Episode 30: 'Katie', on Parenting a Transgender Child
'Katie' stops by to speak with Karen and Sabah about parenting her transgender daughter Sarah, who was designated a male at birth.
Intro Voices [00:00:05] Where do I go? It only happened once. I think I was singled out. The phone calls began about one month ago. What is hazing? Something happened to me when I was younger. I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry. Can someone help me? Where can I get help? Can someone help me?
Intro Voices [00:00:31] This is “You Matter”, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of Public Safety.
Karen Ortman [00:00:38] Hi, everyone, and welcome back to “You Matter”, a podcast created to teach, inspire and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion and to identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I am your host, Karen Ortman, Assistant Vice President of Field Operations at the Department of Public Safety and a retired law enforcement professional.
Sabah Fatima [00:01:00] And I am your other co-host, Sabah Fatima, a pre-med graduate student here at NYU College of Global Public Health. If any information presented today is triggering or disturbing, please feel free to contact the Wellness Exchange at
212-443-9999 or NYU’s Department of Public Safety and their Victim Services Unit at 212-998-2222.
Karen Ortman [00:01:23] Today we introduce Katie, the mother of 9 year old Sarah. Katie's here to share Sarah's story as a transgender female who at birth was born a male. His name was Sam. Katie, thank you so much for joining us today on “You Matter”.
Sabah Fatima [00:01:39] Thank you.
Katie [00:01:40] Thank you for having me.
Karen Ortman [00:01:41] So, Katie, when did you realize that your son Sam was not the gender assigned at birth?
Katie [00:01:48] Well, as we moved from infancy to toddlerhood, Sarah seemed different than other typical toddler boys. She gravitated towards all stereotypical girl toys, jewelry, fashion. She was always picking female characters to look up to, like if it was any Disney movie it was Maleficent, the Evil Queen, her favorite superhero was Wonder Woman.
Never, ever did she pick a male figure. And she loved movies like Annie and things like that and she's actually an actress, so she is really into female actresses. Like she was into Carol Burnett and, you know, she knew all about these actresses.
Karen Ortman [00:02:31] And that can be quite common, though, for a lot of small boys.
Katie [00:02:35] Yeah, soo at that point, we weren’t like, “Oh, this is out of the ordinary”, because she’s super creative. So we thought, okay, she's just creative. But when she was playing house, she always wanted to be the sister. And at 4 years old was really when it started to kind of feel like, “Hmmm”, she would start to tell me at night at bedtime that she wished she was a girl and she hated being a boy. So I would say that was kind of the first sign. Even then, I still was kind of like, okay, maybe, you know, this is a four-year-old. Like, maybe, she’ll just -
Karen Ortman [00:03:07] Grow out of it.
Katie [00:03:08] Yeah. Grow out of it, or just like, you know, likes more feminine things.
Karen Ortman [00:03:13] Did she tell you what she disliked about being a boy?
Katie [00:03:17] Well, she didn't feel she had anything in common with the boys. So she felt in her eyes, boys were sports, you know, Legos, those stereotypical things. And she didn't like any of that. She wanted to wear jewelry and dresses, anything fancy. She wanted to play with Barbie. She wanted to do all those things without being told, like, you're not supposed to do that or do you feel differently that that was what she wanted to do. So at four, she started to say this to me occasionally, that she wished she was a girl. And then she started to become very anxious and she couldn't sleep. She would tell me she hated herself, she was dumb and stupid for being a boy who liked girl things. She played with boys and girls both at this point. And we took her to see a therapist. To be honest, it was more just because I wanted my husband to back off and to tell him this is just - who cares? You know what I mean, like this means nothing. She's four. So when she went to kindergarten, that was when things started to get challenging. That was when there started to be more of a gender divide where the boys would play with the boys. The girls played with the girls. And she really didn’t feel like she fit in anywhere because the boys at this point were really sporty, they were playing football in recess. And so this became really hard for her. And so five is when she first started to tell me that she wanted to die, said she would pray to God that she would die. And he would send her back as a girl. And this continued and persisted until she was seven years old.
Karen Ortman [00:04:53] I'm sure that was pretty scary.
