Alex was born a female, but identifies as a male. The 16-year-old transgender male continues to face challenges — including criticism from people who believe a person’s gender identity, if different than the sex at birth, is wrong. He’s even received a death threat.

Alex was born a female, but identifies as a male.

The 16-year-old transgender male continues to face challenges — including criticism from people who believe a person’s gender identity, if different than the sex at birth, is wrong. He’s even received a death threat.

Alex struggles with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts caused by his gender dysphoria, a term used to describe the distress experienced when a person’s gender identity doesn’t match up with their genitals and chromosomes.

He says his depression comes from the feeling that something physical is missing from his body.

“I have mental breakdowns using the bathroom sometimes, knowing what should be there and it’s not,” said Alex, who attends an Akron-area high school.

But Alex thinks he’s one of the lucky ones.

His mother and grandparents have been a huge support. And though he has been bullied at school, he believes he has had it easier than other people in the transgender community.

“I have an accepting family. I haven’t been beaten up. There’s a bathroom labeled ‘men’s’ I can use. My friends are very accepting and most people know me as a guy,” said Alex, who has used bathrooms for both genders at school, but mostly tries to use a single-stall bathroom, to avoid problems.

“I’m lucky. It could be way worse.”

Alex is not alone. There’s a growing number of teens facing similar struggles, prompting Akron Children’s Hospital to launch a clinic this summer devoted to helping adolescents struggling with gender identity issues.

Alex and his family agreed to share their story to highlight the challenges of a transgender youth and the care that’s now available at Children’s Center for Gender Affirming Medicine.

Gender affirming medicine is an evolving field that involves consultation with medical and social work professionals to provide care for transgender patients seeking characteristics more aligned with their gender identity. It can include such services as puberty suppression, hormone treatment, mental health care coordination, well checks and preventative visits, education and supportive care for LGBTQ+ youth and their families.

The American Academy of Pediatrics urges doctors to provide support and care of the transgender community. But there are critics, including some in the medical community who are expressing concern that medical treatments for transgender patients are outpacing the science.

At Children’s, the new center, which is part of the hospital’s Adolescent Medicine division, offers care to transgender patients and LGBTQ+ youth. Patients see a multidisciplinary team that includes gender-affirming medical providers as well as a social worker, nurse coordinator, mental health therapist and endocrinologist. The center sees patients age 7 and older.

Sex-reassignment surgeries are not available at Children’s and the team waits to provide medication — such as hormonal treatments or puberty-suppressing medicines — until after the youth is fully evaluated, said adolescent medicine physician Dr. Crystal Cole, who is medical director of Children’s new clinic.

Alex is a pseudonym. The Beacon Journal has agreed to withhold his name because he’s gotten a death threat from a fellow student and some of his extended family are not accepting of him living as a male.

“I’ve gotten a death threat at school for using the guy’s bathroom. He said he would beat me to a pulp. My school is not very open. I don’t want them to track me,” he said.

Alex wants to have surgeries to change his sex in the future. He doesn’t want internet proof of his former life being born a female. (Experts say there is a difference between a person’s sex — or genitalia and chromosomes — and gender, which is how an individual or society identifies a person.)

WELCOME RELIEF

Alex has been a patient of Cole’s since the beginning of the year.

The hospital has been seeing transgender patients for some time, but recently formalized its team approach to care, expanded services and began running clinics on Thursdays. Children’s previously referred patients seeking comprehensive gender-affirming medical care to other centers.

Having the team of experts at Children’s so close has been a welcome relief for Alex’s family, said his grandma, who, along with her husband, is helping Alex’s mother raise him.

Alex’s family doctor told the family he didn’t know enough to help care for the transgender teen.

“He said, ‘You’re on your own and whatever you find out, come back and let me know,’ “Alex’s grandma recalled.

There are other gender-affirming clinics in Ohio; Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has had a transgender clinic since 2012. MetroHealth’s Pride Clinic also will see transgender patients, Cole said.

“A lot of times these families don’t have resources. They don’t know where to go. Their child comes out and identifies as trans and they may notice the child is having some issues with it, whether it’s bullying or difficulty with gender,” Cole said. “We’re that first stop for families.”

Cole said transgender patients have medical issues the team can help address, such as providing medications to suppress puberty or hormones, such as testosterone, to support desired gender characteristics for post-puberty patients.

