Years into journey, transgender teen still finding himself

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) — It’s been six years since Theo Ramos first cut himself in the school bathroom, six years since his parents and friends and teachers found out he wanted to be a boy instead of a girl, six years in transition.

And his mother, 55-year-old Lori Ramos, has been at his side.

“We’ve had moments of laughter, and we’ve had moments of joy,” she said. “When he’s feeling good with himself and he’s communicative, when he has no care in the world, and he’s spontaneously saying, ‘Hey, Mom, let’s go for a walk’ and fills me in on his day, that’s joy. For a kid who doesn’t communicate, who is very introspective, that’s joy to me.”

Theo’s now 16. He prefers “he/they” pronouns and sometimes calls himself “the boy prince” on social media. He embraces his gender fluidity, meaning that whether he identifies as male or female can change, depending on day or mood.

Sitting in his bedroom, Theo snuggled a stuffed animal named Strawberry, and ran a manicured hand through blue and pink hair while singing to Disney’s “Moana” soundtrack. He said he surprised himself by liking the movie because he doesn’t normally enjoy such girly things — but something in the theme of self-discovery struck a chord.

“But the voice inside sings a different song. What is wrong with me?”

Theo stopped short of drawing parallels with his life and the movie’s popular song, “How Far I’ll Go.” Yet identity and self-discovery play crucial roles in Theo’s depression, anxiety and troubles.

“I’m a demi boy,” Theo said. “For me, it’s a person who doesn’t identify completely as male. Fifty percent male. Fifty percent gender neutral. That’s how I identify it.

“I present myself differently on different days, depending on what it is I’m doing or who I’m seeing, but my emotions about my gender identity pretty much stay the same.”

Until recently, transgender people lived largely in the shadows. Depression was common. So was suicide.

Then, in 2015, a former Olympic superstar came out as a trans woman, Caitlin Jenner. And then came public-policy debates over bathrooms for trans people. This year, President Donald Trump issued a ban on transgender troops in the military; a judge barred his administration from proceeding.

Visibility and discussion of transgender issues hit a high — and some argue that trans people are more accepted than ever, while acknowledging that society has a long way to go.

Still, Theo said, all the discussion in the world doesn’t make life any easier as a gender-fluid or…

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