California transgender teen hopes to be an inspiration to others

A Southern California teen has opened up about his journey growing up as transgender.

Ryland Whittington, 14, said he and his family want to make a difference for the tens of thousands of kids under 18 who identify as transgender

"If you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn't think anything different," said Whittington. "We put our story out there so people could see that there's another family out there that is going through what we're going through, or there's another family who's proud of who they are."

Before Whittington could even speak, he managed to tell his parents that he was a boy.

"I could just see it. It wasn't him trying to be a brat," said his mother Hillary Whittington. "It was like painful. It was truly painful for him to have to wear feminine clothing and for us constantly, you know, telling him that you're a girl."

Unlike some trans kids, when Whittington came out at age five, he had full support of his parents.

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"Initially, there was some pushback from us in trying to understand this," said his father Jeff Whittington.

His parents said they listened to him, and met with support groups. 

"We were confused, like most people are. We thought that gender and sexuality were the same thing," his mother said. "It took us a while to figure out that those two things are different and that children actually do recognize their gender identity very young."

His mother said she relied on her conservative faith.

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"For me, it's just a deep spiritual belief that, if you believe in God and he, you know, created us the way he wanted us, well, then, yes, he created Ryland just the way he is," she said.

Many kids who display gender dysphoria or gender misalignment similar to what Whittington experienced, get pushback from family and friends. That pushback can lead kids to self harm.

Authorities said 60 percent of trans and non-binary kids engage in self harm, and 50 percent consider suicide.

"That for me was the turning point," said his father. "I didn't want to see Ryland go through that."

The Whittingtons believe that sharing their story could have a lasting impression in another child's life.