ABOVE: 10 year old Harriette was born a boy “Declan.” Never wavering in who she is, Harriette knew early on she was meant to be a girl.
“I’ve always been a girl, even when I was considered a boy,” says 10-year-old transgender child, Harriette Cunningham. “In my dreams I was never a boy.”
Harriette is transgender, born a boy but identifies as a girl. About a year ago, Harriette fully transitioned, legally changing her name from Declan, wearing only female clothes and being referred to with female pronouns.
Biologically, she is still a boy, but she now wants her birth certificate and passport to reflect her real identity.
“The earliest memory I have is just a very, very sensitive little person and definite feminine characteristics, not really happy doing traditional boy things,” says father Colin Cunningham in Comox, British Columbia.
While sex is known at birth, gender does not develop until three years old. When the two do not match, it is known as Gender Identity Disorder (GID).
“It was in Grade 2 when she said ‘Mom, I want to buy some actual dresses to go back to school,’” says Harriette’s mother Megan. The Cunninghams allowed Harriette, then known as Declan, to dress as “he” wanted.
“Harriette has a very strong personality, kids would say ‘what are you?’ And she’d go ‘I’m a person, that’s what I am,’” says grandmother Cathie Dickens.
Dickens decided to take action. She and Harriette started a letter writing campaign, petitioning Ministers and MPs to remove gender from birth certificates.
But it did not stop there. Grandmother and granddaughter have initiated a human rights complaint against the B.C. government saying that Harriette never should have been labeled as “male” to begin with.
“When I have to show ID and I’m going through customs, people give me dirty looks and they kind of question me, who is this, and it makes me feel like I shouldn’t have to go through that, “ says Harriette, who regularly visits her grandmother in Palm Springs. “I’m a girl and I’m like everybody else.”
“When I first got my birth certificate it had on it as identifying features, my name, my date of birth and my gender that was it. If I was born 20 or 30 years before it would also have my race and my father’s occupation, my class, but we already figured out that those aren’t relevant,” says human rights lawyer Barbara Findlay.
But while her family has supported her, others have not been so kind.
“I got called a ‘he-she,’ I got called quite mean names and I’d try not to let them… show that I was sad but…it really hurts me,” says Harriette, who has watched the number of birthday party invitations dwindle from 10 two years ago to just one last year.
She is a fighter, determined and unflinching in her convictions – which makes this 10-year-old seem almost triple her age. But what she wants does not seem that complicated.
“I don’t want to be just someone wearing a costume. I want to be me.”
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