Ryace Boyer is a 13-year-old from a small farming town outside Marietta, Ohio. Last fall, she took a huge step toward continuing her life as a transgender person, when she connected with the Center for Gender-Affirming Medicine at Akron Children’s Hospital.
From an early age, it was clear to her parents that Ryace’s gender identity did not match the sex assigned to her at birth.
At age 3, she asked Santa for girls’ things. When Ryace and older brother Aiden would play “The Dukes of Hazard,” she always played the part of Daisy Duke.
Her parents, Stephen and Danielle Boyer, always treated Ryace as a girl, and many people in the community assumed by her long, blond hair, feminine facial features and mannerisms that she was a girl.
“In our hearts and minds, our plan was to see this child for who she is,” said Danielle. “It doesn’t matter if she’s male or female. She’s a human being who deserves love.”
That family support has given Ryace confidence to be herself, and helped her win hearts and minds in her community. She comes across as well-spoken and poised. She feels accepted at Warren Middle School, where she cheerleads and does a weekly school news program. She’s a singer and actress. She participates in 4-H, bought two horses on her own and competes in horse shows at the county fair.
“I’ve done cheers since fifth grade, the first male-born cheerleader,” Ryace said proudly. “My cheer family is my second family. They’re truly amazing. I love them. If I have a problem, I can talk about it with them.”
Living in a rural area can be especially difficult for transgender people. But Ryace said she has several friend groups and has not had any problems with other students.
“If I do have a problem, it’s the parents. It’s never the child,” she said.
One parent objected to her using the girls’ bathroom at school. The school district sided with Ryace, saying transgender students can use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
Since Ryace made it known that she’s trans, other kids have reached out to her about their struggles with gender identity and sexual orientation.
“One kid, it broke my heart. He asked me, ‘How did you get your parents to accept you?’,” she said.
As she approached puberty, Ryace was certain that she did not want to develop facial hair and a deep voice. That’s when she and her parents decided to seek help from the Center for Gender-Affirming Medicine at Akron Children’s. Part of the Division of Adolescent Medicine, the center launched in 2019 with about 25 patients. Today it has more than 200 patients.
Center Medical Director Dr. Crystal Cole believed Ryace would benefit from hormone therapy that delays development of sex characteristics. After an initial in-person visit, Dr. Cole and the family have continued with telehealth visits.
Telehealth has made it possible for the center to expand its reach and help transgender kids who live far from specialized care. The Boyer family lives more than two hours from Akron.
“Finding resources for her has been a struggle,” Dr. Cole said. “We can do a lot of care using telehealth. It saves them travel time, and if she were to need counseling services, she can access that.”
Going through puberty as a boy would be detrimental to Ryace, Dr. Cole said.
“She’s just a great kid, like a beam of sunshine,” she said. “She’s really thriving. She’s active, she bought her own horses and is doing well in school. If she got facial hair and her voice changed, it would affect her ability to thrive.”
Ryace said she wants transgender kids to know it’s important not to hide who they are.
“If you’re transgender, show it. Tell people,” she said, “It will help other transgender people feel not so alone.”