By Eve Wagstaff @Eve_Journo_
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Videographer / Director: Phil Rossi
Producer: Eve Wagstaff, Ruby Coote
Editor: Jack Stevens
For couple Liam Johnson, 20, and Racquelle Trammell, 30, their biological daughter’s first birthday is a celebration they thought they might never experience.
After meeting through a mutual friend in 2011, the couple started dating and quickly realised their relationship was serious.
Racquelle said: "How me and Liam met was one of those love stories that was never supposed to happen. He literally saved me from myself.
Liam added: "I love Racquelle. She has a nice soul, she’s wonderful. I feel like I can completely be myself around her. She doesn’t try to change me.
“It feels to be with someone who understands what I’m going through."
Although they both wanted to have a family, it was a tough decision to halt their transitioning in order to have a baby. Liam identifies as a man but he is still able to get pregnant and give birth naturally. Racquelle had to stop taking oestrogen to ensure her sperm could fertilise an egg.
Racquelle says the experience was hard for the couple: “It was a bitter sweet experience watching Liam. I knew he wasn’t happy with himself but that he was making the sacrifice for a great goal that we both were trying to achieve.
I could relate because I had to stop taking my hormones but obviously Liam went through the most.
“I can’t lie. I got really jealous of him. We had lots of conversations about what the all the kicks and flutters felt like.”
Liam said: “Before we got together we did discuss having children, so that was always in the back of our heads.
“I was happy doing the pregnancy, I will say that, because I was grateful but I didn’t really want that experience."
In March 2016, their baby girl Aspen was born and the couple have become dedicated parents.
Speaking about growing up in the wrong body, Liam and Racquelle both say they knew from an early age that they felt different.
Liam said: “I think I was about six when I started asking questions. I have lots of brothers and would ask my grandparents why they had boxers and I didn’t. From that moment everything just changed. I knew.
“My grandparents were supportive. They never tried to make me wear dresses but it just felt wrong. I was very unhappy and didn’t know how to explain it.
“After they died I went into foster care and things changed. My foster parents didn’t understand at all and made me wear dresses and bows and braids in my hair. I rebelled but I tried to not let it get the best of me.
"I was taught at a young age that I was special and different and that some people just weren’t going to get it. You have to be who you are though. You’re living for yourself and not them.”
Racquelle states that she felt different when she was very young, too.
She said: “I realised I was different at the age of five. I remember being in kindergarten and thinking how much I liked one of the girls’ dresses. I was like, ‘I really like her dress, I want a dress like that,’ but knowing that I shouldn’t. I thought other boys were attractive.
“If I expressed my thoughts my mom kind of policed it and told me I couldn’t dress like that. I think for me the most challenging thing was not having the right vocabulary to express how I was feeling on the inside.
“When I eventually told my mum about how I felt she was very understanding. It was hard for her to get used to, as it was nothing she was familiar with. She had to learn to use female pronouns and get used to the idea that this wasn’t a phase.”
Growing up Liam and Racquelle both faced discrimination and experienced transphobic abuse. In 2014 they decided to move from Detroit to Michigan to start a new life after receiving death threats.
Racquelle said: “It’s better now but people get uncomfortable about our situation and judge. When Aspen was born the woman getting all our insurance information kept asking our names and checking our IDs. She didn’t get it and kept repeating, ‘this is so interesting…’ with a face of disgust. You can’t escape the prejudice.”
With America’s new presidency well under way the rights of trans people is in serious question. In February 2017 the Trump administration rescinded protection for transgender students. This piece of federal guidance meant transgender students could have unfettered access to bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity.
Racquelle said: “When it comes to the next four years, I worry about what’s going to happen. I hope someone teaches President Trump about a lot of things. We’ve always been a country that’s embraced diversity, but to put restrictions on children. I’m scared about what the future holds for trans gender children and also for me and my family.”
Liam added: “The future for us as a family would be to raise our children the best that we can. Make Aspen a great person.”