Transforming From Isaiah to Crystal



Born Isaiah Mikel, before the transformation, he was attached to his mother’s hip.  As a child dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), he controlled his environment as much as a small child could.  Isaiah’s bedroom would always be obsessively neat and his clothes folded and arranged very meticulously.  Too young to craft the words to communicate the internal feelings that accompanied him, Isaiah struggled to express his perceived identity.

By the age of 3, Isaiah began expressing the sentiments of the opposite sex by using phrases such as, “When I grow up and I am a girl…” Most commonly, whenever he was near a bridal shop, Isaiah would choose the brightest gown in the window and say, “When I grow up and I’m a girl, I will wear that dress!” At times, he would also request to wear a dress or nail polish.  Other instances, it would be things he wanted to do or become when he grew up.

It became increasingly clear to his family that Isaiah did not agree with the identity of his birth.  He preferred to play with dolls and other girly toys. Isaiah’s family did the best they could to accommodate their child’s truth. On his fifth birthday, they gave him a princess-themed party and his best friend renamed him “Crystal.”  Although people outside of his immediate circle still referred to the child they knew as Isaiah, his circle of friends embraced the new name and identity.

When Isaiah was 7 years old, his mother decided it was time to involve a professional and took her child to see a pediatrician.  With the support of family and friends, Isaiah was ready to tell the doctor “she” wanted to be a girl.  Having witnessed the public transition of the well-known Jazz Jennings, this was not strange or shocking to Isaiah’s family.  Already armed with a new name and identity, this would be the day the family convened to choose Crystal’s middle name.  After much discussion and consideration, she decided her name would be Crystal Nevaeh because “heaven” spelled backward seemed most fitting.

As the country at large continued to struggle with the concerns surrounding the transgender community, Crystal decided, with the support of her loved ones, she was up for the challenge.  Braced for potential conflict in educational arenas, she did not change schools. Instead, she received support from her principal who sent a letter to parents explaining Isaiah’s transition to Crystal.  Additionally, young girls in the community joined forces and donated clothes.  To her surprise, along with a more feminine lifestyle Crystal received an entirely new wardrobe.

Many within the community welcomed the idea with open hearts and minds. Others, who opposed the concept, would speak negatively in front of their children, who would repeat “those thoughts” at school.  Someone even sent the principal’s letter to the local news station. If the intent was of a malicious nature, they failed miserably because the news only reported the facts void of personal opinion.

Early on, Crystal was taught that others may not understand her transition, but given time, they would eventually form their own opinions.  Admittedly, the transition has not been easy but many have grown to fully accept Isaiah as Crystal.  When dealing with opposition, Crystal continues to courageously wipe away tears and tell her mother, “It’s not that big of a deal.” This quickly became her catchphrase to deal with ignorance and frustration. The first day of school, as Crystal, a boy asked her why she was wearing a dress. She responded, “I can wear whatever I want, it’s not that big of a deal.”

At the start of the current school year, Crystal was met with two new teachers. When taking attendance, they both unknowingly called for Isaiah.  When she returned home and shared the experience, her mother asked if she had been marked absent.  Crystal, fully embracing her truth, replied, “No, Isaiah was.”  This sealed the transformation, Isaiah had truly become Crystal.

Against all odds, Crystal quickly became a different child. She was strong and confident, complete with opinions and ideas to share. The need to control her environment disappeared and she embraced life in a way her mother had never seen before. She is finally comfortable in her skin.  Crystal is often teased but maintains her positive outlook on life.  A girl on the rise who does not allow anyone to sway her confidence … She is Crystal Nevaeh.

By Jeanette Smith

Video by Kailynn Merrill


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