Katie [00:04:56] Yes. It was awful. I mean, she was so unhappy in kindergarten. Four was still okay because kids kind of still did their thing, you know. But in kindergarten, she started to become very unhappy. You know, we would try to convince her, like, “Oh, boys can like girly things, you know, there's nothing wrong with this. There's nothing wrong with you. That doesn't mean anything.” You know, I would tell her there's no such thing as boy toys and girl toys. So then she started to tell people, “There's no such thing as boy and girl toys.” And then as she got a little older, she's like, “But mommy, that's not true, everyone’s telling me that that's not true, that there is. And when you go to Toys R US, there's the boys and there’s the girls,” you know. So the older she got, it kind of got harder to try and mitigate her anxiety? And in kindergarten, you know, by first grade - by first grade, that was when she went to a new school and first grade - our elementary's went from 1st until 5th. So the kindergarten is run at a kindergarten center and then we start our district school. And I told her, oh, it'll be different. There's so many more kids now. There'll be more kids to pick from. And it was not the case. She could not - she was so miserable.
First grade, she just was so anxious. Every little thing she did, she was miserable about. The littlest things, she put up a fight. The second she got home from school, she took off all her clothes and would be in my closet, putting on dress up clothes. And we had - my mom had gotten out all of our old prom dresses so she had all those. So she would play dress up and make up stories and plays. And we'd go to like thrift stores and she'd get jewelry, she was really into jewelry, and she would design these dresses. So she was also really creative. I thought, oh, maybe she's going to be, you know, a fabulous custom designer one day.
Karen Ortman [00:06:43] Now, you mentioned your husband earlier. How did he respond to her interest in prom dresses and dresses and that sort of thing?
Katie [00:06:55] He was not happy. I mean, the first time I had to try and convince him to get her the Elsa dress. You know, we’re at Target and he wouldn't let me do it. And I'm on the phone and we leave. She's crying. Finally, he’s like, “Ok, fine”. I go back to the store and get her the dress. I was like, it's just for play. But every little inch I gave her she wanted a bit more. She wanted more, she’d wear it more, then it was next thing she wanted a Victorian dress. You know, her whole Christmas list would be a Victorian dress, lace gloves. You know, she was really into historical fashion. So her whole list would comprise of that. And I would try to give something gender neutral to kind of appease my husband. But, you know, you want the kid to get what they want for Christmas.
Sabah Fatima [00:07:41] What was your initial reaction when she said that she wanted to be a girl, though?
Katie [00:07:47] My heart dropped. Because at the time, this is kind of when the whole Caitlyn Jenner had just come out. And so I think if that had not happened, I don't know if I would have really thought as much into it. But because that was out, you know, that I kind of had remembered seeing talk shows back in the day, maybe, of something on the topic and, you know, I was like, “Oh my god. No, it can't be.” And I remember I was at school the next day. For some reason I was in the office about something. And I don't remember exactly what the deal was, but I came out and I literally just started bawling in the parking lot. And this woman who I didn't even know started hugging me and she's a mother of four, she's like, “Don’t worry, it’s fine.” And I had told her, you know, “My son wants to be a girl!” But it’s funny, you know, those moments you never forget. And, you know, we're still Facebook friends. But ironically, she's a super crazy liberal mom from Massachusetts.
And, you know, not everyone in our town was overly liberal, but it was the right person, I guess, to say that I'd run into.
Karen Ortman [00:09:02] How was the reaction from Sarah's school, when this first started to happen, where she was expressing an interest in wearing girl clothes and making the statements that she wished that she was a girl, and even to the point where she said that she wanted to die because she wasn't a girl. When did the school become involved and what was their response?
Katie [00:09:32] So in preschool it was just kind of like, whatever, you know. And she was Elsa for Halloween. The teacher said the kids all know what she likes, she's always playing Frozen. So what's the difference? Like, I think it's fine here. In kindergarten, the boys started to tease her in kindergarten. But first grade - before we went to first grade, I went and met with the principal because I wanted to get ahead of this, you know, and let her know that we didn't really know where this was going. I’ll never forget, I literally started bawling once again in the office and I even barely got to speak the words out. But I described to her, you know, that Sarah was what they call at the time, gender creative or gender fluid. And she, like, didn't like to - she wasn't your stereotypical boy. We didn't know where it was going. She could end up gay, could be straight. We didn't know. And that she really had been pressing to wear dresses in kindergarten and we were trying to avoid that. But I just wanted to kind of give her the heads up and she's like, “Oh, oh, no, you know, she wouldn’t want to wear dresses here.” So then when she went to first grade, she had a really nice class luckly. And at that point she was getting in trouble a lot, but she also turned out to be ADHD which we didn't know at the time, but so she had this going on.
