'He tried to cut off his manhood with craft scissors': The torment of transgender boy before finding peace as nine-year-old girl
When Danann Tyler was just two years old, he insisted he was a girl, and asked to wear dresses and grow his hair.
His yoga instructor mother, Sarah, 39, and father Bill, 45, a police officer, struggled to explain his behaviour, and put it down to a phase. However two years later, Danann attempted to cut off his penis with a pair of scissors.
'I found him in the playroom trying to cut off his penis with a pair of craft scissors,' the mother from Orange County, California, told Closer magazine. 'He was weirdly calm, saying, “I'm going to get rid of this”. I felt sick.'
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Finally happy: Danann, nine, who was born male but now dresses as a little girl and has long hair, tried to cut off her penis at age four
Over the next two years, Dannan was misdiagnosed with ADHD and bipolar disorder.
Mrs Tyler, who also has an older son, 11-year-old James, said: 'His school work suffered and he started lashing out when I dressed him. I'd have bite marks and bruises. I was devastated.'
When she refused to let him wear a dress to a party, she says: 'He jumped out of the car and ran into traffic saying, “I want to die”.
He was immediately seen by a psychiatrist after Mrs Tyler contacted her local hospital, and after a month of tests and therapy, Danann was diagnosed with gender identity disorder, a condition where sufferers are unhappy with their sex.
Doctors said despite his young age, he needed to start living as a girl, son his parents made the decision to bring him up as their daughter, allowing him to grow his hair and wear girls clothes full time, even to school.
Danann, who hasn't changed her name as it's unisex, is happy for the first time, and Mrs Tyler says she'll support Danann if she wants a full sex change operation at 15.
She recalls picking Danann, then age two, up from a friend's house who has a little girl and found him wearing a Cinderella dress, mini high heels an pink painted nails.
'He'd scream when I'd try to put him
in boys clothes'
'When I asked him take the clothes off, he started crying,' she said.
'He'd scream when I'd try to put him
in boys clothes, and when I picked him up from nursery, I noticed he'd
be playing in the miniature kitchen with the girls and didn't like
trucks or action figures. I assumed it was a phase.'
began drawing pictures of himself as a girl, which were usually
illustrated with an unhappy face, and by the time he was three, his
got really upset when I referred to him as a boy and kept asking me why
he had a penis. He'd scream if I wanted to cut his hair. I occasionally
let him wear pink T-shirts and necklaces under his clothes, but Bill
wasn't happy. He's a man's man – and he didn't like his son looking
'It really disturbed me to see him so down,' she added. 'Bill was really freaked out.'
Before and after: Danann as a little boy (left), and at age eight with long hair (right)
When Danann turned four, Sarah caught him trying to cut off his penis with a pair of craft scissors, but luckily he 'just had a few minor cuts,' she said,.
Danann was to a psychologist who told Mrs Tyler he was attention seeking.
'I wondered whether Danann was gay,' Mrs tyler admitted. 'At school he started trying to use the girls toilets and queuing with the girls when they were divided into groups. Luckily, most children at his primary school were accepting.'
Meanwhile, Mr Tyler became increasingly angry about his son's behaviour.
Mrs Tyler said: 'We'd row. He wanted Danann to behave like a boy, but I just wanted him to be happy. I found myself secretly letting Danann wear Cinderella T-shirts.
'I confided in pals about it and two gay friends agreed they thought he could be gay, but that his behaviour was still very extreme. I was left puzzled.'
Eventually the Tylers took the
troubled child out of school, as Dannan was getting bullied and was not
getting the support she needed from teachers.
Tyler, a police officer, said: 'They would say things like, 'She has to stop bringing princess
backpacks to school, lunch boxes. It's confusing the kids, and it's
causing a distraction.'
When doctors finally diagnosed Danann with gender identity disorder at age six, Mrs Tyler said she felt a huge relief. And watching DVD's about transgender children helped them comes to terms with the diagnosis.
Confused: Danann's parents Sarah and Bill Tyler say they did not know what was wrong with their son when, from aged two, he insisted he was a girl
Long journey: Before the transition doctors misdiagnosed the child as bipolar, dyslexic and ADHD and prescribed various medications
She said: 'He assured us there was nothing psychologically wrong with Danann – but we were shocked. Bill said he didn't want any part of it. But for me, everything seemed to fall into place.
'We realised we weren't alone and other families were experiencing this. I was so sad to let go of my little boy. But I knew Danann would be happy as a girl. It seemed surreal to be making that decision, but I felt there was no alternative.
'I told Danann that he'd been born with a girl brain and a boy body, and he just said calmly, “I'm a girl, I know”. I explained we'd treat him as a girl, let him wear girls clothes at home and call him 'she' from now on.
'And when I said we could go shopping from clothes, Dannan couldn't stop smiling. She chose frilly pink dresses and sparkly shoes. We also bought some dolls. She was immediately less withdrawn. It was still strange – I'd never had a daughter – but I knew I had to do it for her.'
'He just said calmly, “I'm a girl, I know”'
Two months later, she started a new school as a girl.
Mrs Tyler explained: 'We met with the headmaster and they were happy – but we decided not to tell the other children. We cut Danann's hair into a bob so they didn't guess. I'd often get my he's and she's muddled up, but I got used to it quickly, as Dannan was girly.'
Now, a nine-year-old Danann is even a member of the Girl Scouts and is excelling at school.
'Bill and I are getting on so much better, although it took time to for him to accept things,' Mrs Tyler added. 'Now Danann's a real daddy's girl. He takes her shopping and they're closer than ever. James is also coping well. he's very protective of his sister.'
The mother-of-two says she'll wait until Danann hits puberty before taking the transformation further.
Interviews: The nine-year-old MTF (male to female) was the subject of a feature length documentary about transgender children, titled Trans
Not alone: Danann (far left) met two other little girls who believe they are trapped in the wrong bodies
'The next step would be hormone treatment but that's her decision, she said. 'If she wants to, she'll take hormone blockers around age 10, then start female hormone treatments at 15, which will make her skin softer, reduce body hair growth and encourage breasts to grow.
'I'd let her have sex-change surgery at that age – I know it's been done before and I think at that age she'll know for sure what she wants.
'People might think she's too young, but it's best for Danann we make the transformation now so she won't struggle through puberty. She's a different child now she's living as a girl – I know we made the right decision. She's happy, outgoing and doing well at school. This is who she wants to be.
'People may criticise but I couldn't have forced Danann to live as a boy. I'm glad she's finally happy in her own skin.'
The understanding parents say they want to tell their story for two reasons, to educate people and to support
those who are dealing with a similar situation.
Mrs Tyler said: 'We just felt so alone.
The materials we had seen that other parents had done really saved us,
and so we hoped that we can, you know, help other people just like
The hardest part is dealing with other people's reactions when they find out, the Tylers told Anderson Cooper in a special edition of the Anderson talk show, 'Children &Teens Caught In The Wrong Bodies'
Mr Tyler said: 'You never know how they're going to react to something or how
supportive they are until you present them with something like this. For
a lot of people, it's hard to swallow.'
But parents should not feel personally responsible, according to Mrs Tyler.
She explained: 'You didn't do something to cause this. This is just like conjoined twins are born conjoined or you're born with a cleft palate, this is just how they're born.'
It's vital that transgender children are given the freedom to be themselves, Danann's parents believe.
Mr Tyler said: 'If these
children are not allowed to be what they are, what they really are, the
outcome is something I don't want to think about. I have a little girl that needs to be a little girl.'
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Trans from The Film Collaborative on Vimeo.