‘A Boy with No Backstory’: One Teenager’s Transition

In 2014, Oregonian reporter Casey Parks contacted local hospitals to find transgender patients who were interested in telling their stories. One doctor, Karin Selva, had a 15-year-old patient named Jay who was willing to share his own. Parks met Jay and his mother Nancy the following year, soon after his first testosterone shot, and has spent hundreds of hours with him since — at home with family and friends, on school visits, and during medical appointments. In the first piece of a three-part series, Parks chronicles the realization that would prompt Jay’s medical transition.

One afternoon while his mom worked, Jay called his younger sisters to the living room. They were 8 and 10 — old enough, he hoped, to understand.

“I need to show you a video,” he told them. He streamed one of the YouTube videos on the TV. A trans guy appeared on the screen and explained how he came out to his family.

Jay stood while his sisters watched from the couch.

“This is how I feel,” Jay said when it ended.

“So you’re becoming a boy?” asked his youngest sister, Angie.

Jay paused. He couldn’t bring himself to say it out loud.

“Kind of.”

“Do you want me to tell mom?” Maria asked.

“No,” he said. Jay hadn’t talked to his mother much the past year, but he knew he had to tell her.

The next day, he crept to the other side of their trailer, his heart knocking. He pushed open his mom’s bedroom door, stood in the doorway and watched her play Candy Crush. She was zoned out after a 12-hour workday. Maybe she’d be too tired to talk about it. She already had on her favorite pajamas, gray sweatpants and a tan tank top.

“I think I figured it out,” he said.

He took a deep breath.

“I’m a boy.”

His mom looked up from the phone.

“So you want to be a butch lesbian?”

“No,” he said. He walked toward her.

“A boy.”

Read the story