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Phoenix-area transgender 12-year-old shares transition story

Luke was born "Sheila," but he felt the name and gender expectations cast upon him at birth didn't reflect who he really was.

In an exclusive interview with 12 News, a Valley 12-year-old opened up about a very personal situation: He was born transgender, and now he’s undergoing a transition.

“It seems like I don’t know that person,” said Luke Charlebois, as he looked at his baby pictures with his mom, Paula. “I didn’t like the long hair.”

“I just knew what I wanted and what I was,” he said.

“An 8-pound girl named Sheila Marie, and that is how our journey started with Luke,” said Paula Charlebois, Luke’s mom.

She always just thought Sheila was a tomboy from an early age, but it was more than just wanting to dress and look like a boy; it was about wanting to be a boy.

His mom started noticing things when he was only 2 years old.

“Started crying if we would put dresses on ... would get upset, would get angry, um, I hate my hair,” his mom said. “We had never cut hair … it was beautiful and long and golden.”

“Every day for a year he would ask me for a Mohawk,” she said.

The day she said yes, they got a reaction from everyone in the hair salon.

“They gasped when the first hair came off,” Luke said.

“When he came out of that haircut place, it was the happiest I’d ever seen my kid,” Paula said.

Luke explained he believes Sheila Marie became Luke in first grade.

“I don’t know who the other person is, I don’t know what she wanted … or, well, I do know what she wanted, she wanted to be Luke and that’s what I am now,” he said.

“It was hard to let go of Sheila, but the Luke that we have found is so happy,” his mom said.

“He goes, ‘Was God mad at me? Because he didn’t give me the right parts. Did I do something?’ And we just said, ‘God doesn’t make mistakes, and God made you, so you are perfect and we will fix this,’” she said.

“Blown away by just his conviction, and Luke really sees himself as an advocate for transgender children and youth,” said Dr. Vinny Chulani of Phoenix Children’s Hospital. “He’s very out and proud about it.”

Dr. Chulani, who specializes in adolescent medicine, is guiding Luke and his family as he fully transitions.

“My hope is to continue to work with Luke and his mother,” said Dr. Chulani. “We look forward to working with him in the future and really seeing him grow up to be the man he wants to be.”

Dr. Chulani’s work with the transgender community was featured in People magazine. Luke says he owes his happiness to Dr. Chulani and PCH.

“Made me - me,” he said.

Luke hopes to inspire others who may not have the support he’s had.

“If people ask questions, answer them. Tell them who you are and what you would like to be called. Don’t be afraid to stand up,” he said.

For information and resources for transgender teens and kids in Arizona, visit the Arizona Trans Youth & Parent Organization (AZ TYPO).

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