Nine years ago, Janet Uradomo became a mother—a dream come true for the Incentives Administrator in Toyota Motor Sales’ (TMS) Marketing department. But neither she nor her husband, Dave, could have predicted just how much this child would transform their lives, as well as those who’ve come to know their “one and only life blessing.”
Their child, you see, was born a boy but now identifies as a girl.
“I don’t know why we were given this special child,” says Uradomo. “But we have her and we want to make the best possible world for her to grow up in.”
That includes courageously sharing the story of the child who was originally named Kyle but now goes by Kylee. Uradomo did just that earlier this month at an event hosted by Spectrum, a TMS business partnering group that promotes awareness of and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
“I’ve never been much of a public speaker, but this was different,” says Uradomo. “Spectrum has become an important part of my support group. And I’ve worked here for 18 years. Toyota is my family. Also, I’m learning the more I talk about Kylee, the less people look at her as being different. This is about helping her and all of the other kids who face similar challenges.”
The Boy with Pink Tennis Shoes
It’s been a long and, at times, heart-wrenching journey.
Uradomo says signs of Kylee’s true gender identity were there for everyone to see when she was just 3. For example, given the choice, Kyle dressed in pink clothes. When they went to an apparel store, he naturally gravitated to the girls’ section. And if you were to look through his things, you’d find dolls and other toys more commonly associated with girls.
Still, Uradomo admits that even she wasn’t fully aware what was happening until Kyle started going to preschool.
“They had dress-up day twice a week,” she says. “The school would email a newsletter with pictures. Every shot of Kyle had him in these dresses. So we asked the teacher, ‘Is that normal?’ And she said lots of kids that age are figuring themselves out. When Kyle started kindergarten, there were no more dress-up days, so I made it my mission to find every pink T-shirt I could. And we adopted his love for pink tennis shoes.”
Not surprisingly, Kyle’s kindergarten classmates weren’t shy about asking the question that was on their young minds: “Are you a girl or a boy?” Uradomo says the teacher wisely instructed her child to reply, “I’m Kyle.”
That put the matter to rest for a while, but not forever. While participating in the school’s summer session between kindergarten and first grade, Kyle was in the boys’ restroom with a group of older boys, some of whom questioned why he was in there with them. Kyle didn’t make a fuss. But one of the other boys who was there became troubled by the incident and later shared the details with his mother. She relayed her son’s concern to the teacher who, in turn, had a conversation with the classmates.
“She made it clear that it was OK for people to be different,” says Uradomo. “The problem was solved. From that point on, Kyle became famous. He was the boy with pink tennis shoes.”
‘People Need to Mind Their Own Business’
Resistance resurfaced a few months later after the start of first grade, and in a potentially far more serious manner. The family got a knock on their door by a social worker with Child Protective Services who was following up on an anonymous tip.
“They claimed I wanted a daughter and was forcing my son to dress up like a girl and that he was very unhappy,” says Uradomo. “The social worker was there for three hours asking questions. At the end of the second hour, she said ‘People need to mind their own business.’”
A month later Uradomo received a letter clearing her of the allegations.
The deeply disturbing incident, says Uradomo, was a wake-up call that she needed help navigating these uncharted waters. A teacher recommended a therapist that could help Kyle express his/her feelings. Uradomo joined support groups, including PFLAG (formerly known as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and Transforming Families at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. And she picked up a copy of the book, The Transgender Child
, which has since become her “bible.” Soon, Uradomo came to realize that her family was not alone.
Kyle Becomes Kylee
The private school Kyle attended started making adjustments. For instance, rather than have students line up by gender they began doing so by tables. Kyle was able to use a single restroom in her former kindergarten class and it was okay for her to wear clothes that were purchased from girls’ clothing stores.
The school’s dress code for boys, however, proved to be more than just a bump in the road. When Uradomo enrolled Kyle, she checked the box that identified him as male. Though he could wear whatever he liked, he had to keep his hair cut short. And pierced ears were forbidden.
Uradomo petitioned the school board to change the policy. But when it refused, she faced a difficult choice: force Kyle to adhere to the dress code or transfer him to a public school covered under AB 1266, a California state law passed in 2013 that protects the rights of transgender children. Uradomo opted for the latter.
So, the boy formerly known as Kyle started 3rd
grade as a girl named Kylee.
“I had a meeting with the principal and the teacher,” says Uradomo. “The teacher asked, ‘What are we going to do when the kids find out?’ And I said, ‘There’s no reason for that to happen.’ They were apprehensive but incredibly supportive.”
The Road Ahead
Having just completed 3rd
grade and a relatively smooth transition to a new school, Uradomo now looks ahead to more challenges and choices. For example, she’s considering changing the name and gender on Kylee’s birth certificate to head off problems down the road when she applies for a driver’s license or a passport. With puberty looming, she’s researching the pros and cons of male puberty-blocking treatment. Questions about which bathroom she’ll be permitted to use are likely to resurface. And, further out, there’s the matter of sex reassignment surgery.
The more pressing dilemma? What to do when a classmate wants to come over to their home for a play date.
“Kylee was the one who said to me, ‘I guess we’ll have to take down some of my pictures,’” said Uradomo. “I said, ‘I guess you’re right.’ Who knows where we’ll be two years from now? As long as we’re happy in the here and now, we’re fine with it.”
“We’re so blessed,” she adds. “There’s a reason I had this child. And there’s a reason why I need to talk about our experiences. This is what I need to do.”
By Dan Miller
Editor’s note: Want to help others like Kylee? Uradomo invites you to consider making a donation to the Asian Pacific Islanders LGBTQ Dream Team Giving Circle. TMS will match your donation 100 percent up to $1,250. To learn more, go to apcf.org/give-today/.