Lily Nichols was just two years old when her mum Vanessa from Venice, Florida knew that her daughter was different from other girls her age.
Mum Vanessa explains, ‘it was Easter when she was 2, and she could speak pretty well, and I put a green and white dress on her and a pink bow in her hair and she immediately ripped the bow out and she kept saying ‘take off’’.’
‘At the time I thought it was pretty normal as some girls don’t feel comfortable in dresses but it was around that same time that I also noticed that when we would go to any of the stores she would gravitate right to the boys section. The cars, the trucks, things like that – no baby dolls, no pink.’
‘When she started to watch TV shows it was Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles as opposed to My Little Pony. I thought, well hey, this is kind of cool! So we nurtured it from day one.’
Instead of just simply going through a tomboy phase, Lily has already spoken about how she hopes to become a boy when she is older. But despite this, Vanessa is still keen not to label her 7-year-old daughter.
‘I haven’t mentioned the word transgender specifically to Lily yet because I don’t think it is a label that is necessary right now. She is aware that it is possible to take medicine and in some cases have surgery to become a different gender – we’ve had that discussion. She knows that it’s a possibility when you get older.’
‘I think that there’s a danger in not labelling them transgender if they are, and I think there could be a danger in labelling them transgender if we’re talking about confusion. And I think that there might be a fine line and that’s what I’m struggling to figure out myself. I hate to even call it a struggle because it’s just an experience for me right now. This is just our challenge.’
By letting Lily choose her own clothes and toys, single-mum Vanessa has faced criticism from her friends.
‘I’ve lost some friendships over it because they think that I’m pushing some sort of an agenda on her. I was attacked on Facebook by someone who used to be a good friend of mine, and he accused me of trying to convince Lily that she is transgender. So that was very hurtful and that was kind of a surprise to me that people don’t just see this as parenting a child who has a different path.’
Because of the abuse she has received, and as Lily has already suffered bullying, Vanessa is very worried about the potential problems her daughter could face, as she gets older.
‘I have 5 million worries but bullying is at the top of my list. I don’t want anyone to make her feel like she can’t be who she is and she can’t become a boy or she can’t explore that part of her because other people don’t see it as normal.’
But what does Lily have to say about all of this?
She explains, ‘I think I’m gonna take some medicine so I can kinda transform into a boy and get surgery.’
‘Maybe or maybe not, my name will be Lily when I grow up, I might change it.’
Vanessa isn’t ruling out the possibility of Lily transitioning in the future, but for now she’s more concerned with letting her daughter discover herself without resorting to labels.
‘I don’t really understand why there’s so much concern for the way I’m parenting my child. I just so happen to be talking about my little girl that wants to be a little boy. And that could take on a lot of different forms in the future but for now let’s just let her be Lily.’