“In the past, people would get testosterone and gender-affirming drugs off the street. We are providing them with things that are evidence-based,” said Cole.

The clinic also offers counselors to help patients know their rights when it comes to such things as using a bathroom that corresponds with their identified gender, getting schools to use their preferred name and participating in sports.

“If we need to intervene on their behalf, we can provide education to their schools,” she said

Transgender youths are at higher risk of suicide and homelessness, Cole said. Forty-one percent of transgender individuals have suicide attempts in their lifetime.

“The risk of homelessness is extremely high and resorting to sex work to pay for gender affirming medicines,” Cole said. “This is why we exist. We want them to be healthy, happy adults.”

Alex has been dealing with suicidal thoughts since sixth grade, when he began having general depression.

Most recently, he’s been hating his body as he deals with constant breakthrough bleeding from periods despite being on birth control. The Children’s team is evaluating starting Alex on testosterone to stop the bleeding and help with some of the masculine traits Alex wants, Cole said.

He also has anxiety from looking at his skinny and lanky body, which isn’t overly feminine, but not masculine.

“I had dreams I had a flat chest and would be a guy and have a beard,” Alex said.

Alex knew at a young age that he liked masculine things.

“I thought it was normal for a little girl to want to be a guy,” Alex recalled. “I didn’t really tell anyone. I would tell my Grandma, ‘I want guy’s clothes.’ ”

“I thought he was a tomboy,” his grandma recalled. “All his friends were guys and he played with superheroes and Beyblades. For his birthday parties I would ask, ‘Do you have girls you want to invite?’ ”

Alex said he had one Barbie doll growing up.

“It was a Ken doll. I said, ‘I want that body and that hair.’ I was like 4 or 5,” he said.

COMING OUT

In seventh grade, Alex came out as bi-sexual.

“I like people regardless of how they identify. If I like them, I like them.”

His mom initially wasn’t too happy about Alex’s declaration.

In eighth grade, one of Alex’s friends said she had a crush on him.

“She said, ‘Maybe you’re just a guy.’ I said: ‘That makes so much sense. Oh yeah!’ I started coming out to my friends that I’m a guy,” said Alex.

Alex’s grandma is the first person in his family he told about his gender identity — during a walk before ninth grade.

His grandma wasn’t surprised, but was concerned.

“I can see the connection now. At the time, you make excuses; so he’s a tomboy. But I don’t think this is to get attention. It’s really there and it took time. It’s nothing you accept right away,” she said.

“One cousin said: ’I called it. I knew you were a man.”

His aunt said, “I just thought you were going to be a lesbian.”

Alex’s mom was in denial at first.

“It was a shock,” she said. “I thought, ‘That’s not going to be my child,’ but it is. Later after all this time, I’m getting more used to it and accepting.”

Alex’s grandma told her closest friends about her grandson and said they all understood.

“One said, ‘That’s how God made him,’ ” Alex said.

His grandma said she still struggles with accidentally referring to her grandson by the pronoun “she” instead of “he.” (Some gender-expansive people, who may identify as either male or female or neither, may prefer the pronoun “they/them.”)

Alex’s grandpa took a little bit of time to get used to the idea, but now is the one Alex turns to when ordering a “packer,” an insert he puts in his boxers to help with his dysphoria.

“Having something in my pants to give me completion makes me feels better,” he said.

Alex first started using rolled-up socks in his pants and when he wanted something more realistic, his grandma said, “Go talk to Grandpa.”

Alex intends on having what’s often referred to as “top surgery” after he turns 18 to take away the breast tissue in his chest to get a masculine chest. But it may not be covered by insurance and could cost up to $10,000. He will wait until later in his 20s for the “bottom surgery” because its more invasive (a hysterectomy is needed and reconstructive surgery).

Alex is happy that Children’s clinic is available to help him through his teen years as a transgender.

It is good “having it close for minors so their family can come and understand things and so kids can get treated and not fall into depression and kill themselves,” said Alex, who wants to be a doctor, and perhaps a surgeon.

Still, his grandma knows he has a “rough row ahead of him.

“We’re just starting this,” she said.

Betty Lin-Fisher is a consumer columnist and medical reporter for Beacon Journal/Ohio.com.

 

A Minnesota mom who filed a lawsuit against her daughter over gender transition in 2016 has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her case.

The petition was file Wednesday, according to CNBC. The Justices will decided whether to take the case after their summer recess.

