May 12, 2010 4:03 PM
VAIL - From the moment we're born, our gender is no secret. Pink for girls, blue for boys, but for some children, what's biologically on the outside, doesn't match what's on the inside. Doctors call them transgender children.
More and more parents are allowing their kids to live as the opposite sex. The family of a 9 year-old Arizona girl agreed to share their story.
By the time she could talk, Josie Romero insisted she was a girl. Her parents say with the help of doctors, they realized, it wasn't just a phase. Between her passion for the color pink, laughter shared with her adopted sister and long sun-kissed hair, you'd never know Josie was born with male anatomy.
"You were born with one name right?" asks News 4's Rebecca Taylor.
"Yeah, Joey. J-o-e-y," says Josie.
At age two, Joey showed signs he was a she, modifying his toys and clothes to be more girly.
Than at age 4, while dressed up in her mom's jewelry she said, "Don't I look so pretty? And I laughed and said you do, you look just like a little girl and she was devastated. She said I don't look like a little girl, I am a little girl," says Josie's mom Venessia Romero.
At six, the family's pediatrician diagnosed Joey with Gender Identity Disorder.
"I was like, can you spell that for me? Literally I had no idea what he was talking about," says Venessia.
According to experts at Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago, an estimated three million Americans believe they were born in the wrong body. Josie's mom turned to Transgender Youth Family Allies, a support group where there are 125 children nationwide going through the same thing, diagnosed as transgender before puberty.
"And they're not all girls, some are actually female to male," says Venessia.
At one point Josie was taking 14 different medications to battle depression before the family came to terms accepting her as a girl.
Joseph Romero, Josie's dad says, "Like anybody else I was hoping this was a phase."
Joseph, an air force engineer says he had aspirations for his son, but in the end gained a daughter.
"I think we cheated her out the first couple years of life because she was really trying to explain to us that something is not right. We didn't know how to explain it, but she did. She already knew," he says.
News 4's Rebecca Taylor asks Josie, "What do you want people to know about you?"
"That I'm a girl," answers Josie.
Josie's birth certificate, passport and social security number have all been changed to show her as a girl. The next step is puberty blockers, drugs to prevent male adolescence. But that's a couple years away. Down the road as an adult, Josie can undergo gender reassignment surgery if she chooses. For now, she's just a seemingly happy girl, free of medications, who loves her family and the color pink.
Josie's transition to girlhood hasn't been all rainbows. While stationed at an American military base in Japan, the family became tabloid fodder. They moved to Vail, Arizona about two years ago, but now claim discrimination by their local school district, who they claim wouldn't let Josie to enroll. The school Superintendent says that's not true.
We'll have part two of Josie's story Wednesday on News 4 at 10. Including concerns about which restroom a transgendered youth aught to use.