Kylie Smith was born in Spokane 18 years ago to a drug-addicted mother, so her first few weeks of life were difficult. It didn’t get much better for some time.
But now, she is graduating from Medical Lake Endeavors, a personalized learning environment of some 45 students needing a nontraditional pathway through high school. Diagnosed some years ago with ADHD, the regular school environment wasn’t working for her.
For the first 10 years of her life, she lived with her mother, who was in and out of jail. One man who lived with them frequently beat up her mother and also Kylie and an older sister. One of her other sisters had been adopted when she was very young, by Mike and Cathy Smith of Medical Lake. The couple often took Kylie in when there were acts of violence or the mother was in jail.
When Kylie was 10, her mother returned home after a stint in jail and began using drugs again. She died of kidney failure shortly thereafter, Smith said. It was then that she was adopted by the Smiths.
Her life then began to have stability and became what she described as pretty normal, “but not really normal because my mom was dead,” Smith said.
And there was something else. She never really identified as a boy, which was her birth identity, though she didn’t know exactly what that was all about. “I wasn’t able to be myself,” she said. “I didn’t know why I was so mad all the time – that, and the ADHD, well, school was not my thing.”
In her freshman year she began watching programs that included gender identity issues, which is where she first saw transgender characters in the stories. “It was then that I understood what transgender means, and that this is who I am.”
It was a discipline issue at Medical Lake High School that brought her to the “much better-for-me” learning situation at Endeavors in her sophomore year, Smith said. That was also the year she began changing how she dressed and presented herself to the world.
“We celebrate Kylie, who has faced a great deal of adversity through the course of her school experiences and in life,” said Lyra McGirk, program director at Medical Lake Endeavors. “She has come such a long way and is a wonderful and positive advocate for our program and is welcoming to everyone in our environment.”
Kylie Smith is seeing a counselor and a physician who specialize in transgender care, and this January she began taking testosterone blockers and receiving estrogen. She is transitioning, something that is not so easy, probably anywhere, but more so in a generally conservative community, Smith said. “And now that I am doing this, I am calmer and living my real life.”
She holds jobs at a fast-food restaurant and a big box store, but hopes to find more challenging work now that she is 18, though she’s not sure what that will be. Someday she’d love to go to school to become an interior designer.
In the meantime, she adds, “I guess I’m not looking for acceptance. I just want to be treated like a human being.”
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