Six-year-old Layla Ellis became an overnight symbol of hope after her mom, Shalee Ellis, shared a video of the little girl learning that her dad is a transgender woman. “Daddy doesn’t feel happy as a boy,” Shalee told Layla in the clip she posted on Facebook. “We have decided to help Daddy become the person that his brain and his heart tell him that he really is.” When Shalee asked Layla how that made her feel, she responded: “Daddy, I love you so much. Even though you’re a ‘her,’ I still love you.”
The video — filmed on January 6 — went viral on March 30 after Shalee sent it to BuzzFeed LGBT.
Sadly, not everyone has had the same reaction as Layla. “We’ve had people send us emails saying, ‘Thank you, you’ve helped me come out to my family tonight,’ and then you go on YouTube and people are threatening to put a bullet between my left eye and saying we’re abusing our children,” Shalee, 25, tells Us Weekly. “Most of the awful stuff is coming from conservative bloggers. It’s absolutely horrifying.”
Shalee, a stay-at-home mom and Mallory, 26, a UPS truck loader, have been together for five years. They reside in rural Pennsylvania with Layla and their son Lexington, 3. “It’s conservative, Republican territory,” Shalee says. “There’s 997 people in our town. We don’t even have a red light or a grocery store” The couple — who now deal with regular harassment — are hoping to relocate to the state capitol, Harrisburg. “A city is much safer than the country because here, at any given time, you can see somebody decked out in camo with a rifle on their back,” explains Shalee, who recently bought a taser for protection.
Luckily, Layla has not had to deal with bullying at her school. “Layla attends a full-time autistic support classroom, over an hour away,” says Shalee. “I sent her teacher an email and said, ‘I just wanted you to know that Mallory’s dad is transgender and will be transitioning into a woman.' The teacher was exceptional. She’s like, ‘Thank you so much for letting us know. If you need anything at all, please don’t hesitate to ask.’”
Layla’s perfect reaction to Mallory transitioning didn’t end in the car. It gets even sweeter. “The next day, as soon as she woke up, she was like, ‘Daddy! Mommy told me that you’re a girl now!’ She was so excited,’” Shalee tells Us. “Mallory had to walk out of the room because she started to cry. She walked out, composed herself, came in and embraced her.”