'He is happier. This is the person EJ is becoming. It just fits,' the loving mom said of her son.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on October 2, 2022. It has since been updated.
A young mom is sharing her experience of raising a trans-5-year-old in the hopes of spreading awareness among other parents who might be scared to let their children be their truest selves. Speaking to Asbury Park Press, Emily Torrisi of Howell, New Jersey, explained that the kindergartener was assigned female at birth but identifies as male—something she and her husband, Alfio Torrisi, realized was completely natural after watching him develop over the last few years. While he loved playing with toy trucks as a 1-year-old, by age two, EJ "started picking out boys' clothes." By the time he'd turned 4 years old, the youngster was telling sisters Saige and Cecelia, "I'm your brother."
"When EJ went into school he started telling all of his friends that he was a boy," Emily said. "In the beginning, you wonder if it's a phase. Then you just see that this is exactly who he was meant to be." EJ's parents initially struggled to figure out how they should handle the situation as they didn't know any trans folks and had never heard from other parents who had navigated similar parenting scenarios. Ultimately, they decided to simply follow their parental instincts and gave EJ the space to follow his heart.
"People ask a million questions," Emily said. "It's something I want people to understand because I didn't understand it until I saw it with my own eyes, how young a person is when they start feeling this way." Speaking to PEOPLE, the 25-year-old addressed a criticism she often encounters. "Kindergarten is, for sure, a young age for any child to make their own choices, but this isn't like picking a sport, not liking it, and moving on. This is my kid's personality," she said. "You can tell once EJ had a voice to make his own opinion on clothing and how he wanted to look and express himself, his whole attitude changed."
"He is happier," Emily added. "As a parent, you watch your kids learn and grow every single day and when doing so, you are watching them become their own person. This is the person EJ is becoming. It just fits." Emily, who also has three daughters and a fifth child on the way, revealed that by the time EJ reached pre-school, it was very clear that her child identified as male. She recalled how "you would start to notice EJ correcting you if you used his birth name... and say, 'It's EJ.'" Although she was "extremely nervous about schools and peers," Emily gratefully remembers how EJ's teacher was incredibly supportive and "let nothing be uncomfortable for him."
That positive experience extended to kindergarten when the concerned mom and the principal of Land O'Pines Elementary in Howell came up with "an entire plan" for her son to feel comfortable at school. "The school has been absolutely amazing," she said. "Going into kindergarten this year, I was concerned. I wanted to make sure EJ had a teacher who was comfortable with this, who could handle this, who understood this. Everybody has their own opinion about it, and I want to make sure they were OK with it."
"Sometimes I feel like, maybe kids who feel this way, their parents don't embrace it," Emily said. "I had some people say to me, 'Stick EJ in a dress and a bow, and EJ will get over that feeling.' I was like, 'No. For what?' I feel like, how many other parents do that? How many other parents are throwing them in a dress and bow to get that into their head? There are so many people who come out later in life because they're adults and that's when they are most comfortable. Now I've seen for myself how truly young they are when it's in their blood."
"It's all new to me and I'm learning myself. I hope that more people see this and see that it's OK for your kid to want to dress up for whatever they want to be, or if they feel a certain way, it's OK to express it. I hope a few years from now, this will be (viewed as) a more normal process so parents don't stress about it. I like to say to people: When you have a girl, you say she's pretty; when you have a boy, you say he's handsome," Emily pointed out. "I always say, they're perfect. That's true regardless of who they are."