When Ryland Whittington was fitted with cochlear implants and learned to speak at the age of 12 months, one of the first things he said was, "I'm a boy." Instead of treating this as a simple phase, Jeff and Hillary Whittington listened to what their child was saying and, after realizing several years later that their son was transgender, they slowly helped him transition into a boy.
In 2007, the Whittingtons found out they were expecting their first child, soon revealed to be female. They chose the name Ryland and decorated the nursery in shades of pretty pink, perfect for a little girl. When Ryland was around 1 year old, they found out he was deaf, and he was soon fitted with cochlear implants — these would help him hear and would also help him learn to talk.
Soon after pairing words together and forming sentences, Ryland announced quite firmly that he was a boy. And it didn't stop there. He began rejecting girly clothes and feminine accessories. He even told his parents that when his family dies, he'd cut his hair so he could be a boy. He questioned why God allowed him to be this way.
After thorough research and consultations with experts, Ryland's parents realized that he was transgender — while his body was physically female, his brain identified as a boy. After learning that gender is realized between ages 3 and 5, they understood that helping Ryland transition to male now was vital to provide essential support and social acceptance.
The love, respect and support Ryland's parents have showered upon him is nothing short of amazing. The family was recognized with the Inspiration Award at the sixth annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast, where Ryland also spoke to the crowd. Surely other families faced with a similar situation feel stronger because of the Whittingtons' bravery.
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