The little boy was about 8 years old, playing with friends, when he turned to an adult and asked, "When can I be her?"
"They said, 'Sweetheart, you are a boy. You need to be a boy.' (I just felt like), 'No. I want to be (like her).'
" It's really hard to be a girl in a boy's body."
That little boy grew up. And - though not quite as simply as this sentence makes it seem - found that he was able to become what he dreamed. Erika Falls is finally, as she says, herself.
"Growing up throughout your life as a correct gender is taken for granted. As (girls) grow up, they get their life experiences. They get to go to prom as the date that gets picked up. They get to have kids, have parties and do each other's hair. I've always wanted to do that stuff. I never could.
"You can't do that as a guy."
Erika is now 28. It took her 26 years to figure out why she felt so different, why she was so depressed and angry and so frustrated with life. It took 26 years, a growing sense of desperation and a random Internet post for her to begin to understand herself.
"I shouldn't have been born male. That was a mistake. I knew I wanted to be a girl. But I didn't know if it was even possible to change. I knew that's who I was, but I didn't have any way to fix it or talk about it at all. ...
"I was getting more and more depressed and reckless in my life. (Until finally) I couldn't be my old self any more. It didn't work; it didn't work. It was not who I am."
Liz Kandziolka, 30, was also born a boy. She declines to give her birth name, the one belonging to her as a boy.
"I'd rather just leave it in the past where it belongs," she says.
Erika concurs: "That old person is gone."
But as a young man, seeking both direction and a marketable career, Liz joined the military. In retrospect, she says that was a way of trying to "hyper-masculinize" herself. Liz was stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base and deployed to the United Arab Emirates.
Liz: "A group of online friends pointed me towards transgender. 'Look it up,' (they said). So I did. I was reading through it: Click. That's exactly what I'm feeling. Everything. Right there."
A woman can serve in the military, but a transgender woman cannot. "They still consider it a mental disorder," says Liz. It would be an angry and frustrating five years until she was discharged as a man, before Liz could begin living as a woman.
Liz: "I tried to be as unfeeling as I could for my teenage years and most of my 20s. I just didn't care. I was completely uncaring. You start hating everyone around you for being able to be who they are. And you aren't.
"It wasn't until I discovered that I was trans that everything started pouring out. Once I started on hormones, basically the floodgates opened and everything went whoosh."
The process of living as the opposite gender is called transitioning. The spectrum goes from simply changing the clothes one wears and the way one acts, all the way to hormone therapy, a legal name change - going "full time" - and surgery. It is not for everyone who questions their gender identity.
Erika: "Just because you like dresses doesn't mean you need to or should transition. Transition is a very big thing. It's life-changing."
Hormone replacement therapy is an equally big deal. It is always preceded by mental health therapy, required by doctors before they'll issue a prescription. HRT effectively causes sterility, so the decision is momentous.
Liz: "It's almost, but not quite, a one-way street. Once you're down the road a ways, there's little chance of coming back to who you were before. ...
"A lot of friends have come to us and said, 'I think I'm trans.' I say, 'I can't give you any real advice: Go to a therapist.' That's the best advice you can give someone who may or may not be trans: Go see a therapist. Talk about it and don't hide anything. If you're not comfortable talking about your emotions and feelings, get over it. Go to a therapist. Tell them everything."
Liz and Erika made their choice.
Erika: "It was just me realizing that who I was on the outside wasn't reflecting who I was on the inside."
Liz: "Taking the first (HRT) pill was like breathing life into a new body. Like I'm alive. Like an awakening, I guess. They (the hormones) hadn't even kicked in at that point; it was just the act of taking the first pill: It's started."
Over the course of months and years, HRT causes changes - skin softens, breasts develop, hips and butt fill out. ("The first time I was 'ma'am-ed' - that's still an awesome feeling," says Liz.) In time, Liz and Erika began living full time as women.
Liz: "Me being me."
"I still like a lot of the things I did before. Like video games. Science fiction. I love mechanical things. My computer. I love working with my hands. ...
"The other part of it is: I love clothes. Dresses, skirts, makeup. Being girly. And not having to worry about the stigma of (people saying), 'You're a guy. You can't do that.'"
As Erika began her transition to a woman, she organized a support group for others who were also transitioning or who had questions about their gender, to meet each other, make friends, get information. And then she and Liz met.
Erika: "I always dated people before but never felt comfortable in the relationship because of the male/female dynamic. It was so uncomfortable. All my relationships ended - because the girl was the girl and I was the guy. But Lizzie is the perfect match for me."
They clarify a point:
Liz: "Your sexual orientation is completely separate from your gender identity. Your sexual orientation is who you love. Your gender identity is who you are."
But society can be very harsh on those who question either their gender or their sexuality.
Erika: "(My family) stopped talking to me when I told them. I came out to them and pretty much put everything on the table at that point. They told me I no longer existed to them.
"It's tough. I'm lucky, though. I've got - I call them 'pseudo families.' Liz's mom my best friend from growing up his family I've got great family now, regardless of who they are."
Both Liz and Erika have been on the receiving end of crude remarks and rude behavior. They are relieved at Boise's new ordinance preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It came too late for Erika, who believes she lost her job as an information technologist because of her transition.
Because of that, however, Erika returned to school on a pre-med track. She plans to be a cosmetic surgeon ("Someday."), specializing in surgeries for transgender men and women. There are no plastic surgeons in Boise who will operate on transgender people now, she says.
Liz has also headed back to school to work toward an eventual Ph.D. in physics and now faces an ironic twist - that of being a woman in a man's field.
They face a bunch of years of college and grad school, with the financial stress of college students. But at this time in their lives, there is a difference as they plan for their future: Each of them is who she wants to be.
Liz: "We just want to like what we like and be who we want to be, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
"I love life now."
Erika: "I do, too."
Know someone living "from the heart"? Idaho Statesman photojournalist Katherine Jones spotlights someone in the Treasure Valley who influences our lives not only by what they do, but how and why they do it. Do you know someone we should know? Call 377-6414 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.