How a Transgender Teen Is Helping 6-Year-Old Devina Keswani Find Her True Self: 'She Will Need to Be Brave'
Through playdates, Lily Rubenstein is helping Devina through her transition
To keep up with the adventures of the Keswani family, visit PEOPLE.com/keswanis
Navigating a gender transition is challenging for anyone – even more so when you’re also trying to survive the first grade.
But that’s exactly what Devina, the youngest Keswani sibling, is doing.
Born Dev, her parents say Devina exhibited signs of her true self early on.
“The day Dev could walk, the walk was feminine,” Vaishali Keswani, Devina’s mom, says. “The day Dev could talk, it was really feminine.
Earlier this year, after intense discussions with both Devina and her kindergarten teacher, her parents allowed her to start transitioning.
Supporting her through the transition is not just her family, but also new friends, like Lily Rubenstein, a transgender 15-year-old who lives near the Keswani family. The two connected through the area’s transgender community, and have bonded over their shared experience during “play dates.”
Lily says that familial support and acceptance is the most important thing when it comes to ensuring a person has a positive transition.
“Support is the number one thing that parents need to be able to provide,” she tells PEOPLE. “There is nothing worse that you can do to a child than tell them that who they are inside and everything that makes them themselves is not authentic – or is a phase.”
As Devina goes through the process, Lily hopes she realizes that she should never be ashamed of who she is.
“Being transgender, being yourself, is never something that is shameful,” Lily says. “She will need to be brave and strong at some points in her life – even though being transgender is something that can make her life more difficult, it builds character.”
Vaishali admits she received a fair amount of backlash for allowing Devina to transition at a young age – even from friends. But Lily insists that what the Keswanis are doing is what’s best for their child.
“It makes me feel great to know that she will have all the resources she needs to be able to live a happy, fulfilling and successful life,” Lily says of Devina. “The fact that she has the opportunity to transition at this stage in her life is how it should be for everyone. The Keswanis are stetting the example here.”
And for Vaishali, the risk that comes with not allowing Devina to be who she is was too great to leave to chance.
“There’s a 41 percent suicide rate in people who aren’t accepted,” she says. “That’s enough for me.”