Hunter Keith doesn’t take his parents’ love and support for granted.
When the 16-year-old from Farmington Hills, Michigan, came out as transgender to his parents in 2013, they were nothing but accepting.
“I just wanted to understand,” Roz Keith, Hunter’s mom, told TODAY.com. “It was never a question of acceptance and he knew that, which is probably the reason he felt so comfortable telling us.”
The first sign Hunter gave off occurred at 6 years old, while Keith was giving a bath to her daughter, then named Olivia.
“I’m a boy,” Olivia said. When Keith asked her if she wanted to be a boy, she responded, saying, “No, but I am a boy.”
Shortly after, a girl in Olivia’s first-grade class came home claiming that her friend was a boy. When the girl’s mom called Keith, she laughed it off assuming it was just because her daughter was a major tomboy at the time.
She finally started to realize Olivia was different once puberty hit at 14 years old.
“Ever since I was really young I knew that something was off,” Hunter told TODAY.com. “I heard the word transgender in fifth grade and when I later found out what it meant, I thought to myself, this is it, this is what I’ve been trying to pinpoint my whole life.”
While all of the girls in her grade were starting to dress girlier, she wasn’t interested. Instead, she insisted on shopping in the boy’s department. When it came time to get a haircut, Keith asked her to pick out some styles she liked and a few days later, Olivia came to her with photos of boys sporting short haircuts.
“That’s when the light bulb went off for me,” Keith said.
She asked her daughter why she wanted a boy’s haircut and Olivia responded much like she did eight years prior in the bathtub, only this time she said it with a lot more confidence: “I’m transgender,” she said.
“We made it really clear to him we were on his side and would support him no matter what, but he was going to have to let us do our research and find the right resources,” Keith said. “I didn’t know where to start. It’s not like I had a doctor in my back pocket.”
While Keith worked with her children’s pediatrician to get in touch with the LGBT community, who ended up steering them in the right direction, her husband took to the Internet to do some research.
“It was more about supporting Hunter and where he wants to go and that’s paid off in him being happier and more true to himself,” Richard Keith, Hunter’s dad, told TODAY.com.
Olivia started transitioning into Hunter in 2013 and while at summer camp, he came out to his friends, who showed him nothing but support. When he returned, he had worked up the courage to come out, so he wrote a Facebook status to prevent any rumors from swirling.
This took his sister, Danielle Keith, by surprise. She knew he was transgender, but wasn’t comfortable with the rest of the world finding out in that way.
“Now it’s become the norm, but it was definitely the hardest for me in the beginning,” Danielle, 19, told TODAY.com. “Not hard in the sense of accepting him, because I always accepted him, but I didn’t know how to deal with it because it’s not something you face every day or are taught in school.”
At Hunter's eighth grade graduation, he wore a suit and tie while all the other girls wore dresses. Danielle remembers being worried what people would think, but was pleasantly surprised to find out no one asked any questions.
“I’m happy that now it’s all out in the open and people are more aware so they’re not questioning it,” Danielle said.
She sometimes feels like Olivia went on vacation and never came back, but loves seeing a happier, healthier and more confident version of her sibling.
“When I came out, I was met with nothing but support and that was key to me being able to be comfortable being myself,” Hunter said. “My parents have been an incredible backbone. It’s your family; you want to make them proud.”
During the transitioning process, Keith started to write a blog as a way to get her thoughts out and make some connections along the way. She never expected to hear from so many scared transgender kids, who didn’t know accepting parents even existed.
Hunter recently got back from six weeks of intense camping through Camp Tamarack and is enjoying spending his summer days skateboarding, playing guitar and hanging out with friends.
“A lot of people say that they wish they were born in the correct body, but personally I wouldn’t have been the person I am without being transgender,” Hunter said. “I wouldn’t be as passionate or open-minded about things. It’s given me a deeper meaning of life.”