They called their twin boys 'the bros.' Then one broke the news: She was actually a girl.

There is a lot of noise coming from the other room, but it’s happy noise.

It's the sound of children playing, laughing, and talking in broken conversations that only make sense to 3-year-olds. I peek around the corner to see what my twins are up to and watch Ryan tackle Ben. I wait for Ben’s reaction, and walk away when he starts to giggle. They’re fine.

Ben was quiet in utero, in terms of movement. His twin was not. Ryan was restless, seemingly fighting for space, or perhaps looking for it. When my partner’s water broke at 36 weeks, it was Ben who entered our world first.


Ryan would have been right behind, but for about 30 seconds his heartbeat could not be found. The monitor had been bumped off during the commotion of Ben’s birth, so once the room started to breathe again, the doctor broke the second sac so that Ryan could be born.

All photos via Amber Leventry, used with permission.

For nearly three years, Ben and Ryan were our sons.

They were the baby bros to their big sister, our first child. Two boys born into a house with two moms and a sister, they balanced the hormone levels a bit. We were relieved they would have each other to lean on in a house filled with women.

We quickly realized our boys were very different babies with very distinct personalities. Ben was, and is, the easier twin and our easiest child. He has always been more content and quicker to smile.

Ryan, on the other hand, has been the child who has challenged us the most. His restlessness in utero translated into a baby who was not easily comforted, who always seemed to need something we weren’t providing. Our love was strong, but our previous experience as parents seemed weak.

In the early stages of getting to know our twins, we noticed the unmistakable bond they already had with each other. They didn't know themselves without the other. And in some cases, when I or my partner (or both of us) were busy taking care of their then-toddler sister, all they had was each other.

They would babble to each other from their cribs when we couldn’t rush in to get them after they woke. They would stare and giggle at the other when seated on a blanket full of toys, entertained more by each other than the toys at their feet. They would feed each other food from their trays, sitting side-by-side, heart-by-heart.

When Ryan was an infant, there were many times we didn’t know what to do or how to make him feel better.

As he got older, the independence of crawling and walking eased some frustration. Words helped, too. Ryan just wanted to be understood, and we were doing our best to understand.

His gravitation toward his big sister’s clothing at 18 months told us he liked dresses, pink, and purple. His desire for long hair made us regret cutting all of his long curls off before he turned 2.

A few months later, Ryan’s declaration that he was a girl made us question his motivation for saying so.

Perhaps he loved his big sister so much he wanted to be just like her. Maybe he thought he had to be a girl to wear dresses, to play with princesses, and to grow long hair. We didn’t care that he was a boy who liked "girl" things and told him so. But he cared. He was not a boy who liked dresses — he was a girl who liked dresses.

We skirted around gender by no longer referring to Ryan as a boy. We called him our kid, not boy or girl, and we lived a few months in a land of neutrality. His moodiness, anxiety, and sadness told us we needed to do more. We were loving our child, but not validating who he really was and who she needed to be.

After a lot of research and consultations with our pediatrician, and with Ryan’s unwavering wishes, we began the process of socially transitioning him from a boy to a girl. A month before Ryan turned 3, we once again broke the sac that contained her and celebrated her birth.

This new Ryan was happier than the first. She became easier to please and more relaxed. Our new understanding came with acceptance and support, and our internal struggles with saying goodbye to what we thought was going to be, were overshadowed by the confidence and joy radiating from our daughter.

Our twins are now a boy/girl set, and we have two daughters instead of one.

Our family’s dynamics have changed, and sometimes I miss having "the bros," but I worry more about the impact Ryan’s transition will have on Ben.

Ben is not just the only boy in the house, he is now the twin brother to a transgender sister. His identity was changed too, and when Ryan pulls away to stand alone as a girl, or to search for more ways to solidify her identity as a girl, I worry about their bond.

Ryan was home sick from school one day, and when my partner picked up Ben, the teachers said he had a good day, but missed Ryan. “She’s my best friend,” he told the teacher.

I realized their bond has always been there and always will be. Ryan has been pushing and pulling to get where she needs to be from the beginning. And Ben has always been next to her, seemingly not bothered by her restlessness or aware of her differences.

This love they have for each other is there, waiting behind doors, peeking around corners, hidden in simple gestures, and shared in conversations only they can understand.

I have been waiting for Ben’s reaction, but I now know it’s okay to walk away. They are fine.

This story was originally published on Motherly and is reprinted here with permission.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

True

The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

Keep Reading Show less
True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."