As soon as a kid’s born, the world has expectations for them: how to live, where to live, what to do, how to do it, and who to be when they’re all grown up. When something or someone doesn’t really fit those expectations, we tend to judge them unfairly.
When it comes to kids who break the mold, we should definitely try and keep our cool. These eight kids challenged society’s expectations in bold ways and were often met with vicious backlash. Even still, they put up brave fights to get what they wanted — and won.
Jen Anderson Shattuck and her wife Audra got married in 2008 and became parents in 2013, when Jen gave birth to a beautiful baby. Roo was instantly born into a loving and accepting family with two strong, kind moms. What more could one wish for?
Roo was a happy kid who liked to do jigsaw puzzles, play with cars, do crafts, and who loved being outside and playing in the park or on the beach. At the age of three, Roo began to behave in a way that raised a few eyebrows.
On August 24th, 2016, Jen spent a lovely summer day with Roo at the park in their hometown, Plymouth, Massachusetts. Jen allowed Roo to pick an outfit, so the young child dawned a t-shirt, sneakers — and a tutu.
Suddenly, an angry-looking man appeared. He yelled at the mother and child, even addressing Roo directly without Jen’s permission. “She shouldn’t keep doing this to you,” he said. “You’re a boy. She’s a bad mommy. This is child abuse.”
Nobody knew at the time that Roo might be a girl. She was assigned male at birth, had short hair, and peed standing up, but she also loved wearing tutus. When she became 5 and a half years old, she began saying. “I think I’m a girl, I’m actually a girl!”
No surgery or hormones were involved, but Roo’s moms did accept their child as a girl, if that’s what she felt like she was. The man at the park had yelled a child for wearing what she felt most comfortable in.
Jen detailed her encounter at the park on Facebook, and it created a trending hashtag: #TutusForRoo. Many people of different genders showed off their best tutu pics to stand with little Roo.
But Roo’s decision to don a tutu was not unique to her: Dyson Kilodavis loved dressing up as a princess but was often bullied for it. When his mother asked him about why he still wanted to wear the skirts and dresses, he claimed: “I’m a princess boy!”
Inspired by her son’s enthusiasm and bravery, Cheryl Kilodavis sought the help of illustrator Suzanne DeSimone and self-published a children’s book about kids who don’t quite conform to society’s standards.
Roo and Dyson are not the only young kids who rock a good tutu. Six-year-old Kaige loves sharks, Bill Nye the Science Guy, swimming — and pink fluffy things. Kaige told his mom Dawn “he just liked playing princesses and ninjas and didn’t want to be made fun of and that girls are allowed to do boy things, too,” she said. “He said it’s not fair.”
Dawn and her husband gave Kaige the freedom to express himself however he wanted. He proudly wore his tutu, but he also liked wearing dress shirts and ties to school, as well as a purple Mohawk. Look at this little punk! Stories like those of Kaige, Roo, and Dyson are plentiful…
Issak Wolfe was assigned female at birth and used to be known to his friends and family as Sierra Stambaugh. As a teen, he realized he identified as male. Things were tough during his senior year of high school because not everyone accepted him for who he was.
He was originally nominated as prom queen, but fought hard to be considered for the title of prom king instead. He also asked to have his new name read at graduation, rather than his dead-name. In both instances, his persistence paid off. He was called Issak.
Meanwhile, 7-year-old Bobby Montoya had presented female traits from a very young age. She played with Barbie dolls, wore her hair long, and often wore androgynous or feminine clothing. Still, she was denied what she wanted more than anything.
Bobby desperately wanted to join the Girl Scouts but was initially rejected because she still had “boy parts.” Bobby’s mom called the Girl Scout headquarters, and the organization apologized. Bobby was welcomed with open arms to sell cookies and collect badges.
There was another little girl who had an even bigger wish than Bobby did. This Canadian child came out as transgender to her parents at eight years old, and began to fight for the identity of female when she was only 10. With the help of her grandma, she wrote to the government asking to change her identity on her birth certificate.
The kid once known as Declan Cunningham became Harriette. “When a baby is born,” she said, “you don’t know if it will be male, female, intersex, transgender or gender-fluid. Gender is more than what’s between your legs.”
When people “pass” as their self-identified gender — meaning people can’t tell they’re trans by looking at them — they are more easily validated. Lila Perry did not pass, as she came out after puberty and wasn’t on hormone therapy. Still, the 17-year old wore skirts, makeup, and long wigs to school.
Lila felt uncomfortable and out of place in the men’s restroom and locker room, but wasn’t allowed to use the girls’. Some students and their parents protested her sing the girls’ facilities (even though Lila was not even attracted to women). Other people had her back, but she still dropped gym and tried switching schools altogether.
Last but not least is the famous story of Jazz Jennings. At only 13 years old, Jazz became an advocate for transgender children when she wrote a book titled I Am Jazz, which chronicled her own journey towards being accepted as a girl. But she and her family weren’t quite done yet.
Jazz’s parents and siblings helped her set up the Transkids Purple Rainbow Foundation to support other transgender youth. Later, she founded the company Purple Rainbow Tails, which made mermaid tails for genderqueer kids to raise money.
As of 2018, Jazz was working on a transgender doll to be sold in stores, and constantly met with other queer youth to help them in their battles in any way she can.
