How transgender student overcame depression, bullying and a broken relationship with her father to successfully graduate high school
17:05 GMT, 4 June 2012
An 18-year-old transgender girl has revealed how she overcame her fears and family obstacles to become a successful high school graduate.
Katie Hill suffered depression, school bullying, and a struggled relationship with her father after she told her mother she was a girl trapped in a boy's body.
But last month she become the first openly transgender student to graduate from an Oklahoma high school, and now she wants to help other children understand gender-identity disorder.
Transgender teen: Katie Hill, 18, smiles at her family as she waits to get her diploma during Bixby High School's graduation ceremony
Katie was born Luke, but emotionally and legally she has been a girl since her 15th birthday.
She was badly bullied after she first attended Bixby High School as a girl, and begged to be home schooled instead.
Children stared, pointed and laughed, 'Like I was disgusting, like I was some monster. I just felt shell shocked, like I was about to barf,' she told Tulsa World.
However two years on, she says: 'It's a different world. Now people just treat me like anyone else. Some kids even apologized.'
Her father, lieutenant colonel Randy Hill, also struggled with the news he was 'losing' his firstborn son but is now talking to his daughter again.
Katie said: 'It's still hard, but we're trying. He's finally starting to see where I am coming from.'
Graduating grin: According to Oklahomans for Equality, Katie is the first openly transgender teen to graduate from a high school in Oklahoma
Katie's mother, Jazzlyn, explained: 'After two years he finally realized that it's still this amazing, incredible kid we had.'
With the support of her family and new boyfriend, Miss Hill travelled to California to have sexual reassignment surgery shortly after graduation and her 18th birthday.
An anonymous donor offered to pay $40,000 for Katie's surgery at a hospital of her choice, after learning about her long struggle with gender identity and being bullied during her first attempt to attend school as a girl.
Her family said they are 'floored' by the gift and the donor's generosity, which would have taken them years, or decades, to afford.
Mrs Hill said she was nervous about the painful four-hour surgery, which removes the testicles, inverting and reconstructing the penile tissue into a fully formed, sensitive vagina.
Gender identity: With the support of her family and new boyfriend, Katie travelled to California to have sexual reassignment surgery shortly after graduation and her 18th birthday
She said: 'Even if you're so ready, it's irreversible. It will change everything.'
However, she added: 'Knowing what Katie
went through for eight-plus years – there's nothing worse than watching
your child suffer. It's still my baby – male or female, she's still my
child. And I don't have to kneel at her grave.'
The surgery was the teenager's final
step into a new sense of self that has long been in discord, something
her new 16-year-old boyfriend Arin can identify with.
Open and honest: the teenager has said she wants to share her story and help other transgender children
Arin was born Emerald, a 'pageant princess' who attended private Christian schools until he told his mother he thought he was transgender.
Her mother, Denise, and Mrs Hill acknowledge that their transgender teens' dating is unusual – however sexuality is a separate issue from their gender identity.
Katie said there is no confusion in the fact that a girl who was born a boy is now dating a boy who was born a girl.
'It's never hardly about that. It's about the person,' she said.
Although she planned on 'going stealth' after surgery, erasing all history of her life as a boy, she now wants to share her story to help others.
She explained: 'I realized, because of this, it's a part of who I am. I don't need to go stealth'
Her father agreed, saying: 'I see it now. I know this is who she's meant to be.'