Family in transition: A new life for transgender teen and loved ones

Piper Hall (second from right) says being photographed for The Valentine's One Love: LGBT Families exhibition was "really fun." (Photo: Michael Simon)

GLEN ALLEN, Va. (WRIC) — It was a usual Monday night at the Halls’ house. In between dinner and homework, the family sat down to play a board game.

Tonight they’re playing ‘Life,’ a parallel to the twists and turns 14-year-old Piper has faced in her own.

“It took me a while to figure out,” P. Hall said. “I didn’t really find out until one or two years ago.”

Piper was born Bryce, the eldest son of Kate and Travis Hall. After years of internal struggles but not quite understanding why, Piper came to the realization and approached her parents about being transgender.

“I can’t really put this off anymore,” P. Hall said. “I told my parents over text. It was really difficult to tell them, but it went really well.”

Kate admits there was a grieving period early on, as the little boy she and Travis watched grow, now identifies as a young woman.

“We had no idea. It was quite a surprise to us,” K. Hall said. “I thought I had two boys and a girl, and it turns out I have two girls and a boy. It takes a while to wrap your head around it. You think, ‘Is this a phase, and is this something they’re just experimenting with?'”

Kate says consulting with experts made them all realize the answer to those questions is ‘no.’

According to the Human Rights Campaign, being transgender is not a phase children and teens go through like only wearing all black, dyeing their hair, being obsessed with a certain band or asking to go by a nickname. In fact, trying to dismiss it as such can be harmful during a time when children most need support and validation.

“It was a roller coaster of emotions and everything else,” T. Hall said. “As with all the kids, your first concern is with their safety. You worry how the kids are going to react at school and what’s going to happen there.”

“It was a roller coaster of emotions and everything else.” — Travis Hall

Travis says the family has experienced support from the community, and the Halls are grateful the transition has been positive for Piper.

“You kinda start feeling like you’re paying it forward,” K. Hall said. “Helping other people too by what you’ve learned.”

In the fall, Piper began her freshman year at Glen Allen High School with her new legal name. She introduced longer hair and new clothing last month after winter break.

“Everyone’s transition is different and everyone’s journey is different, and you really just have to take it one step at a time,” P. Hall said.

“Everyone’s transition is different and everyone’s journey is different, and you really just have to take it one step at a time.” — Piper Hall

The whole family has benefited from attending a support group at Side by Side (formerly ROSMY), an organization running on the mission to create supportive communities where Virginia’s LGBTQ+ youth can define themselves, belong and flourish.

Executive Director Ted Lewis said for the first time in the 25 year history of Side by Side, a majority of the youth enrolled identified as transgender in some way in 2016: 169 out of 326 youth, or 52 percent.

“We’ve learned a lot about ourselves and about other people,” K. Hall said.

“We’ve learned a lot about ourselves and about other people.” — Kate Hall

While the Halls acknowledge some doors have closed, many more are opening for Piper.

She is an active member of the Gay – Straight Alliance (GSA) at school and continues to play soccer.

The Halls, including Piper’s siblings Forde and Caroline, are also featured in The Valentine’s exhibition One Love: LGBT Families, which features the changing face of families in the Richmond area.

Piper Hall (second from right) says being photographed for The Valentine's One Love: LGBT Families exhibition was "really fun." (Photo: Michael Simon)
Piper Hall (second from right) says being photographed for The Valentine’s One Love: LGBT Families exhibition was “really fun.” (Photo: Michael Simon)

It is allowing Piper to face the world knowing who she is.

“I like talking to people more than I thought I did,” P. Hall said.

“We saw a drastic difference in her confidence level, in her happiness level, all of it,” K. Hall said. “So it really makes you start to accept it. We have a happy kid, and that’s the best you can ask for.”

“It’s their journey, their journey,” T. Hall said. “They’re your kids, and you want nothing but the best for them.”

“They’re your kids, and you want nothing but the best for them.” — Travis Hall

Side by Side offers a weekly support group for transgender individuals ages 14 to 20. It is on Thursday nights at the Side by Side Richmond headquarters located at 2311 Westwood Avenue.

For more information, families can call the Side by Side support line at (888) 644-4390.

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