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Caydon Harmon, age 15, in his bedroom. (KUOW Photo/Nina Tran)

Caydon Harmon, age 15, in his bedroom. (KUOW Photo/Nina Tran)

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Transgender Teen Finds Relief In Testosterone Treatment, Hopes For Surgery


Eight high school students spent their summer with us at KUOW. It was part of our youth radio program, RadioActive. Students worked with producers and editors and learned the basics of radio reporting. Several amazing stories came out of the workshop and over the coming weeks we are going to share some of them with you.

Today we hear a story about a kid who grew up like most little boys. He always dreamed of growing a moustache. But ever since he could remember, Cayden Harmon also knew he was born in the wrong body — a biologically female one. Now, at age 15, he's going through a procedure to alter his body. RadioActive's Nina Tran has more.


Nina: "Explain aloud just what you're doing."

Cayden: "Uh, well I'm getting all my needles and my syringes and everything ready. OK — this is my first time doing it at home."

Cayden Harmon is injecting the male hormone, testosterone, into his thigh in an attempt to transform his body.

Nina: "Explain what testosterone is and, like, what it does."

Cayden: "Estrogen is the female hormone and testosterone is the male hormone. Basically what testosterone does is it just cancels out the estrogen and then it gives you the male hormone so you end up getting manlier and, like, your voice drops and you get harrier and grow a moustache."

I am sitting on a couch in Cayden's living room. Next to me is Cayden. He is tall, has short hair, and is dressed in flannel and Levis. Behind us is his bedroom, a teenage boy's haven: Kramer and the Beatles on the wall, a Gibson guitar in the corner, and the ground is obscured with clothes and loose change.

Cayden Harmon is a 15–year–old transgender male.

Cayden: "You basically just inject it. You ready? You guys look so nervous! I'm nervous!"

Nina: "It's just a sharp needle!"

Cayden: "You guys are making me more nervous! Ahh, stop, don't look at me. Okay I'm about to put it in — "

Ever since he could remember, Cayden has always known who he was.

Cayden: "I was always the Ken doll when I was playing with Barbies. Whenever I played dress–up and, like, family and imaginary stuff, I was always the man in the house and, um, I was always attracted to girls, ever since I was little. Like, I was this girl's boyfriend in, like, second or first grade and she just went along with it. She knows I'm a girl. I mean, well, she knows I'm biologically a girl now, so it's kind of, like, awkward."

His mother, Lisa, was always open to his choices. When Cayden was eight, Lisa found a counselor for families dealing with gender confusion issues. Cayden visited the counselor with his mom, dad, older brother and older sister. Nowadays, Lisa can even laugh about it.

Lisa: "When he was a little, a little girl — [laughs] that's what we always say, like, 'back when you were a little girl.' In the neighborhood where we all knew each other, it was kind of a source of humor amongst us moms, and we'd be sitting there drinking our sangria waiting for the dads to come home. And the kids'd be playing and Cayden will be there 'I have a penis,' you know and like, there was this famous, really funny thing, where this other kid in the neighborhood said to him, 'um, I'm allergic to peanuts.'"

When Cayden was 13, he came out as a lesbian. But then, he realized that his confusion was something much larger than who he was attracted to.

Cayden: "I met a trans guy in California through friends and he had been on testosterone for a year and a half when I met him and he was totally, like, low voice, like he had a moustache, and I was like, oh my god, like, I want to be that!"

Cayden talked to his childhood therapist. He realized that he was not a lesbian. He was a straight guy. He also discovered that receiving testosterone was a possibility.

Then, Cayden came out transgender to his family and friends.

Lisa: "It was fine. Because we were actually kind of — actually, for me, I was kind of, like, relieved in some ways to have some, I don't know, some way to define what was going on."

Cayden's dad, on the other hand, was initially skeptical. He feared Cayden would receive backlash from peers.

It was difficult for Cayden to find a doctor to prescribe him testosterone. Most doctors don't prescribe hormones to anyone under the age of 16 because they change a person's body permanently.

Cayden's therapist helped him find a willing doctor at the Polyclinic in downtown Seattle.

After he was signed off for testosterone, he changed his name to Cayden and began to go by male pronouns. Although he thinks himself as male, he can't have the body he wants, so he's come up with a way to cope with the body he has.

Cayden: "I mean, a lot of people don't think about transgender people as this but, I mean it's basically — I hate to use the word 'disorder' because that just sounds terrible — but it basically is a disorder. It's, it's a person who was born in the wrong body. Thinking about it that way somehow helps me, 'cause it makes me think, like, well, it's just something that I was born with."

Cayden has been injecting testosterone into his body for three and a half months. Since starting, his body has changed significantly. He's increased in muscle and his period has stopped.

Cayden: "My voice is getting more masculine and like I'm growing hair and it's, like, exciting. And it's always been my dream since I was tiny to have a moustache and it's growing in."

Lisa: "He's definitely manlier — definitely. And look at him, and I'm just like, oh my God, is this really happening?"

Nina: "Do you ever, like, miss Cayden as a kid?"

Lisa: "You're making me emotional because, we were really close and now — well, teenagers, you know, they differentiate, right? They individualize, they go away from their parents, and you know that's happened and he used to be really, really, affectionate, and you know, it's not that way anymore. Because he's sort of more — male now."

Cayden hopes to get surgery to remove his breasts and he plans to continue taking testosterone for the rest of his life.

The effects of testosterone are permanent and irreversible. Cayden is only 15 and his body will drastically change.

Cayden: "It was kind of weird for me to think about, like, I'm going to be doing this for the rest of my life, I'm never gonna stop. And like, I kind of question, is this right? Like, should I be doing this? But I don't know. When changes happen and when I start growing a moustache, I get excited and then I'm like, never mind! I'm not too young; this is all worth it!"

Nina: "This'll probably be the last question. How do you see yourself in five years?"

Cayden: "Um, I don't know. I guess, living my life as a man, hopefully with a full beard! Um, I don't know. Um, just being able to present myself more masculine and not getting questioned ever. Hopefully actually, I would like to identify just as a male at some point instead of a transgender male, you know? That'd be really cool."

For RadioActive, I'm Nina Tran.

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