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The photo below seems no different than many images of a loving couple with their young daughter, but a closer look reveals there is nothing commonplace about this portrait.
For five-year-old Jayden Rogers – wearing her favourite dress and sparkly shoes in front of her mother, Jody – was born a boy. And Greg, the young bearded man who has been Jayden’s father for the past three years, was born a girl.
They are believed to be Britain’s first two-generation transgender family and Jayden is one of the youngest children in the country to switch gender.
Transgender boy Jayden Rogers who is 5 years old wants to be a girl, seen here with mother Jody and her partner Greg Rogers
The couple are aware that a fierce debate is raging about the large number of young people choosing to change sex and after Jayden insisted on living as a girl nearly a year ago, they found themselves at the centre of their own distressing battle.ADVERTISING
For although Jayden’s teachers, friends and most of their neighbours have accepted the child’s gender transition, others have mounted a campaign of online abuse centred on the unfounded claim that the parents had somehow cajoled their child into becoming a girl.
The nightmare began with an anonymous complaint to social services from a resident who saw Jayden playing outside the family home in girls’ clothing and accused the couple of child abuse. Astonishingly, although the council officials who investigated the claims found the Rogers to be a happy, loving family, the couple say it was suggested they move away from the area to solve the problem.
They angrily refused but have since suffered a barrage of online insults from anonymous trolls who insist that because Greg had changed sex, he must have forced Jayden to do the same.
Today, in an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, Greg, 27, and Jody, 21 – who live in the small Scottish town of Shotts, North Lanarkshire – have decided to speak out against their critics.
Greg changed gender at the age of 16. He has had his breasts removed, but is yet to undergo reassignment surgery on his genitals and says he’s in no hurry to do so because current procedures have only a 60 per cent success rate.
He said: ‘We haven’t encouraged Jayden to do this, despite what people think, and we are hurt at the suggestion.
‘She has no idea that I’m transgender. Having been through this myself, I have conflicting emotions about her deciding she doesn’t want to be a boy any more. It’s not an easy life. People will always judge you and I don’t think there is a single transgender person on the planet who would push that on a child.
‘We can’t fix society but we can help Jayden to be happy with who she is. We don’t encourage it. In fact, we buy boys’ and girls’ clothes to give her the option and we have regular conversations with her, underlining that if she wants to go back to being a boy, we will love her regardless. It is not something I would have chosen for myself and certainly not something I would choose for my child, but she is so much happier now.’
The couple – who are not married but share the same surname – say at first they thought their son’s interest in being a girl was ‘just a phase which would pass’, but have found themselves having to allow Jayden, from the age of four, to carry on being a girl for the sake of her mental well-being.
North Lanarkshire Council social workers are understood to be monitoring the situation – but have so far been happy for Jayden to remain with her family.
Greg said: ‘Social workers can see that Jayden is well looked after and have no concerns other than to suggest we consider moving home because of prejudice from some people in the area.
‘Some parents have even told their daughters not to play with Jayden because she’s really a boy. But we’re refusing to move as the vast majority of our community have no issues with us and are supportive.
‘It has reopened old wounds. Most people do not know my gender identity. They just know me as a male, which is how I prefer it.
‘It shouldn’t be an issue any more. When I first transitioned at 16, I was rejected by my parents and had to live with my grandmother for a while. I tried to fight my feelings, but I wasn’t gay, I just always knew I was in the wrong body.
‘I went through horrific amounts of abuse and was beaten up in the street, so I would never abandon a child in a similar situation. We tell Jayden it is fine to be different and it is other people who have the problem, not her.’
Jayden appeared to be content with her lot as a toddler. Born with partial deafness, however, she was unable to communicate her feelings and it was only after surgery, 11 months ago, to correct her hearing that she was able to tell her parents she wanted to be a girl.
Greg said: ‘She developed speech and immediately started saying, “I hate wearing boys’ clothes and everything about being a boy”. At first, we thought it was probably just a phase but it’s been consistent ever since. She is adamant she’s a girl.’
For Jody, a heterosexual university student, the transition has had a profound effect on her as Jayden’s biological mother. To begin with, she ignored her child’s requests, hoping it was just a phase, before finally giving in. She said: ‘I was naïve. I didn’t think a child could be transgender and it isn’t until now, after speaking to other parents in our situation, that we realise it is more common than everyone thinks.
