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Washington family: Transgender people don’t look transgender

Colin Whitmore with his mother Laurie. (Sara Lerner)

The Whitmore family has a history with KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don Show. So as a controversial and often misunderstood issue arose in Washington — one they know well — they reached out to the radio duo once more.

“Trans people don’t look trans. Trans people look like men and women,” said Colin Whitmore.

Related: A primary reason Washington’s transgender Senate bill failed

A bill almost made it through the state Senate this session which focused on which public restroom facilities a transgender person could legally use. Colin’s mom Laurie, and father, Dan, explain that the impact of that bill would have had severe repercussions for their son.

“It would make it illegal for him to use the men’s room, so — with his gorilla hairy legs and beard, looking like a 19-year-old young man — he’d be going into the female restroom, which would be ridiculous,” Laurie said.

No one would ever guess Colin is transgender. He wears men’s jeans, a t-shirt, an unbuttoned flannel shirt. He looks like a college kid — a guy. Colin entering a women’s bathroom would likely cause confusion.

Eight years ago, before Colin was a college freshman at an Oregon university, he was Abbie, a little girl in pigtails. That’s when Ron and Don initially met Colin.

“When I was younger, my mom and I drove around in the car. We always listened to Ron and Don, like every day,” Colin said.

Back then, Colin’s good friend Kelton had cancer. Colin, his brother, and sister were raising money for Kelton’s medical care. They sold pencils and toys at school and were planning a bigger fundraiser.

“We were trying to organize the car wash and we weren’t sure how successful it would be,” Colin said.

So the family wrote their radio heroes, hoping for some support.

“And then we got an email back and Ron and Don who wanted to talk to me in the studio and so we drove up to Seattle,” Colin said.

You can hear little Abbie on the show in 2008. She says she got to miss school to come on the show. She invites everyone to come to the car wash, and she guiltily admits to Don that she drew a picture of the Ron and Don — Don is a bit shorter than Ron in the drawing.

Ron and Don ended up broadcasting a live show from the car wash and it made $8,000.

Five years ago, Kelton passed away.

His parents recently sent Laurie a letter and in it, they told her how much they love Colin.

“It means a lot,” Laurie said. “Because when Colin came out, there were a lot of friends that we thought did support him that quite simply didn’t — that stopped talking to us, stopped coming up to us in the grocery store, et cetera.”

Today Colin is happy. He loves college and describes his life as fully being himself now, but he does worry about other transgender people. Like other kids who don’t have a supportive environment in which to come out.

For Colin and his parents, it’s not like they want to erase Abbie. They just think of Abbie as little Colin, back then.

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