He knows he wants to play soccer. He knows he wants to grow up to be a veterinarian. And, he knows he's meant to be a boy.
"I didn't want to be a girl, because it wasn't who I think I was supposed to be when I was born," Ben Oelhafen said.
Ben was born as Angela. At 2, he was diagnosed with autism. At 6, he said he first knew he was in the wrong body.
"I thought I would be more comfortable as a boy than a girl," he said.
That's how he's been living the last few weeks, with the outside finally matching the inside.
"I will love my son for who he is. But this is a road I never wanted him to have to travel," Ben's mom Jenifer Sutton said.
She and his stepdad said they've known about his feelings for two years. But now, Ben's in a race against puberty.
"I'm going to take boy hormones and block those ladies," Ben Oelhafen said.
He wants to block the thing he's afraid of: Developing into a woman.
"Puberty suppression eliminates those negative changes and allows them to develop in a way that matches their gender identity," Transactive Gender Center Executive Director Jenn Burleton said.
She works with kids like Ben Oelhafen every day. She said a common option, one that he's considering, is what's known as hormone blocking. It would essentially put puberty on pause.
"Their physiology may not be holding off. Their physiology may be maturing them," she said. "So, the beauty of puberty blockers is if we feel they may not be cognitively able to make decisions that would involve irreversible actions, puberty blockers are completely reversible."
If Ben Oelhafen decides he doesn't want to reverse it, he could take cross sex hormones later to become physically male. That's a choice Jenifer Sutton said is entirely up to her son.
"I love and accept you through autism," she said. "I will love and accept you through transgender."
She and her husband hope, through all this, Ben can just be Ben.
"That would be awesome," Ben Oelhafen said.
Burleton said statistics show that more than 80 percent of transgender kids who don't have a support system think about suicide.
Ben Oelhafen's parents said that's their worst fear. They hope with enough love and support that will never be an option for their son.
Friday, August 22 2014 5:55 PM EDT2014-08-22 21:55:26 GMT
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