Michael to Michaela

Like any 12-year-old girl, Michaela is concerned about whether her parents will let her sleep over with friends or stay out late.

But she has another, more unusual concern: she is actually a boy. She was born Michael, but, by the age of three, had told her parents she was really a girl. At six, she announced she wanted a sex-change operation.

By the end of primary school, she was refusing to have her hair cut short.

As a result, she was bullied. "The school wouldn't do any education about it," her mother said. "If any children called her names, teachers took them aside to explain that there was something different about her, but there's something different about everybody, if you think about it."

Michaela started at her Midlands secondary as a girl and it brought in a mental-health team to teach staff about her condition. "We spent the first six years of her life telling her she was a boy," said her mother. "Now it looks like we were wrong. "The school has been brilliant. Staff said this won't be the last time a child faces this. They want to know how to deal with it."

Michaela uses the disabled toilets and dresses for PE in the staff changing-room. If anyone calls her names, they get a careful explanation.

Further bullying is punished.

She is now so accepted that a boy has said he wants to go out with her once she has had a sex change. "Kids used to call her 'tranny' and 'freak',"

said her mother. "Now, they have accepted her, because they see acceptance all around them. They see how teachers act."

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