At a glance, 13-year-old Leo Waddell looks like any other kid his age. But if you tune in to a few minutes of his new show, “I am Leo,” you’ll learn that Leo’s first 13 years on earth have been far from average. Leo was born a girl.
At age 13, Leo is one of the U.K.’s youngest transgender people. According to his mom, Hayley Waddell, Leo has insisted since he was five years old that he is supposed to be a boy. It was then, at an age when most kids are thinking about tricycles and Legos, that Leo came to his mom and said, “I want to be a boy for Christmas.”
Leo started hormone therapy in the years after he made this desire known, but his transition to what he believes is his true identity has been far from easy. Leo is diagnosed with gender identity disorder (GID), a psychological condition in which people identify with a gender other than the one associated with their biological sex. People with GID often describe feeling trapped in the wrong body. His early diagnosis with the condition is not all that controversial. What is controversial, though, is the age at which he and his mother tried to get him started on hormone therapy.
Doctors typically have no problem issuing hormone medicines to people with GID, but they usually make them wait until a more mature age to begin treatments. The fear is that young people, like Leo, don’t yet know enough about themselves to make such a life-altering decision. Leo and his mother had to wrestle with physicians to let him start hormone therapy at such a young age. Now, after months of effort, he is on hormone blockers, too. The blockers will prevent his body from going through puberty and developing feminine features.
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His mom told CBBC recently that Leo’s life has changed in a huge, positive way since he started the blockers.
“Leo is over the moon,” she said, according to Mirror. “He’d already started puberty, and every month it had been a nightmare for him. When he was younger, all he’d ask for Christmas was to be a boy. He was determined to get his blockers before the end of the year and he did it.”
Leo sounds pretty happy, too.
“So much has happened, from being accepted on to a trial for hormone blockers, then my doctor saying she wouldn’t give them to me and then finally getting them,” Leo said. “Life is great, especially now I don’t have to worry about puberty. I’ve got my blockers, a brilliant family – my mum’s amazing – and feel excited about the future now. I can’t wait…”