By Camile Rocha-Keys
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Videographer / Director: Carlos Chiossone
Producer: Camile Rocha-Keys, Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal
Mum Jamie Bruesehoff, from New Jersey, and her daughter Rebekah are spreading awareness of transgender people one rally at a time.
Since her transition started over two years ago, the young girl has been campaigning, attending marches and speaking at rallies to stand up for transgender rights.
She said: “I’m the scary transgender person that the media warned you about!”
“I want to make a difference in the world by speaking out and spreading hopeful messages.”
“I want to send the message of ‘You are not alone and you are safe’ to other transgender kids.”
Mum-of-three Jamie writes a blog called ‘I Am Totally That Mom’ which has recently become focused on their journey with a transgender child.
And in February, Jamie posted a picture of Rebekah holding a sign with the slogan: ‘I’m the scary transgender person the media warned you about,’ which went viral over night.
Jamie was flooded with messages and comments, championing her daughter’s braveness.
She said: “The picture went pretty crazy viral. It started out with some really wonderful comments and lots of affirmation, but if I keep scrolling a comment says “This whole transgender issue is a mental illness but because it’s ‘cool’ you have parents forcing their kids into it.’
“We haven’t had anyone in our community or families say that we are pushing this on to her but we have had that through social media and my blog, that go as far to say that it is child abuse and we should have our children taken away.
“Luckily, every medical professional we’ve seen says otherwise, so we feel confident that we have the best resources we can and we are supporting her the best way that we can.”
Jamie and her Pastor husband Christopher have supported Rebekah - born Ben - in her transition since she was two.
Jamie said: “Rebekah has always been gender non-conforming. As young as two or three she gravitated to typically feminine things."
As the years went on, her gender non-conformity intensified and she began to search for her identity and the words to describe it. Consequently, her happiness was declining.
Jamie explained: “By the time she was seven, all of this hit a crisis point - her anxiety was crippling and her depression was becoming life threatening.
“We were faced with a 7-year old kid who wanted to die.”
“One time she punched out the screen of her second storey window and tried to jump out.”
Following the advice of their family doctor and counsellor, the Bruesehoff family were able to help their eldest son.
With the help of a gender specialist, Rebekah was able to peel back the layers, and that’s when her family were able to discover that she wasn’t a boy who liked pink - she was a girl.
The word ‘transgender' was explained to Rebekah one day when it came up on the Internet whilst both her and her mum were searching for gender non-conforming swimsuits.
Jamie said: “The term popped up and I took it as an opportunity and told her what it meant and it was very much an "aha!" moment. "Wow, it makes so much sense. This may be who I am.’”
Rebekah said: “The hardest part of all this was when I wasn’t transitioned and I was not happy and it didn’t feel right.
“Before I became a girl, I felt unhappy."
“This is definitely me. I am a girl. I am a girl in my head, in my heart.”
Once Rebekah really understood who she was, she was able to socially transition and in July 2016 they went to court and legally changed her name from Ben to Rebekah.
“We saw the difference in her. She was just a different kid. It was like a cloud had lifted. She was just more of herself. She was vibrant and she was excited and she was happy and her personality kind of just exploded all over the place.”
After transitioning to Rebekah, she created a ‘Ben Box’ with all her 'Ben memories.' Although she doesn’t ignore her past, she is over the moon to now be known as Rebekah and seen for who she really is.
She said: “When I see pictures of Ben, I just think of it as part of my past now I am Rebekah.”
Although her parents are relieved Rebekah is happy and finally comfortable in her own skin, they fear for her future as a transgender woman.
Jamie said: “We honestly fear for her safety. I know, there is a lot of violence and discrimination against trans people.”
Her dad Christopher said: “I’m always worried about reactions with Rebekah, both in the community, the church and the world. I’m very worried about how the world is going to treat her because I see a lot of ugliness in the world.”
For now, Rebekah is happy to be treated and recognised as a young girl, but her parents are already researching the medical side of transitioning.
Jamie said: “Rebekah really doesn’t like thinking about the medical side of this. She doesn’t want to develop into a man.”
“Medically transitioning involves a lot of different stuff and every transgender person chooses their own adventure. For Rebekah, the first steps will be puberty blockers, which will prevent her from going through male puberty and stop her from developing male characteristics - like facial hair, a deeper voice and an Adam’s apple - that are irreversible.
“As far as surgery, she hasn’t indicated a desire for that. That is a decision she gets to make down the road. That’s not something she’d do before she’s 18.”