FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Every year in the middle of November individuals and organizations around the country participate in ‘Transgender Awareness Week’ which focuses on the issues members of this community face.
It’s a time to take a closer look at the mental, physical, and emotional challenges for those who make the decision to change their gender identity.
For decades both Jimi LeGette and Sasha Medina lived the lives of heterosexual men. They got married, had children while looking and projecting every bit ‘male’, though, for both, it never felt quite right.
“It wasn’t until my late teens, early 20′s that I felt something was off, something wasn’t lining up,” said LeGette.
Medina felt different at a much younger age.
“I knew since I was four,” she said. “I was like, ‘why am I not wearing that?’, and the reply was ‘Oh no, you’re a boy, you must wear boy clothes,’ and I was like, ‘what is a boy?’”, Medina said.
When both made the decision to transition from male to female, it was far from easy and a process they moved through slowly and carefully.
“I’ve been living my life a certain way for so long you don’t just slam on the brakes and put it in reverse,” said LeGette.
“The physical shift is very intense and what’s associated with that is the psychological aspect,” added Medina.
The transition starts first on a mental, more than a physical level.
“People don’t wake up one day and say ‘gee, I think I want to change my gender,” said therapist Carol Clark, who has focused much of her career on the transgender community.
Clark helps clients work through the emotional and psychological effects of changing their gender.
“They need help accepting themselves. They need help figuring out, ‘How am I going to live in a world and negotiate a world that is binary and tells me I have to be this way or that way’”. Clark said.
Plastic surgeon Dr. Rian Maercks specializes in physical transformation.
“I just saw early in my practice patients in need,” he said when asked why he became involved in this aspect of plastic surgery.
Creating physical changes is painstaking, but Maercks never waivers from his desire to help his clients feel complete.
“I look at the patient and see what’s the biggest change I can get that will most benefit the patient with the least amount of downtime and least amount of invasiveness,” he said.
The journey’s for LeGette and Medina have been long, at times difficult, but both said they finally feel comfortable in their own skin.
“I’m learning my life all over again but the idea is to persevere, to keep moving forward, and the universe will give us little clues that we’re all on the right track,” said LeGette
“Now I can deal with life and its situations. This doesn’t make problems go away, but now I’m at a level playing field with life,” said Medina.
Friday also marked a day of remembrance for those in the LGBTQ community whose lives were lost to acts of transgender violence.