When Rosie Downes gave birth to twins, she and her husband, Matt, were expecting to raise two boys. Instead, they’re now raising a boy and a girl after one of their twins began identifying as a girl.
Matt noticed that Joe, now 6 and going by the name Lily, preferred pink outfits and books about fairies, while Olly was into sports and Thomas The Tank Engine from the time they were 18 months old.
According to Healthy Children, a website affiliated with the American Academy of Pediatrics, children begin to form their gender identity from a very young age.
“It really hit at 3 when she went to preschool,” Matt told the Daily Mail. "In the first three weeks, we asked the teacher how they were settling in. She said, 'Olly has been outside playing in the sandpit, playing with the boys, while Lily has been in the fancy dress all day.' She was drawn towards girls and built bonds and friendships with them.”
Though the Downes family, of St. Albans, England, has accepted Lily as transgender, Olly has had a difficult time adjusting.
“He started to get quite sad and said to Rosie one day in tears that he had lost his brother,” Matt said. “Around other kids he's been acting overly boyish and says things to demonstrate he's not a girl.”
Matt initially struggled with his daughter’s identity too. “I found it more challenging. I was like, ‘You should wear a football kit.’ Rosie has a more open background after working in hairdressing and meeting more people with various styles.”
“We had a bit of resistance when Lily was 3,” he added. "We were concerned we were fueling [the] situation and she was too young to understand."
Despite the difficulty, Lily was adamant about wanting to be treated like a girl and now attends school in a girl’s uniform.
The family will have even more decisions to face in the future. When Lily is 11 or 12, she could decide to take hormone blockers to fight the onset of male puberty, and when she’s 16, she can begin taking female hormones. At 18, Lily has the option of deciding to have gender reassignment surgery.