The parents of a nine-year-old trans girl have spoken out about their journey to understanding, to try to help other parents of trans kids with theirs.
Rina came out as trans to her parents when she was five, and socially transitioned to living as a girl when she was seven.
“When I was about five, I started to feel not good about my body,” she said in an interview with Haaretz.
“I was still mostly a happy girl, but I was feeling uncomfortable with my body. When I looked at girls, I felt like I was born with the personality of a girl but in the body of a boy.”
“It was very hard,” she added.
“I felt that I was born a girl, only in the body of a boy – that was the feeling. I saw girls and I understood that I was like them, but I didn’t know if what I felt could exist.”
The second of two kids, Rina lives with her older brother and parents in the Sharon region of central Israel.
“We chose to tell our story frankly, because we have nothing to hide,” explains her mother, Dr. Keren Rivkin Nudelman.
“On the contrary: We are proud of our daughter. We feel that she is extraordinarily brave.”
In Israel, like in the UK, the increasing visibility of the transgender community has led to an increase in the number of young trans people who feel able to come out to their families.
According to Haaretz, the gender clinic in Tel Aviv – the largest gender clinic in Israel – has an average of 85 new patients per year.
When the clinic opened in 2013 it had three trans children as patients. Now, there are 200 trans children and teenagers under the clinic’s care.
Dr Ilana Berger, a psychotherapist who is one of the pioneers of trans healthcare in Israel, explained that the increasing numbers are because “parents are exposed to more information via the media. When their son or daughter stubbornly and persistently expresses distress over their gender assignments, it rings a different bell for the parents”.
Dr Asaf Oren, a pediatric endocrinologist and the director of the Tel Aviv clinic, says the increasing patient numbers he’s seeing are part of a “world trend”.
“There is far more discussion of the subject today,” he said.
“That raises awareness and enables people to overcome their shyness about approaching the clinic.
“People come to our clinic from all over the country and from all socioeconomic classes, including Arabs and Orthodox Jews.”
For Rina’s parents, the increased awareness of trans issues meant that they were able to inform themselves and support their daughter – once they realised what the behaviour she’d been displaying meant.
“At first we felt that it was only happening to us,” Keren, Rina’s mum, says, “but today I know that many families have the same experience.”
“I recommend that parents consult with experts or talk to other parents of trans children.
“We also received support from the community we live in, which was very meaningful. The main thing is not to be alone.”
And Rina’s grandparents told Haaretz that they respect and support Rina’s transition.
“We have been to three Gay Pride parades with her,” they say with delight. “We walked the whole route from the start.”
Rosa, her grandmother, also went to a demonstration last year to protest the Israeli education minister’s comments in favour of conversion therapy.
“I told people there that I am the grandmother of a trans girl, and I joined the educational efforts of a transgender organisation,” she said.