Transgender student takes national stage

February 18, 2014

The Boston Globe

Zach KerrGrace and Gary Kerr had three boys under the age of 6 when she became pregnant again, this time with triplets. The Methuen couple learned ahead of time that they were going to have three girls.

"I wanted to know because if it was three more boys, I was going to need time to adjust to that," says Grace.

On Dec. 6, 1993, at New England Medical Center, Grace gave birth to three identical girls: Amy, Amanda, and Sara. "We had five kids in diapers, five in car seats," says Grace, who teaches third grade. "That first week, we went through more than 300 diapers."

From toddlerhood, Amanda preferred playing with her brothers' trucks and toys, and wore their T-shirts with basketballs or frogs on them, not the girly pink favored by her sisters. At age 3, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she would reply: "A boy."

At first, her parents thought it was cute. But by the time Amanda was 5 and insisting that she was, in fact, a boy, it got old.

"I told her, ‘No, you're a girl. This isn't funny anymore,' " Grace recalls.

But the little girl wasn't joking.

Today, Amanda is Zachary, a 20-year-old freshman at Wheelock College whose activism on behalf of LGBT rights has earned him national recognition, including a TeenNick HALO Award from Nickelodeon last fall.

Zach speaks to students, parents, educators, to churches and community groups and others about being transgender - or not identifying with the gender one is born into. He serves on the youth advisory board of Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation, works with Greater Boston PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and with the state's Safe Schools Program for Gay and Lesbian Students. On campus, he's developing a peer mentoring program for LGBT youth.

But the path from confused girl to confident guy was not easy. "No one noticed I was a boy, just in a girl's body," Zach says today.

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