And she's very impulsive and just says things and her mind is way advanced. But in first grade, she started drawing herself as a girl and she got more and more into jewelry. And then she was really into the Tudor period and she was really into English history. So she wanted to be Anne Boleyn for Halloween. And my neighbor said, I don't think they allow what you would call dress for the opposite-sex for Halloween. Like, what? So I email the teacher, like, my neighbor told us that, is this true? She said, let me check with the principal and then she comes back and says “Yeah, the principal said, no cross-dressing.” So I was like, “Oh, my God.” So I guess this is like, you know, October. I wrote an email to the principal, “You do realize that Halloween is like the biggest day for a gender creative child. It's the one day they feel like they could wear - she could dress like a girl and she shouldn't be teased because it's Halloween, right?” And she's like, “No.” I was like, “Are you kidding me?” So I said, “Well, you can meet Sarah and you can tell her why she can't wear a dress, why she can't be Anne Boleyn for Halloween, because I have no explanation for this.” So needless to say, she was not Anne Boleyn in school, but she was Anne Boleyn in the neighborhood. In school, she was a ghost. And the people that I had met at school that I'd become friendly with were very supportive and very, very cool about it. They were very angered by this. And they wanted to take a stand. And I was like, “You know what? We have so much going on. I don't want some sort of like - I appreciate the gesture, but I don't want a protest going on,” you know. So at that point was when I said to my husband, we cannot raise our child here, you know, this is not looking good. She can’t even be Anne Boleyn for Halloween. We don't know where this is going. It's, you know, in my heart at this point, I knew for sure she was transgender. And I was like, I don't want to be in the school board and having people stand up, you know, I didn't want to deal with it, it would be too difficult. So we started to research schools in New York City and decided that we were going to move and put our house up for sale and move to New York. So one day I got a phone call from the teacher. She said “I just want you to know that Sarah has been telling the kids that she's actually a girl and to call her Victoria. So she hasn't told me, but she told me and told the gym teacher. So, you know, I just wanted you to be aware because I know, you know, you have stuff going on”. And, you know, she knew that we were going through this. So I picked her up from school that day and she said to me, “Mommy, I lied. I have to tell you, confess. I told a lie today.” And I said, “What?” She said, “Well, I told the kids that I was born a girl, but we have all boys in our family. So you made me a boy. But now you told me I could be a girl. I said I'm going to wear dresses. Call me Victoria.” I said, “Well, why Victoria?” “I don't know, I just in the moment thought up that.” I said, “Okay, well, that was a very creative way to try and figure out if they were going to tease you about the dresses. But you're lying and you're making your parents look pretty bad, that we made you do something you didn't. So I think that was very - I understand your intentions were in the right place,” I said, “But can we just dial this down and just leave it? Because I don’t really want to get phone calls that, you know, I made you the wrong gender.” And so she said, “Okay.” But she kept pressing to wear the dresses. So finally, one day, she was hysterical. I mean, we were constantly fighting over everything.
She just became so unbearable about any little thing, she was so miserable. So then she's like, “Why can’t, you know, girls can wear pants, but it's not fair. And I won't, you know, I can handle it, blah, blah.” I was like, “We're moving to New York soon. Like, can you just hang on, you know?” So finally my husband said, just let her wear dresses and I already had some clothes for her because what happened was the therapist told us one time to test it out on vacation to see how she feels, wearing dresses and things like that. That's what they kind of tell you to do, to do it in a place that's neutral, that no one has to know.
