Finding Raquel: A Waianae teen challenges society's gender definitions

A Waianae teen challenges society's gender definitions
Raquel Largo
Raquel Largo

WAIANAE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Time Magazine made a statement with a May cover declaring that "society has reached a transgender tipping point."

A Waianae teenager knows what it's like to experience an "identity crisis."

The 15-year-old Waianae High freshman was born as a boy named Royce, but decided in 7th grade to live as Raquel, challenging society's gender definitions.

The second babies are born, they're labeled. Pink for girls and blue for boys.

But, what if there's a gray area?

Raquel Largo is transgender and says, "Now I can show my true colors and who I want to be."

Raquel's mom told us there were early signs. "Yeah, sure" said Lena Leopoldo. "He wasn't into boy things."

Transgender is defined as "being a person who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that differs from the one which corresponds to the person's sex at birth."

Lena said, "At first it was wigs, then slowly and surely the make up came in and then the whole yeah."

She supports her son's choice to live as Raquel, but still struggles with the name. Lena said, "It's always Royce and I don't know how to say the girl name. So she accepts it though."

Royce's dad was another story. Raquel explained her struggle this way: "I used to hide when he would come to my house because I felt he wouldn't accept me and that he would discourage me."

Dr. Milton Diamond of the Pacific Center for Sex and Society on the UH Manoa campus is an expert on gender identity issues. He said, "About 5 to 10 percent of kids know by the age of three. If the boy says I want to be a girl or something, quick the father gives him a football so the kids learns to keep himself quiet, keep a secret."

Raquel did the opposite. She came out in 7th grade at Waianae Intermediate school and shared her story on the PBS student news program "Hiki No."

Raquel said, "We're all human and we're all the same inside."

But her mom talked about the tough transition, saying "It was a struggle for her though. Kids can be really mean. Really mean but then she doesn't care."

It's a complicated world of changing labels to explain sex characteristics that do not conform to medicine's anatomical models of male and female.

Dr. Diamond offered this explanation: "Most people even trying to understand intersex, they say okay well I can see if you have one ovary and a teste, that's confusing, but you can't look into the brain the same way. There are not parts of your brain that are pink and blue."

Raquel warns others struggling with their own identity, "They shouldn't like hold it in because you put a burden on yourself. People accept me for who I am now."

Raquel's dad has come around and even offered to buy his son 'girl things'.

Raquel hopes at the very least, her story will encourage respect for differences.

We would like to thank the students at Waianae Intermediate School and PBS Hiki No for sharing their award-winning story "Raquel's World."

You can watch the students' story from episode 510 of "Hiki No" at this link.

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