GROSS: I’d like to talk with you a little bit about gender. You describe yourself as transgender. What does that mean to you?
HEGARTY: Well, you know, it’s pretty simple. I don’t identify as a man. I identify as transgender, you know? I mean, it’s a pretty typical phenomenon. There’s probably transgender people in most families, somewhere around the line. Usually exhibits…
(Soundbite of laughter)
HEGARTY: Its symptoms, like, by the age of five or something, you know that your alignment is subtly or very overtly different than the kids that may be around you. I always aligned more with my mother and my mother’s side. And my pursuits and interests as a really young kid were more creative and always leaning more toward the feminine side as opposed to towards the masculine side of activities. So, it’s really as simple as that, you know? I made a choice to, sort of, really spell it out for people, especially since I’m not someone that is transitioned to—towards anything, really. I’m just sort of in a process of embracing myself as a transgender person and presenting myself, you know, as I am…
GROSS: You mean as opposed to having a sex-change operation to surgically alter yourself?
HEGARTY: No, not necessarily. That’s not what I meant. But you know, it could be more subtle than that. You know, I mean, I think people tend to be really obsessed with transgender people’s physical configurations. But transgender is a condition of the spirit, you know? There’s something very reductive that tends to occur in perceiving transgender people and even gay people, in that society tends to want to reduce them, in almost a crude way, around an obsession with their sexuality or even their genital configuration, which has—there’s a kind of a cruelty to that, when, in fact, what we are dealing with is people whose spirits are different.
And it’s much more subtle and there’s a lot more potential there within each of those children and within each of those adults that remains unacknowledged and sometimes even unexplored, because people, even individuals, fall victim to society’s impression of them or society’s reduction of them. And what you tend to notice about a transgender kid, you know, they’re usually the ones that are kind of dancing by themselves in a little circle of light, and they see colors more brightly, and they’re very sensitive to the feelings of kids, other kids, and adults around them. And my suggestion is that they have a little gift inside their hearts that could be a real asset within the family. And I think that’s true of gay kids, too, you know?