>> 'We had twin boys - but at 18 months old one wanted to become a girl': Father of six-year-old suffering gender dysphoria on family's battle to accept Joe becoming Lily
La première fois que Matt et Rosie Downs ont remarqué une différence entre leurs jumeaux, ils étaient âgés de 18 mois. Tandis qu'Olly passait son temps à shooter dans des ballons et se passionnait pour les camions, Joe préférait s'habiller en rose et regarder des livres de contes de fées. A l'âge de 2 ans, Joe était attiré par les jouets de filles et les poupées. «Il réclamait des bébés et voulait des déguisements féminins. Olly, lui, voulait s'habiller en Batman», explique le Britannique au «Daily Mail».
Une fois admis à la garderie, Joe a continué de se comporter comme une fille. La responsable de la crèche a expliqué aux Downs qu'Olly aimait bien jouer au sable avec les copains, mais que son frère préférait s'amuser à se costumer et qu'il avait lié de fortes amitiés avec des filles. Déstabilisés par le comportement de Joe, ses parents ne savaient pas comment réagir. «Nous avons un peu résisté quand il avait 3 ans, nous étions inquiets de trop l'encourager et il était trop jeune pour comprendre», raconte Matt.
— Daily Mail Femail (@Femail) 5 Octobre 2015
L'arrivée de la petite sœur accélère les choses
A Noël, les Downs ont essayé de lui offrir des jouets plus masculins, mais l'enfant les a rejetés. La différence de Joe s'est encore accentuée à la naissance de Bella, sa petite sœur. «Il voyait tous les jouets roses du bébé et les habits roses de la petite. Il a commencé la danse et a demandé pourquoi il ne pouvait pas avoir un tutu plutôt qu'un top et un legging noir», confie son papa.
Au moment de fêter son sixième anniversaire, Joe n'a pas hésité une seconde à revêtir une robe de «La Reine des neiges». «Il n'a jamais essayé de le cacher. Il s'en fichait éperdument que tous ses amis et ceux de son frère le voient comme ça», assure Matt. C'est lors de leur vacances au mois d'avril en Egypte que les parents de Joe ont réalisé que leur fils était réellement en souffrance. «Il refusait de porter autre chose que des vêtements féminins et exprimait oralement son désir d'être une fille», explique son père. De retour chez eux, ils ont pris rendez-vous chez un spécialiste en dysphorie du genre à Londres.
«C'était comme si j'avais perdu un fils»
En juillet, les Downs sont repartis en vacances et Joe a commencé à se présenter comme Lily. Un changement difficile à accepter pour la famille de l'enfant: «C'était comme si j'avais perdu un fils. C'était un sentiment différent de celui qui survient lorsque quelqu'un meurt. Ce n'est plus Joe. Quand je regarde de vieilles photos, c'est un peu dur à suivre pour mon cerveau», admet Matt.
Olly, lui, a eu bien du mal à accepter le changement d'identité de son frère jumeau: «Il a commencé à être assez triste et a dit à sa maman, en pleurant, qu'il avait perdu son frère», raconte Matt.
En septembre dernier, le centre spécialisé a expliqué aux Downs que si Lily n'avait pas changé de comportement vers l'âge de 11-12 ans, des inhibiteurs d'hormones lui seraient alors prescrits afin de stopper sa puberté masculine. A l'âge de 16 ans, Lily pourra prendre des hormones féminines et elle choisira deux ans plus tard si elle souhaite se faire opérer.
En attendant, Lily se rend à l'école habillée comme une fille et se laisse pousser les cheveux. Les responsables de l'établissement ont été très surpris mais leur réaction a été positive. Ses camarades de classe, eux, se montrent très tolérants, mais Matt s'inquiète pour les années à venir. «A l'école secondaire, il y a des clans et de la mesquinerie. Elle ne pourra pas se développer au même rythme que les autres filles. Nous avons peur que cela ne la bouleverse», conclut-il.
>> A father of six-year-old twin boys – one of whom is now living as a girl – has revealed he first noticed differences between his sons when they were just 18 months old.
Matt Downes, 37, from St Albans, said he and his wife Rosie found that Olly would kick a ball around and buy Thomas The Tank Engine magazines, but Joe, who is now called Lily, opted for pink outfits and books about fairies.
Matt, a CEO, also revealed that although the family has supported Lily’s decision, Olly has struggled to come to terms with his brother now being his sister.
He said the little boy has been acting 'overly boyish' to compensate to his peers.
Matt told FEMAIL: 'He started to get quite sad and said to Rosie one day in tears that he had lost his brother.
'Around other kids he's been acting overly boyish and says things to demonstrate he's not a girl.
'He's coming to terms with it.'
Olly has received counselling from the school and is now much happier.
Matt described how Lily showed signs of being transgender from 18-months-old and is now living as a girl.