The mother and daughter are from St. Louis County, which is in the northeastern part of the state and includes the capital of Duluth.

In 2016, Anmarie Calgaro sued her transgender daughter, identified in court papers as E.J.K., after she emancipated herself and began gender transition care.

When E.J.K. was 15, a legal aid clinic helped her with a letter that concluded that she was “legally emancipated.”

Using that document, E.J.K began seeking gender transition care, “including potential surgery” and prescription medication, from two providers. But when the mother found out, she sued her daughter and the health clinics and agencies that helped her with the process.

A district court ruled against Calgaro in 2017, and the decision was affirmed by a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last March.

Attorneys for the mother said that she “retained her unconditional love” for her daughter, according to CNBC. In court documents, they continually misgendered E.J.K..

Calgaro also wanted to be viewed as a concerned parent, whenever she’d appear at a press conference. But that’s not how the daughter remembers the story.

According to court records, E.J.K. who has identified as a girl from a very young age, grew up with parents who had a substance abuse problem.

When she came out as gay at 23, her mother and stepfather became verbally and physically abusive towards her, according to NBC News. At 15, she moved in with her biological father, but shortly after that, he got incarcerated and she got an apartment of her own.

The mother is being represented by attorneys with the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based law firm “dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty,” according to its website description.

The petition alleges that her “parental Due Process Clause rights” were violated by St. Louis County, medical providers and the St. Louis County School District.

 

“Creating Joy In Community,” the first residential retreat for transgender people, welcomes members of the transgender, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, and non-binary community to join together and cultivate “trans joy.”InsightLA will hold the first residential Buddhist retreat for the transgender community in the Insight Meditation tradition at Big Bear Retreat Center in California from September 12-16, 2019.

The retreat, “Creating Joy in Community,” will welcome members of the transgender, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, and non-binary community to gather for silent meditation, mindful movement, and heart-centered practices alongside dharma talks, discussion, and community building.

“Creating Joy in Community” features four teachers: Fresh “Lev” White and René Rivera, who are both trans men; Riya Christie, a trans woman; and JD Doyle, who is genderqueer. InsightLA’s Director of Programming, Martin Vitorino, a trans man, will serve as the retreat’s manager.

Vitorino, a graduate of InsightLA’s Facilitator Training, leads guided meditations at InsightLA East Hollywood and facilitates a monthly event called “Mindful Transitions for the Transgender Community.” He recognized the need and longing for a residential retreat experience specifically for the trans* community (the event organizers use “trans*” to refer to transgender, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, and nonbinary people). White, Rivera, and Doyle have each previously offered daylong programs for trans* people at Spirit Rock and East Bay Meditation Center (EBMC), and other events for the trans* community in the Bay Area, but residential retreats have previously only been held for the larger LGBT community.

“I’ve felt comfortable enough in those LGBT spaces,” says Rivera, a community teacher at EBMC, “but at the same time I have almost always been the only gender nonconforming or trans-identified person on the residential retreat.”

“I just feel so strongly about giving people who don’t fit neatly into the binary gender identities a space where they can be in retreat and feel like they’re totally welcomed and able to come as their whole selves,” he says.

The 12th known transgender person to violently die this year was found fatally shot in South Carolina.

News outlets report 29-year-old Denali Berries Stuckey was found dead Saturday on the shoulder of a North Charleston road. Deputy Chief Scott Deckard said Monday the investigation is ongoing.

The Human Rights Campaign says all the victims in 2019 have been black transgender women.

Chase Glenn, the executive director of the Alliance For Full Acceptance in North Charleston, says Stuckey is the third known black trans woman murdered in South Carolina since 2018. The state is one of five without hate crime laws.

Brooklyn Lindsey was the 11th trans person to die this year. The 32-year-old was found fatally shot last month on her porch in Kansas City.

Officials say a 41-year-old Kansas City man has been charged in the fatal shooting last month of a transgender woman.

Television station KMBC reports that Marcus Lewis is charged with second-degree murder, armed criminal action and unlawful possession of a firearm in the June 25 death of 32-year-old Brooklyn Lindsey. Police say she was found dead on the porch of a home in northeast Kansas City. She had been shot several times.

Court records say DNA testing of the shell casings at the scene led detectives to Lewis and that Lewis admitted to shooting Lindsey. Police say Lewis told investigators he and Lindsey were engaged in a physical fight when Lewis pulled out a gun and shot her.

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