ARUN RATH, HOST:
This weekend, the team at NPR Ed has been reporting on the lives of young transgender children and how their families, friends and schools transition along with them. Meet nine-year-old Q Daily, who just finished his first full school year as a boy - third grade at the Brooklyn New School in New York City. WNYC's Yasmeen Khan has this story.
YASMEEN KHAN: To Q, who was born a girl, living as a nine-year-old boy is liberating. It's everything.
Q: It feels like instead of a dead flower, a growing flower.
KHAN: Maybe it's a feeling that his peers don't quite understand, but they really don't care either because having a transgender classmate does not affect how they play.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHILDREN PLAYING)
UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: (Unintelligible).
KHAN: At recess one afternoon near the end of the school year, Q and his friend Billy Griffith play a game they call tight rope, traversing a bar raised off the ground. Q cheers Billy on.
Q: Yay, you did it (laughter).
KHAN: Q and Billy are close, and they were friends when Q was a girl. Billy says he probably asked Q at one point why he wanted to be a boy instead of a girl.
BILLY: I think I forgot what the answer was. I don't know.
KHAN: But it sounds like it just doesn't matter.
BILLY: Yeah. It doesn't matter.
KHAN: Q transitioned from girl to boy gradually during second grade. That's when he started to dress in boy clothes, dropped his given name, Qwanaia, and wanted to go by he. Q's teachers Steve Wilson and Katherine Sorel say by now, in third grade, students have adapted.
STEVE WILSON: At this point in the year, very few kids to slip, every now and then.
KATHERINE SOREL: Occasionally, I mean, there are still kids will say Qwanaia and still, occasionally, they'll say she - I mean, he.
KHAN: Otherwise, they say it's been a non-issue to have a transgender child in the class. But the school did have to confront one matter. Q started using the boys' bathroom on his own last year in second grade. Not everyone approved.
Q: You have to be in that bathroom, not this bathroom.
KHAN: Principal Anna Allanbrook says the issue forced the school to do its homework.
ANNA ALLANBROOK: And we learn what the rules were. And in fact, it is not the place of school to tell the child which bathroom to use.
KHAN: She learned students should be allowed to use the bathroom of their gender identity. This is backed up by guidelines on transgender students that New York City issued last year. And the school followed the lead of Q's parents, who recognize that Q's gender identity is not a whim. They say he began questioning gender going back to age three and a half, four. Q says it started with the clothes.
Q: Because I didn't like the dresses or the pink shirts or the light blue with the guitar or the sparkly stuff.
KHAN: At first, Q's mom, Francisca Montana, was fascinated by her kid questioning gender stereotypes. She spoke to me about it while driving to work one morning.
FRANCISCA MONTANA: First, it's the colors thing, like purple and blue and da-da-da (ph). I was like - colors are for everybody, yeah? It's like - colors are colors.
KHAN: But Q kept questioning. So Francisca borrowed some boy clothes from a friend, and at the end of first grade, Q's dad, Avery Daily, cut Q's hair - short.
AVERY DAILY: It was a new person. A whole light came out.
KHAN: Avery and Francisca are separated, confronting Q's gender identity individually. Avery says for him, it wasn't easy in the beginning. This was his little girl. And what were people going to say?
DAILY: And so I just thought that people would look me funny. Or like - what's up with Q's parents? Why are they letting Q do all of this, you know? But I saw that Q had a lot of confidence in what he wanted.
KHAN: So he accepted it. Francisca threw herself into being supportive. She started calling Q he and researched playgroups for transgender children.
MONTANA: What is more important or what is more liberating or what is - what makes you stronger and make you live a better life than be yourself?
KHAN: But even though support and encouragement came to her as a natural response, it didn't mean everything was easy.
For you, as a mom, was it hard? Do you miss Q as a girl?
MONTANA: I miss his name. I'm going to cry. I put a lot of thought into it.
KHAN: Q says it feels like 55 years ago that he was a girl. I asked what goes through his head now when he hears the name Qwanaia?
Q: I think of crying because that tells me that they don't believe that I'm a boy.
KHAN: Q's parents are supportive of however this plays out, but they're bracing themselves for a different conversation ahead, with puberty just around the bend. Francisca says Q's nervous about becoming a teenager.
MONTANA: After, like, all the clothes thing and stuff, then he started thinking about his body.
KHAN: For now, they're grateful that at age nine, Q has a little bit of time before his body begins to change, but not much. For NPR News, I'm Yasmeen Khan in New York.
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