Sylvia’s Story

This blog post, tells the story of two identical twins with matching DNA, Tom* and Ryan, who go through the process of Ryan being diagnosed with gender identity disorder or GID, and the steps that the twin’s parents take to help Ryan  become Sylvia, and ultimately comfortable with herself.

“I do wonder what it would be like to have a brother, but I guess a sister cuts it.”

When Ryan and Tom* were born they were identical twins with matching DNA, throughout childhood the two twins took on very different interests. Ryan enjoyed playing with Barbie’s and Little Mermaid dolls, while Tom took a liking to toy trucks. When Ryan was just 4 he asked his mother “When do I get to be a girl?”, and only a few months later he expressed to his father  with tears in his eyes that he hated his own penis.

Two years later Ryan’s parents sought out professional advice, in which Ryan was diagnosed with Genetic Identity Disorder or GID. By definition GID is a condition in which a biological male or female feels a strong identification with the opposite sex and is extremely uncomfortable with his or her own gender. [1]

Ryan is now 12 and goes by the name Sylvia, according to the author she comes off as a “energetic tween girl”. Sylvia has been in therapy since she was 6 to help cope with anxiety and depression. According to some medical journals are emotions commonly associated with GID.

When Sylvia was in elementary school she grew her hair long and asked to wear skirts and dresses, when her parents tried to discourage that she rebelled, until her mother explained, “ We finally decided to just let her be whoever she wanted to be”.

In fifth grade, Ryan officially came back to school as Sylvia, and although she was nervous the majority of her classmates greeted her warmly. That year Sylvia blossomed socially and academically, and was voted class vice president.

At the same time Sylvia was being seen my Dr. Norman Spack, a endocrinologist at Children’s Hospital in Boston, as well as Lauren Edwards-Leeper who is a leading expert in GID in children and adolescents.

Sylvia’s parents also did in depth transgender research before they decided to take Sylvia to children’s. The families biggest concern is what is going to happen to Sylvia biologically when she reaches the age of puberty. Sylvia claims “

“I’d look at myself from the neck up, and I’d be okay with it, but then I’d look from the neck down and I’d feel like I was one of those mismatch puzzles”.

Sylvia’s parents understood that if Sylvia went through puberty to adulthood as male she was “destined” for a life of surgeries to reverse the male attributes. Sylvia’s parents became hopful when they heard of a procedure that could avoid some physical changes that were irreversible, like facial bone structure, facial hair, etc that would define her as a genetic male.

Although it’s controversial Sylvia’s parents decided to start puberty suppression treatments. The treatment is injected monthly and it’s temporarily implanted to block sex hormones. It’s reversible, and if the individual chooses to go through puberty as their biological sex they can stop the treatments. [2]

“Almost every one of our patients felt that they were born with the wrong body. They’re not changing genders, they are affirming the gender they always felt they had.” –Dr Spack.

Sylvia started pubertal suppressors at age 11, now at 12 when she stands next to her twin brother she’s willowy compared to his stocky, and where he has started to develop facial hair her skin is clear.

Sylvia will have to make a ultimate decision eventually whether to continue with sugeries to help her transition completely to female, but for right now her family is taking is one day at a time and encouring Sylvia to enjoy her life.

Her parents claim that they just want to “give her the resources to become whoever she is”

Final words from her farther best represent her families love for Sylvia he says “The key is, you have to be courageous enough to do this while these kids are young. It’s so much harder later on. You’ve got to be brave so you can give them a chance.”

I found this story to be extremely touching. Sylvia’s parents support during her journey has been unmoveable.

Although I was slightly put off by the risk of puberty suppression treatments, the fact that hospitals specifically Children’s is willing to help young people become who they truly feel inside is a giant leap for our culture.

[1] Names have been changed.



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