Wheels crunch in the skateboard park at a shopping centre in East London and the speeding skaters are a blur of arms and legs.
One of the most skilled among them is a dark-haired boy whose denim jeans hang low on his hips. With his trendy skateboarding shoes, 15-year-old Sam Benadie* looks like any other teenager in the park.
Then one of his friends calls out, “Hey, bro, are they going to allow you to wear trousers at your new school next year?”
Only then you notice the small breasts under his T-shirt – Sam was born a girl.
Back home Sam sits with mom Melissa* and grandmother, Wilma*, discussing the confusing events of his recent life.
Three years ago a psychiatrist diagnosed Sam as a transgender – biologically a girl but with a male identity – and advised that he should be allowed to wear trousers to school. The school refused.
“It didn’t feel right to wear girls’ clothes to school. It was humiliating for me,” Sam says.
“We just want him to get a good education,” Melissa adds. “And I ended up with a child who got panic attacks and stomach ulcers because he was scared of going to school.”
In November the family heard the Commission for Gender Equality had an office in East London and this body, in conjunction with the department of education, found Sam a more accommodating school where he’s been able to concentrate on his studies and express himself as a boy.
Gender DynamiX, a transgender organisation, is helping Sam to change the gender on his ID documents, among other things. They will also assist him if at a later stage he starts hormone treatment under medical supervision and has surgery to complete his transformation into a man.
“It’s wonderful to have a support network now, people I can go to for answers to my questions,” Melissa says. “We’re among the lucky ones. Hopefully we can now get on with our lives.”
Sam is ready for the challenges that lie ahead. “I just want to put my time and life as a girl behind me and start my transformation into a man. I’m ready for my new school. I can’t wait to play rugby.”
Read the full story in YOU, 13 January 2011. * Pseudonyms have been used to protect Sam’s identity at his new school.