Just like any other 8-year-old, Mati Mereles loves the playground, flowy skirts and the color pink.
But Mati isn’t like every girl. She was born a boy.
Mati says efforts like this weekend’s San Diego Pride Festival – and Caitlyn Jenner's speech at Wednesday night’s ESPY awards – help her feel accepted for who she really is.
“Everyone should be who they are,” she said.
Mati says she knew a long time ago that she was really a girl.
“When I was 2, they went over to the boys’ section, but I went over to the girls,’” she said.
Her mother, Cristy Mereles, said her daughter gradually found her voice.
“Every day, there was something that emotionally suckerpunched me in the gut,” Mereles said. “Something she would say or do that would indicate to me that she wasn't comfortable with the male gender that we had assigned to her.”
Mati transitioned into a girl at age 5 and started to discover there were others like her.
After watching Jenner’s speech, she knew she wasn’t alone. Now she’s taking a chance and sharing her story with other transgender youth.
“You have to be who you are,” she said. “Just try to ignore when they’re saying that you’re a boy if you want to be a girl or if you’re a girl and you want to be a boy.”
The transgender community as a whole will march on Friday for their Second Annual Transpride at Balboa Park.