When his wife Rosie fell pregnant with twins, the couple were thrilled.
After they were born, they were very close but from the age of 18 months, the parents started to see differences between their children.
Matt said: 'My earliest memory of it is at one and a half. My parents had them once a week from when they were born.
'Mum and dad used to take them down to the shops to pick a magazine. Olly would get Thomas The Tank Engine, or more "boy" magazines. She picked something pink with fairies.
'From the age of two she was drawn towards pink toys and babies. She asked for baby dolls and wanted girly fancy dress while Olly had a Batman outfit.'
And Matt explained that Lily’s ‘girlie’ behaviour continued when she went to nursery.
He said: 'It really hit at three when she went to preschool. 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.'
The couple felt maybe she was just more creative as a child.
Matt said: 'I'm more of a sporty person who loves all kinds of sports and Rosie's a hairdresser and has always been more of a creative.
'Joe was more into arty stuff and Playdoh so we thought she was more creative and Olly likes kicking a ball.'
But she would come home and then change into feminine fancy dress outfits.
Matt admits he found the transition more of a struggle than his wife.
He said: '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.'
The parents did try to resist and were worried whether they were encouraging her too much.
He said: 'We had a bit of resistance when Lily was three, we were concerned we were fuelling situation and she was too young to understand.
'That Christmas, we bought more stereotypically "boy" toys for her but we ended up taking them back because she didn't want them.
'We had a bit of a challenge getting friends and family to buying the Christmas and birthday presents she wanted.
'My brother did say things like "Do I have to buy her a princess fancy dress outfit, can't I buy her Lego?"
'But by the time she was four, everyone was fine with it.'
By aged four, Matt said of Lily: 'Literally everyday she'd come in from school and put on a princess dress.'
When the couple had another baby, Bella, now two, that year it led to Lily becoming more vocal.
Matt said: 'She saw Bella had girl bits when she was having a bath and said "Why can’t I have one of those?"
'She saw all the toys for the baby being pink rather than blue and would see Bella's pink babygrows.
'She did ballet and would ask why she couldn't have the girl's outfit of a leotard and tutu rather than a white top and black leggings.'
But Bella has quickly adjusted to having an older sister.
The twins usually had birthday parties together but when they celebrated their sixth birthday early this year, they had their own parties with Olly holding a football-themed party and Lily having an arts and crafts party
Lily wore a fancy dress outfit to look like Elsa from Disney film Frozen and didn't have a 'care in the world' about wearing the dress in front of her friends.
Matt said: 'She never tried to hide it at all. People who were really friends with her had seen her dressed up on playdates.
'At certain discos and school fetes she would go in more girly stuff.
'But it was the first time parents had seen her dressed like that in a full-on Elsa dress.
'There were a few funny looks and a few people weren't quite sure what to say.
'We were aware of a few whispers but nothing was said to Rosie and I.'
It was when they went on holiday in April to Sharm El Sheikh to celebrate their 10-year wedding anniversary they realised she was serious.
He said: 'Lily refused to wear anything other than girl's clothing and was vocal about her desire to be a girl.
'It really hit me and Sophie then, this is something we need to do something about.'
When they returned they booked an appointment at Tavistock and Portman Centre, which specialises in gender dysphoria, but had to wait six months to be seen.
In July, the family went on holiday to Menorca and Lily began to introduce herself with the new name she came up with.
Her parents had previously told her when she was younger if she had been a girl she would be called Lily-Rose as they liked the name.
'The change of name hit me hard,' Matt admitted.
'There was a big feeling of loss for me, that I've lost a son. It was a different kind of loss to someone dying.
'It's not Joe anymore. I look at old photos of her and it's hard for my brain to process.'
Using her new moniker and wearing female swimsuits, Matt admits he struggled initially.
'On holiday she was in a girl's swimsuit around the pool, that was quite challenging.
'One thing is remembering to call her Lily not Joe and call her "her" instead of he.
'Even coming back from Majorca through passport control, the officer was confused because her passport is male but she's female.'
In September, the Tavistock and Portman centre advised the parents that if she is still on the same path by the age of 11 or 12, hormone blockers will be prescribed which will stop the onset of male puberty.
There is the option of taking female hormones at age 16, and at 18 Lily can decide whether or not she will have surgery.
Matt and Rosie discussed the centre's recommendation with the school and Lily started the new term in September in girl's uniform and is now growing her hair.
Matt said they were aware but he doesn't think they expected it to happen so quickly.
He said: 'But once we explained how far back this went and showed them pictures from aged one and a half to three to show this has been going on for a long time, they understood.'
Although other children have been very accepting, he worries for when she starts secondary school.
Matt said: 'There becomes cliques and bitchiness and she won't be able to develop at the same rate the other girls will without hormones.
'She's very strong-minded and we worry it'll upset her.'