By Chloe Sweet @chloesweet
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Videographer / director: Scott Hoon
Producer: Chloe Sweet, Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal
Trinity Neal, from Wilmington, Delaware, knew that she was living in the wrong body before she had even started elementary school.
Born as male, she would dress up in her mother’s clothes and adamantly express that she was a girl.
Now aged 16, Trinity has been living authentically as a girl for over 12 years.
Trinity’s mother DeShanna has always affirmed her daughter’s gender identity. She recalls seeing the first signs of Trinity’s dysphoria when she was just three years old.
DeShanna told Barcroft TV: “She wasn’t speaking anymore and she wasn’t smiling.
“It was like my child was dying in front of me.
“No matter how many times we corrected her, she never faltered – ‘I am a girl.’”
Without widespread knowledge or acceptance of being transgender in the early 00s, DeShanna was at a loss for answers to the complicated questions she had about her then-son.
She began to search online, but only after reaching out for help on a support forum was she confronted with the idea of her child being transgender. It was still referred to as ‘transexuality’ at the time, DeShanna adds.
Trinity was then taken to a specialist child therapist who confirmed that she did in fact have dysphoria, but by then Trinity’s mental wellbeing was drastically declining.
According to DeShanna, Trinity’s therapist said: “You have to make a decision here. Do you want a happy little girl or a dead little boy?”
Trinity began to socially transition at four years old, when her mother bought her a pink dress.
“It was my fourth birthday when mom gave me this pink dress, which made me feel so happy. And actually mom said I was crying because of my happiness,” Trinity said.
“It wasn’t right for me in that body.
“It felt awful, I wasn’t even happy. I was always sad and angry.”
DeShanna added: “When she came out in that dress and she had that big smile, we're like, ‘this was it the whole time.’
“It was that moment we knew. And when we called her by Trinity and she answered us, we were like, ‘okay.’”
At 12 years old, Trinity made history by becoming the first child in Delaware to have their medical transition covered by Medicaid, a state program that offers health insurance coverage for lower-income families.
Although Trinity was initially denied puberty blockers by Medicaid, DeShanna fought for almost a year to get the treatment her daughter needed.
She said: “I would say my fight with Medicaid helped me fight anything.
“It's amazing to see the kids who are benefiting now from all of this. They don't have to have all these like denial papers like we do.”
Now, Medicaid will be covering Trinity’s gender confirmation surgery. At 16 years old, she will be one of the youngest in her State to undergo this life-changing surgery.
Speaking about her upcoming bottom surgery, Trinity said: “I want to actually be a girl, completely, even though I am a girl. I want to have this removed I am tired of it.
“It is not me, it is really embarrassing I don’t think I am a monster that’s why I am so excited because I can actually be happy.”
Trinity’s surgeon, Dr Sherman Leis, specialises in transgender surgeries. He claims that minors undergoing gender confirmation surgery is becoming more common, however they are still the “minority.”
Dr Leis told Barcroft TV: “The average age of patient having transgender surgery is probably in the 40s and 50s. But there are extremes that we operate kids now as young as 16.
According to Dr Leis, before any patient can undergo genital reassignment surgery, they must have been taking hormones for at least one year and be living as their desired gender for three. They must also have clearance from two mental health specialists who have been trained to deal with gender dysphoria.
He added: “I don’t have one patient that regrets they did the surgery, not even one. That’s absolutely the truth - but I know that overall it’s about an incidence of 1% of patients that regret that they did the surgery.
“I don’t think there’s another profession in the world, in or out of medicine that has the ability to bring such a profound improvement in a human being’s life as transgender surgery.”
Despite the backing of medical professionals, Trinity and her family say they have experienced hateful negativity when sharing their story.
DeShanna said: “We do we get that standard, ‘this is child abuse.’
“What makes it harder, it’s not because she’s trans but because I have to fight to make people and society see she’s a person that deserves dignity and respect like anybody else.
“I would love to see black and brown trans people portrayed in a positive loving life.
“They’ve been victims of violence, murder - I want to show that our family is a loving family.”
Trinity added: “I want to be myself, I don’t want to be someone I don’t want to be. Because if I get this [surgery] done I can show those people who hate, I will show them that no matter how much you hate us, we will still beat you.”
“We are the ones who are right, we are just all human I don’t know why we have to hate each other, it is not right we are all supposed to be loved, we all should love ourselves.”