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"I think I'm a boy"

Local family shares their story as their teen comes out as transgender

Every day in the Hudson Valley, teens struggle with the idea of coming out to their family and friends. Some will be subject to ridicule and harassment. Others will have the loving support of their families.

A teen’s confession
Three years ago, Jennifer Munn's then 13-year-old teen told her, "Mom, I think I might be gay."

"Okay, is that it?' said Munn, who is also mom to Ellie, 14, Aaron, 12, Campbell, 10, and Noah, 8. "He said yes, and I said 'that's fine. Don't worry.'"

Her teen's confessions weren't over just yet. About two months later, her first-born came back and said, "Mom, I'm worried."  

Munn asked why.

"I'm not gay. I think I'm trans. I think I'm a boy."

READ MORE: Local moms share their thoughts on parenting their LGBTQ teens

Finding clarification
Isaac Munn was born female and under a different given name, but knew something was different. He finally decided to tell his family. Mom admits that hearing Isaac was transgender was a little different for her, but still not a problem. "I just have a lot more to learn about that," she told Isaac.

Isaac's parents set up an appointment with a counselor, not to change or convert him back to a female identity, but for clarification and education. "We needed to make sure this was the real thing," says Munn. "We needed another adult who was more knowledgeable to evaluate him."

Isaac has gender dysphoria, the condition of feeling one's emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one's biological sex. The family immediately began to use 'him' as the gender pronoun when talking about Isaac. However, at the time, the family was also still using his birth name. It became complicated.

To simplify matters, Munn asked her child to pick a new name. He chose Isaac and has since begun the transition process.

Parents’ support
Munn says that she never shed a single tear over her son's coming out. "I understand how incredibly important it is that we validate our kids no matter what we personally feel," she says. "They have to feel 100% accepted, but, yes, I missed certain things about having a girl. I feel a little bit sad for the loss of this daughter that I thought I was going to have in the future, but I'm still very grateful that I have this son that I have now."

Isaac's dad, Kristofer Munn, just wants his son to be happy. "Emotionally, I was fine with it," he says. "I was already aware that this existed, but before we made any changes, I wanted to make sure there was no confusion."

Once he had confirmation that his son was indeed, transgender, he said he never dwelled on what negative reactions Isaac would experience in the world. "He's not making a choice; he is who he is. We can only prepare him fully for the real world and try to make him as strong as possible for the challenges he'll face. This is his story and all I can do is make sure I'm there for him," he says.

When Isaac told his mother that he thought he was gay, he was relieved with her answer. "It just wasn't a big deal to her and it shouldn't be," says Isaac, a 15-year-old sophomore in high school. "If you have a kid and they come out to you as trans or non-binary, or gay, it's not some revolutionary change in their character. They're the same person, it's just that now you have another little trait to put in their character box."

Handling negativity as a family
Every teen longs for a supportive family as they come out. Isaac has that, but that doesn't mean that he has had an easy road.

He has been taunted and bullied by transphobic students his age. "There are some students at school who genuinely despise me," says Isaac. "When this part of me came to light, it made them hate me even more. I've been told I should be pregnant and cooking in the kitchen and after I said that I was not interested in ever having children, one kid said that it's good that my kind was being bred out of society."

He's also been bullied in the locker room and harassed about his identity. "I was questioned as if it was my responsibility to give them the answers that they were looking for," says Isaac.

Isaac uses the nurse's bathroom primarily at his high school in Red Hook, although the school allows him to use whichever bathroom or locker room he feels comfortable in.

Superintendent of Schools at Spackenkill Union Free Schools Mark Villanti says, "Transgender teens have a choice in which bathrooms to use. We have an inclusive culture and this choice has not led to any conflict."

But Isaac hasn't felt welcome or safe enough to change in the boys' locker room. His mother explains, "He isn't sure he would be accepted since his peers always knew him as a girl prior to high school. At least in the girls' bathroom he feels confident that the bullying will remain verbal and not get physically aggressive."

No matter what happens at school or in the outside world, though, Isaac is grateful for the support of his family. "If you go out on vacation and you're in a different place with different people and new experiences, it's nice to have something familiar and safe to come home to," he says. "It kind of makes the scarier things easier if you know that you have a place where you can go where none of those things can really touch you."

Support in the community
Today, Isaac and his family are part of the Northern Dutchess Rainbow Coalition of the Hudson Valley. The Rainbow Coalition offers bi-monthly meetings for teens and their families and has events that bring the community together. Munn recalls, "Last year in June, the Rainbow Coalition had its first PRIDE parade in Red Hook. They also held a eulogy for the victims of the Orlando Pulse nightclub tragedy."

The Rainbow Coalition has also partnered with the local Red Hook Gay Straight Alliance in the middle and high school to host events for social support.

The Munns also find support in other local resources. "We have found resources through the Hudson Valley LGBTQ center as well as connections at Planned Parenthood. They are now equipped to help people with transition hormone therapy."

Isaac and his family have also become support systems for other families as their teens go through similar changes.

Lisa Iannucci is a local freelance writer. Her latest book, On Location: A Film & TV Lover's Travel Guide, was released on February 1, 2018.

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