HOUMA, La. (AP) — When Houma mom Becki Robichaux explains to someone her daughter Marilyn is transgender, she said she compares her daughter's situation to a puzzle.
"It's like trying to force a puzzle piece into another puzzle piece that doesn't go there," Robichaux said. "So you can do one of two things — you can either find the right piece and accept it for how it is, or you could shave it, make it fit and know it will never really fit."
Eighteen-year-old Marilyn Elizabeth Margaret Robichaux said although she was born as a male, she's identified as a girl for as long as she could remember.
"I remember thinking I was the same as my sisters. I never felt that I was different from them in any way. I was just the same, just my name was different," Marilyn said. "And so at a very young age, I'd go to sleep every single night begging and praying to whoever, 'I just want to wake up as a girl. It would make everything easier.'"
Marilyn said she began to repress her identity in fourth grade out of fear people would hate her if she told them how she felt. But by the time she got to middle school she started sharing pieces of how she felt. In seventh grade, she told her friends and family she liked boys, and in eighth grade, she told her mom she didn't feel comfortable in guy’s clothes.
The following year, Marilyn told her mom she was transgender.
"I just couldn't deny it at that point anymore," Marilyn said.
Becki Robichaux said she initially wanted her daughter to keep her identity to herself because she was scared someone would hurt her.
"If someone hurt her, I knew I'd spend the rest of my life in prison," Becki Robichaux said with tears in her eyes.
Becki Robichaux said the turning point for her was when she began having trouble finding an endocrinologist in the Terrebonne-Lafourche area who would treat Marilyn and prescribe the teenager with hormones so she could begin her physical transition as a woman. The closest doctors they could find were in New Orleans. She said she saw people telling her daughter no, and she realized she had been doing the same thing.
“Marilyn's father is so proud at the fact that he has a transgender child," Becki Robichaux said. "He says 'I had one of the best looking boys you ever laid your eyes on, but now look how gorgeous my daughter is,' and he turns his phone around so everybody could see how she looks."
After coming out at the end of her freshman year of high school, she was home schooled the following year so she could begin transitioning mentally and physically. She re-enrolled into the Terrebonne Parish school system as Marilyn for her junior year. When she tried to go to school, however, she says she was told by the high school administrators she'd be repeatedly suspended if she went to school wearing makeup or any female clothes.
Becki Robichaux said Marilyn had to miss the first two weeks of her junior school year until the H.L. Bourgeois High School administration allowed her to attend school. Marilyn and her family said they believe she was the first openly transgender student in Terrebonne Parish.
H.L. Bourgeois Principal Matthew Hodson did not respond to requests for an interview, and Terrebonne Parish Superintendent Philip Martin said he couldn't talk about students in the parish and could not confirm if she was the first transgender student of the school district.
Marilyn said her classmates were supportive of her coming back to school and of her transition. She also said she hoped that by going to school she could educate those who weren't familiar with transgender people.
"I'm barely offended by anything when it comes to transpeople or transrights, but I would rather you come and ask me a question than you assume something to another transgirl who may have a weaker sensibility when it comes to who they are as a person," Marilyn said.
And although she was accepted by her classmates, Marilyn said there were a few of her classmate's mothers who weren't as kind.
"These women who are parents wouldn't want their children to feel singled out or feel any less than," Becki Robichaux said. "As a parent, you shouldn't do that to a child, because at the end of the day, transgender or not, she's still a child."
Marilyn said the biggest challenge she faced during her transition was learning to love herself.
"I hated myself, I hated everything about me," Marilyn said. "I was disgusted by myself. As I started to transition, makeup helped me get the physical part of me out and helped me learn to love certain physical features."
The recent high school graduate said she plans on attending the Aveda Institute in Covington and hopes to start a cosmetics company.
"In the future I plan on owning a cosmetics company that's all inclusive," Marilyn said. "Male, female, if you're light as paper or dark as night, I want to be able to give you the same feelings I felt with makeup."
"For every half person who was mean, I've got hundreds of students who care so deeply for me," Marilyn said. "And not only did that help me in transitioning and making me feel better about myself, but it helped with my mental illness. These people would miss me, these people care about me and my well being. I've become a better person, I've become more social, and I have a lot less fear of my future because I know all these people have my back regardless."
Posted on Tue, June 27, 2017
by HOLLY DUCHMANN, The Houma Courier