The minute a child is born, there are already many expectations weighing on its shoulders. When they don’t meet those expectations, we must accept and love them for the way they are. In other words, if a child wants to wear a tutu, let them wear a tutu!
While fighting for your child’s right to be themselves and to be accepted is definitely a noble cause, it is far from being won. Genderqueer people of all ages face discrimination and bigotry. Unfortunately, a child named Kai encountered the same issues as Roo did.
In December of 2010, Kimberly Shappley gave birth to a beautiful baby. Kim and her husband were overjoyed, but they soon realized this child was nothing like their five other offspring. It all started when the kid learned how to walk and talk…
The child, whose middle name was Kai, preferred playing with dolls and dressing up in costumes over racing cars or playing sports like Shappley’s other sons did. It left Kai a bit isolated, which worried Kimberly.
Then, Kai began stretching T-shirts to make dresses from them, begging to grow long hair, and declaring that boys were “gross.” Kimberly, who worked as a nurse, recalled family members inquiring if Kai could be gay.
Eventually, someone introduced another idea to Kim: Kai could be a transgender girl. “A friend of mine, who’s a child psychologist, pointed out that Kai had very feminine behavior,” Kimberly said.
However, the Texas-based mom wasn’t ready to hear it at that time and brushed it away, saying he’d grow out of it. But in December of 2013, around Kai’s third birthday, they exclaimed, “I’m a girl.”
At this point, Kimberly felt torn between her beliefs and the happiness of her child. “I come from a conservative religious background,” she said, “and although I’d heard about people being transgender, it wasn’t something I really agreed with.”
In the hopes of suppressing Kai’s feminine identity, Kim started encouraging them to be more boyish. She gave Kai a short hairdo and camo tees, signed them up for sports, and made them play with their brothers. None of it worked.
“Every time he said, ‘I’m a girl,’ or ‘I’m a princess,’ I would look at him and say, ‘No, you’re a boy,’” she recalled. And while Kai didn’t become less feminine, they did become less happy, as they now struggled with tantrums, bedwetting, and withdrawal.
But the mom of six’s attitude changed in November of 2014 when she tucked Kai into bed and noticed that they were wearing a pair of pink underwear so tiny it stopped the blood circulating to their legs.
That was the moment when Kimberly realized that Kai “was desperately trying to tell me who he was, and I couldn’t ignore it anymore.” Wanting to do right by her child, she began reaching out to other mothers who had been through the same.
Reaching out to other moms of genderqueer kids was both a blessing and a curse. She learned that many trans people suffer from depression and often commit suicide — a thought that terrified Kimberly to her core.
Afraid that the same would happen to Kai, she knew that her only real option was to accept Kai for who they — or rather who she — was. It was time to let go of her son and embrace her daughter.
So, Kim began supporting Kai’s transition from male to female by buying her girls’ panties, followed by tees and legwear. The Shappleys’ older children “weren’t fazed at all,” she said, and the family “started using ‘she’ instead of ‘him.’”
Sadly, not everyone in The Shappleys’ community was on board with Kimberly’s decision to stand by her daughter. “Some accused me of being a bad parent, but Kai was so much happier, I knew I was doing the right thing,” Kim said.
Most shockingly, the superintendent of Kai’s school compared bathroom use by transgender students to pedophilia and perverseness. “That’s when the mamma bear in me came out, and an active political role became a necessity,” Kim fumed.
Astounded by the school’s reaction, Kim spoke at school board meetings. “As a Christian mom to a transgender kid, I couldn’t stand by and let this far right, ultra-conservative, Christian man use my faith to hurt my daughter,” she said.
Despite Kimberly’s pleas, the school refused to adjust. They insisted on calling Kai by her dead name and didn’t allow her to use the little girls’ room. Kai quickly went from loving school to coming home crying every day.
Eventually, the Shappleys had seen enough of their small town’s discriminatory ways, and they packed up and moved to Austin, Texas. While still in a conservative state, Austin is a much more liberal city with a larger queer community.
On the first day of school, the protective mom saw a sign that led her to believe that she had made the right choice. She recalled, “I noticed a rainbow poster stating, ‘We’re an LGBT affirming school district.’”
With that, Kai settled into her new school and started coming home with “normal childhood issues.” But Kimberly’s fight wasn’t over, as she realized that people of her faith were not as willing to listen or understand LGBT issues.
That’s why Kim continued speaking at suicide-prevention events, universities, Houston Pride in 2017, and family-centric conferences. She was also open to consulting with therapists, other LGBT moms, and her friends.
“Everything that resulted from our story being told made one thing very clear – we needed to keep telling it. We had to keep fighting for acceptance and equality,” Kimberly said. Still, it was exhausting for her.
Nevertheless, Kim persisted. “This is my daughter’s future. So, even though I keep telling myself, ‘after this fight is won I’ll go back to nursing, I’ll go back to my normal life,’ I can’t. Because this fight is in jeopardy,” the new LGBT advocate said.
Of course, Kim is now proud to be a social advocate. Not only has she found a cause to believe in, but she has embraced her daughter completely and wants nothing but happiness for Kai. “I usually prepare my children for the world, but now I’m preparing the world for my child,”