luc and the family. But the dichotomy was hard on Luc. His mood swings returned, and Judy and Michael could think only of her and of her happiness. "We realized this is who our child is," Judy says, "and what are we waiting for?" Judy and Michael realized that Luc wanted a new name, that she needed a new name. They talked with Luc. It didn't take much conversation before Luc became Lucia. It maintained the European quality of Luc; it was something that would be easiest for the extended family to embrace; and it just felt right. "It's quite common for transgender kids to keep some variation of their old name," Lucia told me. "For the people who know me now and call me by my old name, I consider they are calling me, like, Idiot. It's an insult and makes me feel bad."