The Boston Sunday Globe recently ran a cover story about a Children’s Hospital Boston family being treated at our Gender Management Services Clinic (GeMS). It was an in-depth and well-written piece about a family raising a transgender teenager and her treatment at Children’s. The GeMS Clinic is the first major program in the United States to focus on gender identity disorder in children and adolescents, a population who are often victims of bullying and harassment and have the highest rate of suicide attempts in the world.
I highly recommend the Boston Globe article, as well as the following companion blog, in which the father of the family discusses why they chose to share their story with the world…
My wife Kelly and I have had a number of defining moments since our twin children came into our lives. Each has been special in it’s own way, but most of these moments have been things that all parents can relate to: birthdays, first days of school and teaching the kids to ride a bike. But our family has also seen our fair share of different experiences; experiences that have been both frightening and extraordinary. Even some things that seemed simple at first went on to have a level of complexity we never expected.
Since sharing our story, we’ve met so many special people that have helped Nicole and changed our family forever. When we met Dr. Norman Spack, at Children’s Gender Management Services Clinic (GeMS) it was the first time we felt hope that Nicole could one day achieve her dreams. During that first visit, he lifted a tremendous amount of fear and worry from our shoulders and the smile on Nicole’s face when she left his office will forever be imprinted in my memory. I am not ashamed to say that I had doubts at first, but in one visit Dr. Spack erased them and set my family on a wonderful journey.
Since then Nicole learned she could live her dreams and her brother Jonas learned that everything was going to be OK with our family. Today both kids are flourishing; they are strong, proud and willing to speak out so others can benefit from learning about Nicole’s struggles and successes. But as we continued to visit Children’s Hospital Boston we learned that we still had a long road ahead of us with many unique decisions. Working with Dr. Spack and his staff we are now experiencing new defining moments. Moments that will help our family, our community and maybe the country learn how to best to protect and support transgender children.
When we agreed to be interviewed for Children’s Dream Magazine and Thriving blog, we did it for our children. Since then I found it has helped us heal. The kids needed a chance to feel special when others were telling them Nicole was to be feared and segregated. The wonderful feedback we’ve received in blog comments and messages were a great boost and a strong reminder that Nicole is loved and supported both inside and outside our home and inner circle of friends.
Until recently we chose to remain anonymous, operating entirely in stealth mode and constantly worrying that someone will say or do something to hurt our children. It is hard to live in hiding and too many transgender children have to do so to remain safe. But I can’t help but question if that kind of exile really is ‘safe’. After all, living in fear and hiding are very damaging. My family and I know this first-hand.
Since our kids have recently entered their teens, we felt it would be more damaging for them to not have a voice and stay hidden away. When we first came forward we were called Sylvia, Celia, Tommy and Dennis, but when we agreed to speak with Bella English from the Boston Globe we knew it was time to tell the world who we really were.
We are still scared of the unknown and still fearful of the extreme misunderstanding that exists around transgender issues. But by sharing our story we hope that others might better understand, accept and support transgender children. We are hopeful that we will soon be able to get on with our lives and that our children will grow stronger from these defining moments so they will have the chance to grow to adulthood safely and with few scars.
Through all we have experienced we continue to teach our children to be safe, to stand strong and to work with others to promote change. We couldn’t have gotten there without Children’s Hospital Boston and will be forever grateful its staff for starting us on this amazing journey.