Hope & Healing: The UF Health Blog

Never A Prince, Always A Princess: Hunter’s Story

Despite being born a male, Hunter had always insisted on playing with girl toys and wearing girls’ clothing. Looking for answers to explain her toddler’s female mannerisms, Hunter’s mother did the only thing she could think of – she sought the professional help of a psychiatrist.

“She was told there was nothing she could do to change me,” Hunter said. “She was told to love me unconditionally, and that is just what she did.”  

Although Hunter’s mother fully supported her child, she often feared that others would not be as tolerant of her child’s differences. During every Christmas at the mall, Hunter recalls her mother sitting on Santa’s lap with her.

“I thought my mother loved Santa just as much as I did,” said Hunter. “As I got older, it was explained to me that she was there to make sure Santa didn’t say anything inappropriate when I asked for a Barbie castle or another girly toy.”

Hunter also experienced bullying from the kids at school. In kindergarten, she was slapped in the face by a classmate after revealing her favorite color was pink. This incident, among others, convinced Hunter that something was wrong with her.

At the age of 15, Hunter was watching TLC’s transgender reality series, I am Jazz, when she realized she could no longer continue living uncomfortably in the wrong body. Hunter immediately ran into her mother’s room and told her she needed to be on puberty blocking medication.

The next morning, Hunter’s mother put in a call to the University of Florida Division of Pediatric Endocrinology. She received an email back from Jennifer Miller, M.D., who recommended the services of a colleague, pediatric endocrinologist, Janet Silverstein, M.D.

After meeting with Dr. Silverstein and being diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria, Hunter was prescribed hormone blocker injections and later underwent sperm cryopreservation, a procedure which would eventually allow her to produce biologic children if she wishes. Hunter now believes she looks on the outside like the gender she has always been on the inside, and she credits much of it to her team at UF Health.

“The UF Endocrinology Department is here to assist you with all aspects of your transition,” Hunter said. “Transitioning isn’t easy, and you will need a squad to fight for you. Dr. Silverstein’s team is definitely a part of my squad.”

Hunter now meets with clinical psychologist Anyaliese Hancock-Smith, Ph.D., who assisted Hunter in healthy development of gender identity and expression congruency. This included Hunter getting some facial feminization surgery for her 16th birthday.

“With over 40 percent of Transgender/Gender Non-conforming, or TGNC, individuals attempting suicide, it is an honor and a privilege to witness such a supportive and cohesive family with Hunter and her mother,” said Dr. Hancock-Smith. “Familial rejection in addition to discrimination and other types of rejection are some of the leading difficulties associated with a number of poor health outcomes for TGNC youth including suicidal ideation, attempts and completion. Hunter and her mother are a testament to what research shows about the powerful impact that familial support has on health outcomes for TGNC youth including close family bonds, better health outcomes and protection against discrimination and rejection experienced outside of the home. I am thankful for the honor and privilege to do such important and impactful work.”

Now seventeen years old, Hunter is preparing to have gender affirmation surgery in the summer of 2017, which will allow her to finally feel comfortable in her own skin. She hopes her story will inspire others to embrace their true selves.

“Your parents may not understand and may fight your transition, but this is the way you were born,” says Hunter. “Your authentic life is worth fighting for.”

Hunter is a seventeen-year-old high school student, who is also dual-enrolled in college courses. Hunter would like to dedicate this article to her friend, Riley B., whose life tragically ended in 2014 as a transgender woman. “She was an amazingly funny and smart young woman. If only she had more people in her life who could have shown her how valued and loved she was,” said Hunter.

After the slapping incident in Hunter’s kindergarten class, Hunter’s mom wrote a book with Hunter to help her classmates understand compassion. The book was called Boo, the Little Brown Bat. Boo, the little brown bat’s name causes a misunderstanding among the other nocturnal animals in the forest. Once Boo and the other animals learn of his true purpose in life, everyone becomes appreciative of the little brown bat. To order a copy of the book from Amazon, visit https://www.amazon.com/Boo-Little-Brown-Paula-Pifer/dp/097765950X.

About the Author

Rachel Sharpe