Ben's happier as a boy
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Transgender child Ben Brockwell-Jones says he finally feels comfortable in his own skin.
The 8-year-old from Glen Eden, Auckland was once known as Anoushka - the only daughter of parents Beccy and Wes Jones.
But the little girl he was chose to make a huge change two years ago with the support of his mum and dad.
Ben transformed his appearance and got a replacement birth certificate that included his new male name.
He's never looked back and is now just like many other young boys - loving the outdoors, playing on the rock climbing wall at his school playground and battling his buddies and brothers in computer games.
''I'm so happy. I don't feel any different on the inside. I've just changed a bit,'' he said.
Ben celebrated the second anniversary of his metamorphosis on Sunday with a supportive group of close friends, family and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT community.
Mum Beccy Jones said her son was six when he crawled into her lap after school one day and started crying.
Ben told her he didn't want to be a girl anymore.
Both Beccy and Wes Jones have supported their son in his journey and will continue to do so as he matures.
''If we weren't so open minded when Ben came out, who knows what he might have gone through if he started to feel suicidal,'' Beccy said.
She found few services in New Zealand to support people in Ben's age group.
RainbowYouth is for people aged 13 and older but made a special exception for Ben and Beccy said it helped improve his confidence ten-fold.
The 47-year-old has established a Facebook page called Ben's Supporters - an online forum where friends, family and LBGT members can post transgender news, kind words and encouraging messages.
Ben can eventually go on a course of drugs known as puberty blockers which will stop him developing a woman's body and its natural functions.
Beccy said the blockers will ''buy time'' before Ben decides if he wants to go on irreversible hormonal therapy.
Ben will go through puberty as a woman if he opts against the blockers or stops taking them.
It's uncertain whether he'll one day want to have gender confirmation surgery but Beccy said she will be by his side no matter what.
''We haven't lost anything and we haven't gained anything, other than a happier child.''
RainbowYouth general manager Duncan Matthews said Ben is part of a growing group of young people expressing their gender identity.
''I'm confident there's younger children exploring their identity and not relating to the gender they were assigned at birth.''
Matthews said Auckland University's Youth 2012 survey of 11 to 18-year-old high school students from 125 schools across New Zealand showed just over one per cent identified as transgender.
More than two per cent weren't sure of their gender identity.
He said RainbowYouth is dedicated to linking young people and their families to the right support networks and talking with schools and teachers to make them feel more welcome.
RainbowYouth board executive advisor Mathijs Lucassen said there's still a long way to go before transgender youth can live in fully safe and supportive environments.
Lucassen has carried out several research projects and said more than 50 per cent of transgender college students fear someone at school will hurt or bother them.
''Nearly 50 per cent had been hit or physically harmed by another person,'' he said.
''The best advice would be to seek support from others who are transgender.''
Call RainbowYouth on 376 4155 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
-When someone's gender identity or expression doesn't match their assigned sex
-Transgender can be an umbrella term for gender-diverse people who identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or fa'afafine.
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- Western Leader