Christy and Boyd Hegarty, the proud parents of three girls, knew there was something different about their middle child from the time she was a toddler. Lia was born a boy—however by the time she was three years old, she started to express herself in more feminine ways.
Christy and her husband figured Lia was a little boy who really liked girls’ things, something they figured wasn’t surprising of a boy with two sisters.
“We weren’t too concerned but assumed it was a stage that she was going through and that it was harmless for her to explore and play, as she was only in preschool,” Christy said. But as Lia got older, her preferences only got stronger.
According to the Hegartys, by the time Lia was four she would get frustrated if she got boys’ toys or clothes as gifts.
“She wasn’t miserable, but it became very clear to us and her sisters that if given the choice she would choose girls’ things over boys’ things.”
This was also the year that Lia wanted to have a princess-themed birthday party. Christy and Boyd granted her wish, and threw a party complete with barbies and princess costumes.
“Our family and friends were thoughtful in asking us if it was okay to buy Lia ‘girl’s’ toys for her birthday and we thought that was awesome.” Just after her birthday the Hegartys moved to New Hampshire from Indiana.
Lia’s first year in New Hampshire, she was still in preschool and was happy to inherit lots of dress up clothes and old dance costumes from her next door neighbors. Christy bought lots of boy costumes for Lia but they were always passed over. “She’d wear boys’ clothes to school but as soon as she got home she’d strip down and slip into one of her favorite gowns.”
“In kindergarten she started to get more dysphoric—she didn’t like her body and was depressed and frustrated,” Christy explained. “Getting dressed was a real challenge. She would ask me ‘Why can’t I just be a girl like my sisters? I feel like I’m a girl in my head and in my heart.’
“We were listening.”
But Christy and Boyd still didn’t really know what to do. Then, one night, Christy was watching the news and caught a documentary featuring a transgender child. It opened her eyes to what was really going on with Lia, and spurred her to do more research.
The Hegartys found a doctor in Boston who studies gender and lead a group for parents of gender variant children. Lia’s transition happened gradually from then on. In the first grade, she started wearing girls’ clothes at school and requesting that her classmates call her Lia, instead of her birth-name.
Christy says that by third grade, Lia’s dysphoria and anxiety had diminished and she was living happily as the girl she had known herself to be since she was three years old.
Now, Lia has gone off to middle school. She plays soccer on the travel team. Christy says that so far, Lia hasn’t been questioned or singled out because of her identity at school or in her extracurriculars. But she worries that might change as Lia gets older. Christy says she knows some families in the state who have had to fight uphill battles to have schools allow their transgender child to participate in competitive sports. And others have horror stories about bullying and verbal harassment. Christy also knows transgender adults who faced barriers to entering the workforce.
She would like to see New Hampshire take steps to protect trans people from discrimination in employment and all walks of life so that Lia will have the same rights as her sisters when she enters the workforce and wants to buy a home.
Despite her worst fears, Christy and Boyd agree that the people of New Hampshire have been very supportive of their daughter.
“Raising our transgender daughter has been a gift. Living in the Seacoast of New Hampshire has been a blessing. We are aware that many families living in other states have had to work so much harder to protect their transgender children from ridicule and hate. It’s quite scary. We are grateful that our daughter has been able to enjoy living in New Hampshire and feels free to be who she is: a happy, healthy 11-year-old girl.”