And see how the child feels, reacts, like watch how they are. And, you know, when you watch her, you see their face, the way she carries herself. You know, I mean, just the bounce in her walk. You know, those are ways of trying to figure out what really is going
on. But, so she wore a navy blue skirt, it had some stripes at the bottom, but it was neutral and with leggings with those vans. And I was a wreck all day. I think I probably drank wine, you know, a glass of wine at lunch and a crying wreck act like, oh, my God, imagining what's happening. So I picked her up at school and she bops out and she's like, “Nobody teased me and I'm never wearing pants again.” So that was, I’d say, about May first grade at this point, we already knew we were moving to New York. And so I still kind of kept it neutral, but the last day of school I let her pick whatever dress she wanted. And so she picked whatever she wanted because that point I'm like, who cares? But later she did confess to me that she was teased. But I don't think it was mercilessly, you know. I mean, it was not terrible. Not terrible.
Karen Ortman [00:16:35] So at this point is Sam Sarah?
Katie [00:16:37] So now at this point, Sam is still Sam. What happened was. So now this is the spring. And I had found, you know, maybe somewhere around the end of May, a little earlier. I finally found a support group, a private support group on Facebook in New Jersey, for parents of trans kids and gender nonconforming. So I found the support group on Facebook. It's a private group and certain states have their own. I don't want to give the name out, but if someone needs that, they can contact you because it's a private group and you have to know someone to get on it for safety reasons. So this group became my lifeline. You know, this is where I finally got my support and, you know, people who really have gone through this, and my sources, my resources. And someone put me in touch with a woman in the next town who also had a child who transitioned. She gave me the name of her therapist who all along lived - her office was a mile from our house. We started to see this new therapist. And she is the one who helped us transition with Sarah. So now this is May and she helped us sort this out. And I said to her, do you think she's transgender? And she said, well, there's no blood test, there's no x-ray. But, you know, in my experience, working with youth, a gender-nonconforming child does not, you know, want to die and, you know, throw themselves to the ground because they want to wear a dress to school, you know, and and she said there is no harm in following her lead and letting her, you know, transition socially as a girl. Because what's the worst to happen, she changes her mind? Nothing's medical at this point, but there is harm in not allowing it because that is when the level of distress and depression, all that. So that was when I had gotten the book “I am Jazz.” I read it to Sarah. And after I read it and I explained to her what transgender was and that there were people who lived like her, she wasn't a weirdo, she wasn't alone. It was such a thing. And that was kind of her “Aha!” moment. Like, wow, you know, there finally isn’t - nothing's wrong with me, there really is such a thing. So the next thing she said was, “But mommy-” So you know, she was worried about it because she's a singer and didn’t want to get hairy. It doesn't matter, like there's something you can take so you don't get hair and your voice won’t have the change. And she's like, “But what about my penis?” And I was like, “Well, we'll deal with that later. Like, I don't know. Can we just stick with, you’re only, you know, seven.” So the next day she asked me again on the way to school. So I said, “You know, let's just take it one day at a time. You tell me what you want. You know, you want to wear all girl clothes, whatever you need, whatever you want. We're here for you. We're gonna do this together as a family. So whatever you need, we are listening to you.” So it happened quickly then. You know, once she realized that she was transgender and that there were girls, you know, people who live like this. By June, she started to say, well, what about my name? And then that's how we ended up - she came up with these names and I was like, “Can't we just stick with, you know, the same initial?” And then that's how we came up with her name. So she gave me a bunch and we decided on her name together, and you know, start changing pronouns. I said, “Do
you want me to call you she/her? And she said, yes. And so we changed her pronouns. So I really followed her lead, but it happened quickly. So by June, we were using she/her and Sarah. We were making a lot of mistakes. We made mistakes but she was very patient and we moved. And then in July, you know, she started to tell her friends and our neighbors and people, you know, corrected themselves and we moved by August, like August and late July, then to New York City at this point. Now she was Sarah.
Karen Ortman [00:20:56] And going into second grade.
Katie [00:20:58] And going into second grade.
Karen Ortman [00:20:59] And I understand that going into second grade, she prepared a statement that she wanted to share with her classmates.
Katie [00:21:11] Yes.
Karen Ortman [00:21:11] Tell us about that.
