Ayumi came by today in a cute white and black dress, a shiny necklace and a girlish hairband with a bow. He wore no shoes though, and that was upsetting to him. Yes, he. Ayumi is not a little girl but a teenage boy who struggles with gender identity and actually Ayumi isn’t even his name. Ayumi was the name he gave me the first night I met him when he was 14. I saw this tall lanky boy standing on a box at the edge of the street dancing. He was dressed then in a summery dress and had bright pink rouge on his cheeks that did not hide the recent bruise. When I asked him what he was doing he quickly jumped down and said he was dancing for food. I bought him food and asked a few more questions. I found out later most of what he told me was more fantasy than reality including the name. A few nights later I saw him dancing again. It was starting to rain that night and he said he had no place to go so we took him in for the night. That was three years ago.
Three years ago we tried everything we knew to find help for this sweet boy. Not everyone would agree with me that he is sweet. He has stolen from us many times; he has lied and he has been a handful to say the least. We’ve given him more clothes than I can count. He changes and the next time we see him he is back in a dress, all other clothes stolen or misplaced. Three years ago we joined together with a few other organizations to find help for Ayumi. No children’s home would take him. As a teenage boy he was a risk to the girls; as a ladyboy he was at risk with the boys. Ayumi did not fit any program. He had spent time already in a government shelter/detention center and had run away.
With the help of a social worker, Ayumi’s mother was located. We started to work with her as well and for a while things improved. We kept him Monday to Friday and she took him home for the weekend. The mother came to our retreat and began to follow Jesus. Her life improved and as result Ayumi also began to improve. Another local ministry that reaches out to ladyboys began to work with him as well. He enjoyed being there and learning new things. He returned home and his mother was relieved. But it didn’t last. Since then Ayumi has come and gone from the ministry and from us multiple times. We’ve lost count. From time to time we find him on the street in the red light area touching up his makeup. The stuffed bra under a sexy dress doesn’t disguise his lanky male body. His awkward gait in the high heels only accentuates his own struggle to find himself. He says he acts crazy hoping that people there will leave him alone.
Every time Ayumi shows up at NightLight he has been hurt, hasn’t eaten, hasn’t slept and won’t go home. We feed him, often give him a change of clothes, and encourage him to go home or to return to the ladyboy ministry. Holding a conversation with him isn’t easy. He switches too quickly between fantasy and reality and the lines are blurred beyond recognition.
I was surprised when Ayumi walked in today. A couple days ago he stole an expensive pair of orthopedic shoes. After greeting him, I told him to bring the shoes back. He said okay. Ayumi ate lunch and then looked through our fashion magazines admiring the brand name clothing and bags. He was sleepy but he seemed to just want to be near and safe for a while. He complained about the abuse and hardships and I reminded him of his choices. I gave him some money and one of the staff accompanied him to the store to buy some flip flops.
Ayumi is still a sweet kid still in spite of the challenges. He still hugs like a little boy but he is quickly losing the body of a child and his world has already become way too adult. Regretfully, we don’t know what else to do to help him. We just keep on loving him in the moments he is with us, enforcing boundaries and reminding him of the choices before him. He knows where he can go for help. We pray, we love, we watch out for him on the street, and we wait for the day when Ayumi will discover who he really is.