Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Life: I Am Leo is a documentary about the steps Leo Waddell is taking on his journey to be accepted as a boy. It was broadcast on Monday as part of CBBC's contribution to Anti-Bullying Week 2014.

The documentary begins with a 'video diary.' Leo introduces himself and the rest of his family - his mum and his sister, Daisy.

Leo: .... There's something about me that means I haven't always been accepted as Leo. In most ways I'm like an average 13-year-old boy apart from I was born in a girl's body. Although people saw me as a girl, I always knew I was really a boy.

Leo says he wants people to see him, the way he sees himself - as Leo.

We see Leo help his mum make a cake, and chatting about what he remembers from his days as Lily - the name he was given at birth. We're shown old footage and photos. Leo tells his mum that wearing a dress and having long hair didn't feel right. He says he hated looking like a girl so one night, when he was 5-years-old, he cut his own hair short.

Leo: By the time I was nine, I didn't understand why other people couldn't see I was really a boy, and it used to make me very angry. ... Gender, to me, is what you feel inside - not what you were born with like, what you are on the outside. It's what you are on the inside.

The documentary then goes on to talk about boys' and girls' hormones and bodies.

Leo: Our bodies are full of chemicals called hormones. There are some hormones for boys and other hormones for girls. Most people's hormones, brains and bodies all match, so they know they are definitely a girl or a boy. But some people feel they've been born in the wrong body. .... Although I have a girl's body, I know inside I am a boy.

Jack is one of Leo's best mates, who regards Leo as a boy.

Jack: I'll support you, like, whatever you want to do.

But Leo isn't accepted by everyone. He's been taunted by chants of Lily, Lily - which brought back past bad memories.

When someone calls Leo 'she' it upsets him. His mum and dad helped him apply to change his passport to reflect his new name.

Leo goes to meet Stephen Whittle at the House of Commons, because that's where he helped to change the law for transgender people. Stephen was also born a girl, and has worked really hard for trans people to be accepted. He said it was awful at first in the '70s - you were the lowest of the low. They set up 'Press for Change' to lobby parliament to change the law. Stephen wished Leo 'good luck.'

While in London Leo chats with his 10 year-old friend Kai, who was also born a girl. He explains that the only difference between them and a 'born-male boy's life' is that they're trapped in this awful body and they have to go through loads of medical stuff. Kai says it's not just a phase.

Leo's mum has been really busy getting his passport changed so he can get that 'magic M for male.' We see Leo getting new photos for his new passport.

Leo flies to Scotland to meet Natalie. Kai's and Leo's families were accepting, but Natalie's were not so accepting - Natalie was born male but says she was 15 when she knew she was a girl. Her immediate family sent her to counsellors, and thought it was just a phase. So she moved out.

Leo was lucky because both his family and oldest friends were accepting. He's given hormone blockers which he has to inject himself. Knowing that without these injections his body would change into a woman's scared him. Dr Polly explained it -

Dr Polly: The blocker is an injection that someone has every month which pauses the body and stops it from carrying on to grow up into a man or a woman.

The blocker gives Leo and his doctors more time to decide about what he wants for the future. If he stops the blockers his body will continue develop as a woman's body.

Leo: Although I'm pleased to be prescribed the injections, they do really hurt! .. Oh, it's agony.

Leo: Not everyone agrees that the treatment is a good thing. ... Some people think it's not right to give them to children.

The documentary includes some of the ways the press have reported the story, as well as his appearance on This Morning, where he met Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby. Leo said he thought he might be in love with Holly.

Leo visited the passport office in Peterborough. He's anxious about his new passport because he wants other people to view him the way he sees himself. The documentary ends with a delighted Leo getting his 'M' for male.

Yesterday's Daily Mirror reported that Leo plans to have his eggs frozen so he can have children even after he has gender reassignment surgery as an adult. According to his mum, Hayley, "at some later date when he’s in a relationship, and they want children, they will use donor sperm to fertilise the eggs then implant them into his partner."

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