Katie [00:21:13] So she started her new school as Sarah. But what happened was, we had originally applied when she was a boy. So we were assigned a family, kind of like a buddy family. So some people knew that there was a boy coming into the school, a new boy, and now all of a sudden there's a new girl. So some kids figure it out or I don’t know if they heard a rumor. So one day a girl said to her, oh, so-and-so is spreading rumors and saying, you're a boy. And then that's when Sarah confided, you know, in her lunch table and said, well, actually, I was born a boy and, you know, told them she was transgender. And then afterwards, she got scared and was obsessed. So she told the teacher, then they called us and decided that she should come out because they didn't want it to feel like people whispering about her. So the next morning we went to the principal's office and she told Sarah that she was gonna introduce gender, just basic information. And they asked her if she wanted the principal to do it or if they wanted her to do it. And she decided that she wanted to tell her story. So she decided to tell her story.
Karen Ortman [00:22:21] And what did she say?
Katie [00:22:23] She said there was gossip yesterday. It was about saying I was a boy, if it is true. It is true, I was assigned at birth as a boy. Since I was two, I gravitated towards things a girl might like. When I was six, I got into a lot of stress. I wanted to wear girls clothes. We talked to a few therapists. Me and my family decided I was transgender, which means if you were assigned as a boy but feel like a girl in your heart, in your head, you are a girl. Where I lived, there wasn't the best community. So me and my family moved to New York City. I started a new school here. I love it, and the school, and everyone, and they make me feel I belong.
Karen Ortman [00:23:07] I love it, wow. And she wrote that herself?
Katie [00:23:11] Yeah. So she read it to the two second grades and all the staff
Karen Ortman [00:23:17] And what strength.
Katie [00:23:18] Yeah, she's incredibly strong, but she suffers terribly from depression, anxiety, you know, like she puts on a brave face. But at night it all comes out.
Karen Ortman [00:23:29] Even now?
Katie [00:23:30] Oh, yeah. Now it's getting trickier because she's nine. She'll be going into fifth grade next year. So now, you kind of have this little grace period or you would think you have a grace period or some people do where you know, now she's like, so happy.
She gets to wear the clothes she wants, her hair is long, she got her ears pierced. But now she's getting older. And now they're kind of the tweens and, you know, some crushes are starting or, you know, people are talking - these kids already talk about sex. It's horrifying. She knows so much already. And so that causes major, major dysphoria.
Karen Ortman [00:24:07] Explain for listeners who don't know what that means, dysphoria.
Katie [00:24:11] So dysphoria is when your mind and your body don't align. So she feels like a girl, but every time she goes to the bathroom, she's reminded that she doesn't have female body parts. And that causes distress. You know, when they're little, like some kids transition even younger. But, you know, she's at the age where now she knows like, well, why do I have a penis. This is weird, this is stupid. You know, she hates it. Every time she takes a shower, afterwards, she's practically crying.
Sabah Fatima [00:24:42] She probably feels like she's doing it all alone.
Katie [00:24:44] Yeah. And you know, she does feel alone. And we do have, you know, support groups where I try and get her to meet other kids like her. But it's hard because just because you both play soccer doesn't mean you're going to be friends. You know what I mean? So it's still hard. No, she knows she's not alone, but it's also like, they're not necessarily in our school or in our building or, you know, in our neighborhood. So, you know, it could be someone from like the Bronx. So it's hard to really kind of build these friendships.
Sabah Fatima [00:25:15] What are common misconceptions about transgender youth?
Katie [00:25:22] You know, people are like, “How could they know, how could a child know such a thing?” People think, “Oh, it's the parents, they wanted a girl.” So, you know. Or, it was just a phase, you know? What I'd say is, and what you need to ask yourself is, when did you know you were a girl?
Sabah Fatima [00:25:44] That's a really good question. I mean, you just know, right?
Katie [00:25:50] You know, what I’d say to them is did your child ever ask you to cut off their penis? Like, what child would say such a thing, you know? Or that they want to die? What five year old child is saying they want to die and cut off their penis. I mean, there's also nothing medical at this point. When a child transitions it’s just social, their pronouns or names or whatever, their appearance or clothes or hair. There's nothing medical at this point. So, you know. And we tried to convince her she could be a boy who liked girl things. I mean, I feel terrible that - honestly, my biggest regret is that I didn't face it earlier.
Sabah Fatima [00:26:30] Can you speak to the challenges that you face as parents raising a trans child as compared to those who are not?
