From the age of three, Jeneen Schofield’s only child made the same Christmas and birthday wish: “I want to be a girl.”
While family snaps show the tot in a Liverpool football kit, Jeneen says her toddler, born a boy, soon sensed he should be living life as a girl.
And last year her wish came true when her name was officially changed by deed poll – to Luna.
She started wearing a skirt to school and got a new passport too as one of the youngest transgender children.
Today her proud mum opens her heart on the life-changing events and defies critics who believe her decision to let Luna choose her gender was premature.
NHS worker Jeneen, 37, tells of the moment Luna, now eight, was “set free” and talks of her “grieving process” as she let her little boy go.
The mum says: “Luna was asking when she could be a girl soon after her third birthday. I brushed it off as a phase and told her to stop being silly.
“But she kept asking. My family felt she was too young to make the decision to be a girl, but I didn’t want to tell her how she felt and knew this wasn’t going away.”
Jeneen tells how Luna always shunned “football stuff”, preferring to play with dolls and dress-up. At five she was allowed to “socially transition”.
Jeneen adds: “Before then she’d worn princess dresses to the local shop with me, or at home. On her fifth birthday she spent the day at Disneyland Paris in a dress. She couldn’t have been happier.
“At the top of every Christmas and birthday wishlist was to be a girl. It was hard to accept what I was seeing.”
Luna had only been at school a few weeks when Jeneen asked to speak to her teacher.
She explains: “It was World Book Day. I explained Luna wanted to go as Alice in Wonderland and I asked if she thought there might be more to this. The teacher agreed, saying she noticed Luna always being the mum or sister when kids played dressing-up.
“Suddenly I was so scared about how it might cause problems for her. I sat in my car and cried my heart out. I didn’t really know what trans meant. For weeks I was petrified Luna would have a loveless life full of people hating her.”
But Jeneen says YouTube videos of parents of trans kids talking about their situation – plus resources downloaded from Mermaids, the trans-support charity – helped her realise Luna could find happiness.
She adds: “The more research, the more I realised transitioning didn’t mean the end. Luna could have a happy life and find love as a girl.”
In 2016 Jeneen took Luna to Liverpool Pride, where Mermaids had a stall. They met a family with a trans child a year older than Luna.
Jeneen recalls: “She had started to wear girls’ clothes and seemed so happy. I asked Luna if she wanted some normal girls’ clothes, rather than princess dresses, and she was so excited.”
So she took Luna to Primark where they bought three dresses, a pair of pink jeans and some bobbles.
“Seeing her spinning around in the changing rooms in her new clothes was heart-melting, like she’d been set free,” Jeneen says.
“The moment we got home Luna emptied her wardrobe of all the boys’ clothes, put them into bin bags and put her new clothes up with pride.”
Days later Jeneen told her mum that Luna would be wearing girls’ clothes.
She says: “We had an explosive argument, Mum telling me, ‘I can’t take her out in girls’ clothes’! I screamed back saying she had to be more understanding and supportive.
“Mum called back later saying how sorry she was, how she loved us, but she was so scared. I explained I was more scared than anyone, but I couldn’t help Luna on my own.
“And with the head’s blessing at the start of Luna’s second year at school, she proudly wore a girl’s uniform.
“Everyone was so accepting. Other kids would ask why she was in a dress, and she’d reply, ‘Because it makes me happy’, and that was it.
“The sense of relief when she came home that first day with a smile on her face was overwhelming.”
Then came the issue of a name.
After trying Alice for a week, she switched to Luna – a nod to the fact she and Jeneen look for the moon at night to make a wish before bedtime.
The process hasn’t been easy though and Jeneen admits “grieving” as Facebook ‘time hop’ photos would pop up of Luna as a baby – “making me feel like I’d lost my old child”.
But she stresses: “I explained how I felt to friends not in the trans community. They told me I should be grateful to have a child.
“It’s a complex emotion as a parent of a trans child. Last thing I wanted was to cause offence to any parent who has lost a child because of an accident or illness.”
After being a nurse for 11 years, Jeneen started a course in therapy and it helped her come to terms with their new life.
This gave her the confidence and strength to handle “horrific” online comments.
She adds: “I stopped reading comments saying how the parents should be killed or needed sectioning. This was about Luna’s happiness.
“I know she will encounter comments as she grows up, hated for something she didn’t choose, but I can either have a dead son or a happy, confident daughter.”
At times, Jeneen has turned to the trans and LGBT communities and hate crime officers for support.
A touching symbol came when Luna was re-baptised last year.
Jeneen says: “The vicar couldn’t have been more supportive, even wearing a rainbow silk scarf.
“When I see and hear how Luna has accepted her authentic self, how happy, intelligent and hilariously funny she is, it makes me very proud. Kids need to be themselves to flourish, not what someone else wants them to be.”
Luna has had five gender clinic appointments and can ask questions and explore ideas about her own identity.
Jeneen says: “The next change won’t be for a few years when Luna starts puberty and she can choose for herself if she wants hormone blockers and medication, and whatever else she chooses. But it will be her decision, and hers only.”
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