Southern California teen Mason Pierce, whose birth name is Meghan, is part of a growing group of teens undergoing transgender surgery. With parental support and the help of the transgender clinic at Children's Hospital LA, Mason is finding out the teen years may actually be the best time to do this, both physically and emotionally. Dr. Bruce Hensel reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on May 17, 2012.
Transgender surgeries are becoming more popular, especially among teens.
While some people's first reaction may be shock and concern, the fact is the teen years may be the best time to do this, both medically and emotionally, as one local teen learned.
"I saw a picture of myself on the first day of school with two other girls and I looked at it and I thought this is not me," said Southern California teenager Mason Pierce, whose birth name is Meghan. "I would cry about it every day. It was hard. It didn't feel right."
Tiffany Pierce, Mason’s mother, said her son had a hard time at school, particularly in seventh grade. His father, David Pierce, said his son’s struggle was heartbreaking.
"I knew that what it took for him to get to that point to talk about it and to talk to us, it was just heartbreaking," David Pierce said. "It took a while to get my brain wrapped around it, but I think I was pretty supportive right off the bat."
That support led to the first step of a name change, and that's when Meghan became Mason.
"I finally decided I need to do this or I'm not going to want to be here anymore,” Mason said. “It came to that point.”
Mason visited Dr. Johanna Olsen at Children's Hospital LA's transgender clinic.
"We're seeing it more and more now," Olsen said. "They can now go online, type in a Google search. That helps them feel not alone."
The first question most people ask is whether or not it's just a phase.
"You want to say, well, are you sure this isn't something you going to outgrow?" David Pierce said.
That's why transgender clinics do everything they can to make sure the individual can handle the change permanently.
"We have psychologists, we have case managers, we have physicians," Olsen said.
Teens quickly learn there are actually benefits to transitioning during teen years.
"They have an opportunity to really keep from developing secondary sexual characteristics that they don't want," Olsen said.
For female to male transitions, the treatment is testosterone.
"Every Monday, I take a shower, and then I just get the needle ready, and I pull out the right dose, and I just put it right in my hip," Mason said.
Physical changes start fairly quickly.
"More body hair, a little bit of facial hair. My voice has gotten a lot deeper. Emotionally, it's been really, really good. I'm being who I am. I'm showing it to the world," Mason said.
"The way we have tried to explain it to others who are struggling with understanding it is that really this is the same person," Mason's mother said. "Meghan is still there, she just looks different and she's our Mason now."