Josie Romero loves the color pink, braiding her hair and having her fingernails painted.
But life has not always been easy for this sweet and charming eight-year-old, who was born in the body of a boy.
The trans-gender youngster, then called Joseph, knew at the age of four that she was the wrong sex and even told her parents: ‘I am really a girl.’
At five, she was refusing to have her hair cut and only wore colors like orange which were nearest to girly
By the time she reached six, Josie had been diagnosed as trans-gender and was beginning her transition to becoming a female.
Mother Venessia, 42, said: ‘When she was a toddler, she was always trying to turn her boy toys into girl toys.
‘She used to take her army figures, wrap them up and rock them like a baby.
‘As she grew older and started to talk, she always said: “I’m a girl”.
‘We used to correct her and say: “No you’re a boy”.
‘But by the time she was four, she was insisting: “No I really am a girl”.
‘We started to realize she wasn’t just playing. She would always correct anyone who called her a boy.
‘She’d wrap one of my scarves around her waist to make a skirt. It was her favorite game.’
Venessia and her husband Joseph, 42, an air-force engineer, from Vail, Arizona, made the brave decision to tell their daughter’s story to help other parents of transsexual youngsters.
Venessia said: ‘When Josie was four we adopted a two-year-old girl, Jade, from China because we lived in Japan at the time and wanted to help a child in need.
‘We were a worried Josie would jealous of a new sibling, but she was so excited to have a sister. They loved playing together and there were even more girls toys around.
‘We’d accepted Josie was a bit different and after about six months something clicked and I thought: ‘Oh, we have a gay boy’.
‘We were totally fine with having a gay boy. We thought: “As long as our child is happy” everything will be fine.’
‘She looked kind of androgynous by the time she was five and people would always ask if we had a girl or a boy,’ said Venessia.
It was Josie’s pediatrician who finally brought the situation into the open.
‘I think he worked it out because of various things Josie had said over a couple of years,’ said Venessia.
‘He just said to me: ‘Look up the word trans-gender’.
‘I went home and started looking up trans-gender on the internet.
‘At first the only sites I found were medical ones and websites talking about adults.
‘But eventually we did find out that there were other children who thought they were born as the wrong sex.
‘We discovered a site called Trans-gender Youth Family Allies where there were 100 children who were all going through the same thing as Josie.’ Venessia started giving Josie options about how she wanted to live.
‘I bought some girls clothes and put them in one side of her wardrobe,’ she said.
‘All her boys clothes were in the other half.
‘Each morning she was free to choose what she wanted to wear - but she always chose girls clothes.’
Josie was referred to a gender specialist who confirmed the diagnosis and the family began accepting Josie as a real girl.
Venessia said: ‘It was definitely hardest for my husband, because he felt like he had lost a son.
‘Joseph used to spend time with Joey doing things like jogging and swimming.
‘But he could do those the same with Josie as a girl.’ Joseph said: ‘At first I denied it. Then, after reality kicked in, I deeply mourned the loss of my son.’ But he added: ‘We had a family photo shoot where Josie dressed up like a princess, with a butterfly in her hair and gloss on her lips.
‘I forced a smile onto my face hoping she’d be content with my effort. Josie’s own face lit up in response, and a sparkle I hadn’t seen in so many months was back in her eyes. I made the connection with her then, for the first time, knowing I had gained a daughter.
‘After the first few pictures, both Josie and I were wearing genuine smiles and laughing out loud.’
But unfortunately other people in the fiercely conservative environment of the American military base, where the family lived in Japan, were less accepting of Josie and picketed outside her school gates.
‘It was horrible for Josie and for all of us,’ said Venessia.
‘I know it affected her although we tried to protect her from it.
‘When we returned to the States last year we arranged for counseling for Josie to help deal with what she’s been through, as well as for her transition.’ Now, in a few weeks’ Josie will see her doctor to find out more about puberty blockers, drugs which will prevent her starting male adolescence.
Then, when she reaches the age of 12, she will be given female hormones containing estrogen.
Josie also understands that she will need to have surgery when she is an adult in order to become a full woman.
Her case has already been referred to Dr Norman Spack at Boston Children’s Hospital a top specialist in trans-gender children.
Josie said: ‘I am happy that everyone knows I am a real girl, and that I don’t have to pretend to be a boy anymore.
‘Being a girl is nice because I get to bake and cook in the kitchen wear long hair and earrings.’ By the time Josie’s family moved back to Arizona last year she had been legally accepted as a female.
Her birth certificate, passport and even her social security number were changed to show her completely as a girl.
Venessia said: ‘Unfortunately the local school barred us from enrolling Josie, so we made the decision to home school both girls, which is very rewarding.
‘We’re bringing them up in a very happy protected environment.
‘Maybe when the girls are older they will be able to go to high school, but that is still a few years away.’ Josie is a spokesperson for trans-gender children and gives talks to other groups in Arizona. Her mum said: ‘Josie is very happy to speak about being a trans-gender child.
‘We feel that by being open about her experiences, it will help other parents and children still coming to terms with their gender.
‘The most important thing is to love your child unconditionally.
‘Whatever happens you still have a daughter, or a son, who needs you to be there for them.’ Josie and her family are one of several families featured in a new BodyShock documentary. Age 8 and wanting a Sex Change will be shown on Channel 4 at 9pm on Monday October 19.