Nyr and Thomas Medina-Castrejon both identify as different genders than their biological sex

By Julie Mazziotta
Updated December 08, 2020 10:55 AM
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Credit: Emma Medina-Castrejon

Thomas and Nyr are siblings and best friends, and they share a special bond – the brother and sister are both transgender.

Thomas, 17, realized he was transgender at age 14, when he watched a video on trans people.

“It resonated for me,” he tells the Philadelphia Inquirer. “For a long time I had pretended to be a boy. I just didn’t know I was one.”

Nyr, 12, also realized her true gender after watching a video.

“I think it’s always been there for me, but I didn’t recognize it until I was watching a video with a transgender character,” she says. “Something clicked, and I thought, ‘Oh, yes, I’m like that.’ ”

Their mother, Emma, says she wasn’t shocked to find out that Thomas is transgender.

“Thomas gave me many clues that something was going on and I could see that it wasn’t going away,” she says. “So when he insisted on cutting his hair short and confided, ‘I want to look more like a boy,’ I wasn’t surprised. I took the time to digest it, to educate myself and change the way I spoke and felt . . .. I told him, ‘Nothing has changed. You still like animals and reading and folk music and eating steak. It’s still you.’ ”

Hearing later, that Nyr too identified as the opposite of her birth gender, was tougher for Emma to digest.

“When she first told me, I thought it was just a game, maybe that she was following her brother,” Emma says. “I didn’t want to believe it because it was so scary. You hear about how much rejection there is out in the world. You hear about so many being murdered. That’s not what you want for your child.”

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But after talking to therapists and working with the Gender and Sexuality Development Clint at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Emma understood that this wasn’t just a phase for Nyr or Thomas. The family all head to therapy regularly, especially because both dealt with feeling depressed and suicidal.

The kid’s father, Cesar, who is separated from Emma, also struggled to take in the news.

“It was the ultimate shock,” he says. “I’m very traditional and my logic is a fixed idea of what is a man and what is a woman. But regardless of what I feel, this is not about me. It is about my children and the way they choose to live their lives.

“But I don’t pretend to understand it. What are the chances of having two children like that?”

Thomas and Nyr are learning how to live outwardly in their new genders. Thomas isn’t interested in going through hormone treatments, choosing to see his breasts and vagina as “just another variation of the male body.”

“Many trans guys will bind their chests, but I think it’s too painful,” he says. “I don’t feel like I’m a freak. I’m definitely a boy.”

Nyr, however, started taking puberty-blocking drugs ten months ago, and Emma says the treatment is a huge improvement for her previously depressed daughter.

“Taking the puberty blockers has made a life-death difference for Nyr,” Emma says. “If we stopped them, I believe she would become suicidal again.”

With their lives taking shape, the kids are starting to think about their futures.

“I think about some day having a male partner and a family – maybe two children,” Thomas says.

“I want to be an artist,” Nyr says. “I want to make music.”