by Stephanie Golden
Zayne Stapleton arrives for a job interview at Kroger in West Chester, Ohio, with a boyish grin and neatly dressed in his favorite pair of skinny jeans, an orange, blue, black and gray plaid button- down shirt, and a pair of leather Vans. His spiked, coifed, dark hair makes him the perfect poster child for the “metrosexual male.”
Although born Tayah Marie Stapleton, he found his way to Zayne Taylor Stapleton at the age of 12 with the love and support of his parents and step-sister. The well-spoken and confident 16-year-old teenage boy is comfortable with his change of gender identity. Yet that journey was not always an easy one for any of them.
“I remember when I dressed him in a pink dress for his third birthday,” said Tonya Revilla, Zayne’s mother. “He snuck into his brother’s room and changed into a pair of his pajamas and came downstairs to the birthday party. That is when I stopped trying to put him in girl’s clothing.”
For Zayne and many others, the transgender journey started with a conflict between a physical gender and the gender with which a person identifies. Someone who is physically female may actually feel and act like a boy. A male may feel and act like a girl.
“Deep down I always knew I was a boy since I was two,” Zayne said in an authoritative tone. “I felt like a boy and I kept mentioning it to my mom.”
His parents thought “their little girl’s” desire to be a boy was just a phase and that Zayne would eventually grow out of it, Revilla said. But Zayne was determined to convince them that what he was feeling was not going away.
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“I watched this video on You Tube talking about being transgender,” Zayne said. “I was happy to finally find out what I was going through. The next thing was to tell my parents. I told my Mom that I was transgender and she started supporting me but it was harder for my Dad to accept.”
Zayne’s dad Rusty Stapleton fondly reminisces about how he called Zayne “Nugget” when he saw him being born. Stapleton, a self-employed contractor, admits to struggling with Zayne’s transition from female to male. He tries hard to make sure his son knows he loves him by correcting even the small things that can cause a dissension, he said.
“When I introduced him to people I would say, ‘This is my child,’” Stapleton said. “I really did not know that really hurt him until his Mom said something to me. Zayne identifies as a male and I still have to work on making sure I identify him as a male. I am still a work in progress.”
Zayne’s sister, Heather Wondrely, is proud of her step-brother’s handling of the transition from female to male at such a young age. While going through his own self-discovery he helped others understand his gender identity journey, she said.
“Zayne made it real easy for me to understand him being a transgender,” Wondrely said. “He explained it in a way that allowed me to wrap my head around. He is amazing. I just want to keep encouraging him.”
Back at his job interview, Zayne tried to explain how he is transgender male, then asked if he will be able to use the men’s bathroom when he begins work at Kroger. His interviewer hesitated, then speculated that he may not be allowed to do so.
Nonetheless, Zayne accepts the job and returns home to contact Kroger’s human resources department. His mother was impressed.
“He straightened it out and they said he will be allowed to use the men’s bathroom,” Revilla said. “It amazes me how he handled it. That’s Zayne.”