Meeting a transgender 8-year-old

I met an interesting family in Glen Eden on Thursday night. Beccy, that is the mum, is bisexual, she has purple hair and talks – a lot. Wes, he is the dad, is much quieter, he doesn't drink and works for a hardware company.

Their 8-year-old child goes by the name Ben, even though he is physically a girl. Ben has been in the news media a bit lately because his parents say he is transgender.

I was invited to meet Ben and his family after interviewing his mum on my radio show this week. A lot of my listeners were upset and angry that Ben took part in a Gay Pride parade last weekend and his parents plan to give him puberty blocking drugs if he continues to express a desire to be a boy rather than a girl.

They also have some friends from Australia who are going to make a documentary about Ben's incredible journey over the next 10 years which means of course that when it is finished Ben will be 18 and quite capable of saying whether he wants them to make the film or not.

My intention had been to talk to Ben about his transgender desires but things didn't work out that way. Ben is 8-years-old and he has a computer so for most of the hour I was with his family sitting out on their small deck on a muggy Auckland evening he was playing a game called Minecraft.

Ben's relative silence was all right though because, as I mentioned, his mum Beccy really is good at talking.

She told me how Ben never liked wearing girl's clothes (even underwear) and when he became suicidal at age 6 they realised he might be transgender.

They didn't take Ben to a doctor or a psychologist though because Beccy told me she doesn't have much time for psychologists and the like because she suffered abuse and had issues as a child.

Instead she looked on Google. She found a group called Rainbow Youth who help young people with gender and sexual orientation issues.

Rainbow Youth told them Ben was probably transgender and offered to help. They put them in touch with other young people going through the same issues. Wes told me they had met a lot of really great people through Rainbow Youth.

Ben let his parents tell me this because he was playing Minecraft.

Someone else told me before I visited Ben's family that Rainbow Youth are happy to have Ben in their groups but not his mum Beccy.

I was told she has had arguments with several young people in Rainbow Youth and they accused her of bullying them.

Beccy told me kind of the same story but said she had asked for some proof of her bullying and that was three weeks ago.

Beccy told me she is not a bully but does speak her mind and is always there to support Ben.

Beccy told me how Ben said just the other night he might set up his own youth support group in the future. Ben was too busy playing Minecraft to expand much on that idea.

I did ask Beccy if she had ever thought that all the publicity around Ben might cause problems for him and attract unwelcome attention while he went through what might be a difficult process.

Beccy told me they are very careful about things like that and only deal with media who won't exploit Ben or his situation.

I told her I thought the $500 Ben got from Woman's Day for his story was a bit of a rip-off.

Beccy said that didn't matter because Ben had decided to give all that money to Rainbow Youth anyway.

Ben kept playing Minecraft while his mum told me about the secret Facebook page they had set up for people who want to support Ben and his journey and how nearly 700 people, some of them from overseas, had joined and how much they admired Ben and the brave stance he was taking.

When I said I was going, Ben stopped playing Minecraft. He shook my hand and his mum gave me a hug.

They were going to get something to eat at the mall because Ben's school was having a teacher-only day.

Ben seemed a nice kid and his parents clearly love him.

The Dominion Post