Katie [00:26:38] Well, you're constantly in this unknown. You're constantly putting out fires. You have to worry about if they make a new friend, you're always in this “Do I tell, do I not tell?” But in the same sense, if you tell, you risk them ostracising you. If you don't tell. And then you tell later, then are they gonna flip out? You know, “She'd be sleeping at my house, how dare you.” You know, you're always kind of in this weird situation. The other thing is particularly as they get older, like she's going to start a new school next year, so she'll be in fifth grade. And, you know, it's great. I would love for her - she just wants to be her. She just wants to be Sarah. She doesn’t want to be transgender Sarah. And I get that. But in the same sense, like, well, what happens when a boy has a crush on her? Then what happens? OK, here's the thing. You know, hopefully nothing sexually happens at this age, but you know. What do you do? You know, if she doesn't tell and then later they find out. Or what if she just ignores it? But later on, it comes out. And these boys decide they're going to beat her up. I mean, it's just, the dangers involved are just like crazy. You have to really worry about just love and dating and prom and, you know, that's her biggest thing is who's gonna love me?
Karen Ortman [00:28:07] Is there support for you? And for parents who have those sorts of concerns with transgender children?
Katie [00:28:20] So there's - anytime you need support, the best place to go first is PFLAG, your local PFLAG.
Karen Ortman [00:28:29] What's that?
Katie [00:28:30] They have them in every state. And that was started by a mom of a gay son. And it's basically a family ally. So you can find out resources for anything. They're kind of like, they could give you the resources - Oh, there's this camp here or there, there's a parent group led or these are the doctors, you know. It's a resource for everyone.
Karen Ortman [00:28:57] What does PFLAG stand for? Katie [00:28:59] Parents and friends of lesbians and gays. Karen Ortman [00:29:02] OK. Thank you.
Sabah Fatima [00:29:05] Is Sarah friends with any children that she knew as Sam? If so, can you describe the response that Sarah received from schoolmates who knew her as a boy?
Katie [00:29:15] Yes, she does. We do keep in touch with friends from our town in New Jersey. And, you know, she did transition that July. We had a little going-away party and they came and it was a pool party. And the funny thing is she still played with the boys she played with in her class, but she had a girl’s bathing suit on. No one really said anything. It was just kind of like, I guess the kids who kind of saw it happened, like they weren't really surprised. And I don't know if their parents maybe talked to them a little bit about it.
Probably, because even as it was happening, just the fact that she was different, people who knew me had conversations with their kids, you know, about acceptance and everyone's different. And, you know, everyone doesn’t come, you know, gender isn't binary. So, you know, I just think that I was lucky that I am also an open person, but that while I went through the struggle, I had people there for me and they had people. People asked questions that would kind of speak for us. So really their parents just had
conversations with them. So the first time we see someone, see my friend in New York, when we first got together and we moved here. Her son was very nervous, you know, to now meet Sarah. But once they're together, within like seven minutes, five minutes, it's like a nonevent. Then they're just kids being silly and laughing and giggling and doing whatever. It was a nonevent, you know. But that's also our story. You know, I can't say that that happens everywhere. I'm fortunate to have, you know, people who handled it well. But I would say that the kids got over pretty quick.
Sabah Fatima [00:31:07] What advice would you offer other families with children questioning their identity?
Katie [00:31:14] To follow their lead. You really need to listen. I would say the most important first thing is just to listen with an open heart and try not to give answers or reasons or explanations. Just listen. You really need to follow their lead and educate yourself. And like I said, if you don't know, there's tons of books, you can go online and Google. I mean, there's tons of books, “Becoming Nicole” is one. “He was always my son” is another one. If you went and found one, Amazon would come up with a list. But I would educate yourself and try to get some help. You know, find a therapist and really listen and follow their lead. Because like I said, nothing has, even if they're just questioning, I mean, there's no - nothing is permanent. You know what I mean? That’s the biggest thing.
Karen Ortman [00:32:05] And how's your husband today with Sarah?
Katie [00:32:11] He's great. He's, you know, he totally accepts her. And there's no longer like, you know, eye rolling. You know, it's now kind of our norm. But he worries. And look, I mean, I got to be honest. You're just like, it would be so nice just to have like normal parenting, where you have the normal parent worrying, you know, and your heart just breaks for your child because you know, everything's - their life is so hard. Life is hard anyway. But it's so hard. And you're so worried for their safety. And, you know, everyone gets their heart broken. But for her, trying to find love is a lot trickier than a cis person or even just a gay person.