‘I had a son one moment and a daughter the next. It probably took me six months to start accepting that it was what Jayden really wanted. It’s been like a grieving process for me, though. I do miss having a son and, as a baby, Jayden looked so much like a boy.
‘I look back at photographs of him now, in his little suits, and it’s like a different person.
‘I’ve never been a “girly girl” myself, but Jayden is, and I’ve had to learn to do her hair and nails.
‘I never had to bother before because when she was a boy, she just had a short back and sides. Fortunately, her name was unisex, otherwise she would have had to change it, but I still get the pronouns mixed up, calling her “he” rather than “she”. Jayden gets really annoyed with me.’
One of the most controversial issues at the centre of the transgender debate is the ever growing number of children being given hormone drugs that could have irreversible effects.
Doctors still know very little about the long-term effects of taking puberty blockers over an extended period and have claimed there is ‘anecdotal data’ the drugs are linked to osteoporosis.
Young people who are prescribed blockers are likely to progress onto ‘cross sex’ hormones when they reach 16. Boys will be given oestrogen and girls will start on testosterone. The effects of this medication are irreversible and can have ‘lifelong implications’ for the users.
Jody said: ‘Of course I have concerns for the future. I get really worried because she will have to go on hormone blockers when she’s older if she wants to remain being a girl. People have actually asked us if she’s had the surgery already to her lower half, which is frankly ridiculous. She’s five!
‘Others have told me I should force Jayden to be a boy and not pander to it because she will get bullied. But she was getting bullied anyway because she’s always been flamboyant.’
She added: ‘This is all about a boy wearing a dress and some people’s prejudices. If it was a girl with short hair and tracksuit bottoms, no one would bother.’
Sitting beside her mother, proudly showing off her Yo-kai Watch and Pokemon colouring book, pony-tailed Jayden says: ‘I don’t like it when people say I’m a boy. It makes me sad. I like being a girl.’
Lying nearby is the picture book My Princess Boy, which was written by author Cheryl Kilodavis about her son, Dyson, whose self-expression does not conform to stereotypical gender roles. One of the ways he expresses himself is by wearing girls’ clothing.
Greg added: ‘We’ve sought professional advice because we had no idea what to do as Jayden was only four when this started. We contacted our health visitors, our GP, the school, who have all offered help. Health visitors have said we must give Jayden the choice and every morning for almost a year she’s chosen girls’ clothing. When she started school in August last year, we even spent a small fortune buying two school uniforms – a boy’s and a girl’s – so that she had an option. She chose the girl’s.
‘We have taken all the guidance to essentially let Jayden choose, which is why the criticism has been hard to take.’
Both Jayden’s nursery and school have been incredibly supportive, say her parents, to the point the head teacher invited an LGBT expert in to meet with staff, who also spoke to her pupils at assembly on the wider issue.
Greg said: ‘As far as we are concerned, it is society that is trying to sexualise how Jayden is presenting herself. She is so young and all she wants to do is wear girls’ clothes, plain and simple. She had no idea until another child – told to do so by their parent – cornered her at school and said she couldn’t be a girl because she had a “willy”.
‘Jayden was upset. Until then, she didn’t know boys and girls had different “bits”. People are over-complicating it and trying to turn it into something nasty when it is just a five-year-old wanting to be herself.’
Looking back at family photographs, Greg, who met Jody on an online dating service, says with hindsight the early signs of Jayden’s yearning to be a girl were there.
SHE always gravitated towards girls, and while her contemporaries were engaged in rough-and-tumble games, she was happiest dressing up as Princess Anna from the animated movie Frozen.
The couple contacted the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services to have Jayden assessed but were told the youngster did not have mental health issues, merely a gender issue.
Jayden is now on the waiting list for the Sandyford Clinic in Glasgow, which offers a Young People’s Gender Service. Too young for medication or hormone treatment, she will receive counselling over the next few years.
Greg said: ‘Because of her young age, Jayden will have counselling for a long time to explore who she is. The most important thing is ensuring she is happy if she wants to fully become a girl. We don’t want a child suffering from mental health problems because she’s been told she can’t be who she wants to be. I know what that rejection is like and we don’t want it for her.’
He adds: ‘Whatever the outcome, we will support her through it and when she is old enough to comprehend it, I will finally tell her about me. In the meantime, we want to do the best for Jayden.’