Kathy Caron tried to get her young daughter to do “girly” things.
Kasey Caron preferred wearing camo to camisoles. She wanted short hair, not long, flowing locks. And she didn’t play with dolls; she had action figures.
“Her sister played Barbies and there is only a year and a half between them,” Kathy Caron recalled at the family’s home in the Belmont section of Johnstown. “I tried like hell to get her to play with her sister. So I bought her Basic Training Barbie. I thought she’d play with it. The first thing she did was pop the head off of it. Took the gun, took the dog tags off of it and played with the gun and the dog tags.”
That was one of the first clear indicators that Kasey wasn’t like other little girls.
‘Not meant to be a girl’
Kasey, now a 17-year-old Richland High School student who dresses as a boy and wants to be referred to as one, said that he never felt comfortable as a girl. And there had always been confusion from others about exactly what Kasey, who preferred to hang out with boys and play video games, was.
Gender identity was already a problem in kindergarten. That’s when Kasey’s female classmates at Richland Elementary School got upset when they saw what looked like a boy in the girls’ restroom.
“When I was in elementary school, I used to get asked all the time, ‘Are you a boy or a girl?’ ” Kasey recalled, with more amusement in his voice than pain. “I got asked that all the time.”
At an early age, Kasey was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition that causes a hormonal imbalance. The syndrome, which causes the ovaries to make more androgens – sometimes called male hormones – than normal, is quite common, with estimates that as many as one in 15 women suffers from it. The number of people who identify themselves as transgender is much lower – a 2011 report by the Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law showed 700,000 transgender individuals – or about 0.3 percent of the population – in the U.S., although precise numbers are hard to obtain.
That means that while the syndrome could be a contributing factor to transgender issues, it isn’t an overriding one, according to clinical psychologist Michael Hendricks of Washington, D.C.
“Nobody knows what causes somebody to be transgender,” said Hendricks, who specializes in transgender issues. “While hormones may have some influence, we don’t know exactly what causes somebody to be transgender, just like we don’t know what causes somebody to not be transgender.”
Kasey comes from a diverse background. His mother has a same-sex partner in Cindy Theys and his godmother is transgender.
“When I first met Kasey 10 years ago, I thought she was a boy,” Theys said. “She had an androgenous name. She was short, stocky. She looked like a little boy.”
Kasey didn’t realize that he could physically change his body until later in his young life.
“I always knew I was not meant to be a girl,” he said. “At some point, I came into contact with the Internet and TV and it became possible that I could actually do that. I’m not going to sit here trapped in my own body. I’m going to do something about it.”
In order to try to regulate the polycystic ovary syndrome, doctors put Kasey on birth control at age 9. Eventually, Kasey began to question the treatment.
“Why am I doing this?” he said. “I would have to stay on estrogen therapy the rest of my life or go through with this transition (to become a male) and finish the process my body has already started.”