Sabah Fatima [00:32:57] Yeah, especially because she's thinking so far ahead.
Katie [00:32:59] Yeah. So, I mean, you can’t, you know, the actual surgery, there's no - they won't even consider covering it before eighteen. But that's the other thing when you say challenges. I mean, the costs involved, to find a therapist who takes insurance or even has knowledge on this. I mean, families are really alone. My biggest support has been other parents going through this, more than any other area. You know, I think we've been through three psychiatrists and six therapists.
Karen Ortman [00:33:38] And then there's the PFLAG Organization, as well as private Facebook groups.
Katie [00:33:44] Exactly. And so I have one in New York, a private one in New York, and I have a private one in New Jersey. And there's the Ackerman Institute, which is based in New York, and that is for gender nonconforming and transgender families. It's a family support group. So as a family, you go into support. They have the kids support groups and then the actual families. So that was a big help for my husband to finally meet other families who are going through this and realize they come in all colors, nationalities. And you realize cultures. It's like, you know, more people that are just, we have the same job
as you, and, you know, that was the biggest help because you feel very, very alone and you don't know who you can tell, who is safe to tell, who is going to gossip about you, who's going to say it's okay to your face and that, you know.
Karen Ortman [00:34:35] Where do you see Sarah in 10 years?
Sabah Fatima [00:34:38] I love that question.
Katie [00:34:40] Oh, that’s hard.
Karen Ortman [00:34:45] On Broadway?
Katie [00:34:46] That would be her dream, that would be her dream. Her dream would be in ten years on Broadway or in some sort of, you know, either acting or writing or, you know, everything with her is about theater.
Karen Ortman [00:35:05] Maybe at NYU.
Katie [00:35:06] Maybe NYU. She does want to go to college at NYU. She already talks about that and we're like, fine, we're like, “Don't ever leave New York!” So, yeah, that's what she wants. And she wants to be on Broadway. She wants to be on Broadway like today. So I think she'd be happy later too. But she's happy doing any sort of acting.
Karen Ortman [00:35:32] She'll make it. I think she’ll make it happen.
Katie [00:35:34] Is there anything else you'd like to add before we conclude today's episode?
Katie [00:35:39] I would say, I think, not even just when it comes to this topic, but in general, we need to start looking at each other more from a place of compassion and less judgment. It's so hard to parent anything because you’re judged for everything, you judge what you feed your kid, you know, how your kid acts. People are so quick to judge, if your kid's acting out, it’s the parents. There's so much involved and there's so many kids that are suffering today.
Karen Ortman [00:36:13] So tolerance.
Katie [00:36:15] Yeah. Tolerance. And educate yourself before you go making opinions and saying, oh, these parents, you know, these kids are too young, what's the harm in waiting? That's actually the exact opposite. There's nothing worse. Imagine having to live every day - Just imagine if you hate playing the violin, but your parents make you play the violin, all you want to do is play soccer and how miserable you are. So imagine you're in the wrong body, you're forced to be a boy and you don't feel like a boy. You don't fit in anywhere because you're told that you should wait. The parents should wait because they can't possibly know. So let's have a whole miserable childhood. So before you go making comments and judgments, I think you need to look at a place for compassion. I mean, what parent would want this for their child? It's a hard life, you know, and educate yourself. There's a ton of books on it where you can find people's stories and what these families go through. This is not taken lightly. People don't just do this overnight. Education is the key to acceptance and tolerance. And I think when it comes to everything, we all need to look at each other more with compassion and less judgment.
Sabah Fatima [00:37:29] Well, I imagine you guys are still going through your struggles but I appreciate you. We both appreciate you sharing your story. Thank you.
Karen Ortman [00:37:36] Yeah. Thank you so much for coming in.
Katie [00:37:37] Thank you for having me.
Sabah Fatima [00:37:39] Thank you to our guest, Katie, and to all of our listeners for joining us for today's episode of “You Matter”. Please make sure to share, like, and subscribe to “You Matter” on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and Stitcher.