John and Cathy Gillis never dreamed their daughter would one day tell them she was really a boy. And they haven’t talked about it much until Proposition 1 came about-– a measure that asks Anchorage voters to regulate public bathroom and locker room use based on gender at birth.

It was four years ago, at the age of 14, that C.J. Gillis told them his truth.

“It’s a weird realization for me, too, honestly,” C.J. says. “I was actually lucky to come out as early as I did because for some people, they don’t even feel comfortable with their family-- to where they can say that to their parents.”

At first, it wasn’t easy for this south Anchorage family to accept C.J.’s decision to live as a transgender male.

“It has taken a lot of effort on my part– and learning and research– to really try to understand what that means,” Cathy says.

“There’s a lot of push and pull in the beginning,” says C.J.’s father, John. “It eventually becomes comfortable."

It helped that C.J. became a happier person, once his parents and friends accepted him as a male.

If you didn’t know C.J. was born a girl, you probably wouldn’t even guess it. Hormone treatments have given him a deep voice, facial hair and muscles. He’s a senior at the Polaris School, where he’s known for his artistic talent.

“Being able to live true to myself has really changed me for the better in a huge way,” C.J. said. “I’m also a religious person. The way I see it is, if God created me always feeling male, even though I was born in a female body, how could God be wrong about that either.”

C.J.’s parents say they’re glad to see their son embrace his “authentic self.”

“Recognizing that letting this person be who they are is the greatest gift you can give them,” says C.J.’s mom. “A lot of transgender youth experience depression and anxiety. It is not because they’re transgender, but it has more to do with living in a society that isn’t prepared for them.”

So which bathroom does C.J. use?

“I use the men’s bathroom. I think if I used the women’s bathroom, there would be all sorts of protests,” C.J. said.

C.J.’s mother says it’s time to move beyond the bathroom.

“We need to build our willingness to understand each other, and to have compassion for people who are different from ourselves,” she said.

Prop 1 supporters say the issue is about the right to privacy and establishing boundaries for everyone’s safety.

In an interview earlier this month, Kim Minnery, one of the initiative’s sponsors said biological differences shouldn’t be ignored.

“Disagreement is not hatred, and speaking truth about biological difference is not hate speech,” Minnery said. “Biology is not bigotry.”

She says a yes vote simply returns “freedom, choice and common sense.”

For more on this issue, watch KTVA’s Frontiers program, “Prop 1: Beyond the Bathroom,” which aired on Sunday, March 25.

Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.

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