By Nanci B.
If you would have asked me 15 years ago what a trans person was, I would have probably said it was someone who liked to dress as the other gender. I would have been partially right but that wouldn't have even begun to scratch the surface of what being trans means. Fast forward about 14 years, ask me again, what a trans person is and I would say it is my son. My son who was born a female and realized that he isn't living in the correct body. About age 14, he began telling friends that he thought he was in the wrong body. He then told me. Immediately the tears welled up and my heart started racing. How could this be? How could the little girl that I dressed up in frills and lace as a baby be this person telling me that the body doesn't match what's inside?! What on earth do I do to help my child and where do I start looking for resources? I came across an article in the Willamette Week titled "Transgender at 10" and I couldn't believe my luck; this was exactly what we needed. The T-clinic is operated by Legacy Health Systems and works with kids up to age 18. Thoughtful, kind and knowledgeable the staff helped me through very new territory. Legacy is committed to the health and care of the trans community and they have adult services as well.
In addition to finding the T-Clinic from this article, we were connected with the TransActive Gender Center. This organization offers counseling, support groups, and loads and loads of information such as navigating name changes.
OHSU also has a Transgender Health Program. Through their website, you can find doctors who are knowledgeable, staff who are kind and services that are vital. Just in my 15 minute phone call with them, I know that I have found advocates that will help guide us through transition.
Heath care is not the only obstacle that trans people face. Having a supportive educational team is vital. What if a trans person has not legally changed their name yet? Will they be harassed or embarrassed by people asking so many questions?? Will they be told that they can't use that name?? Fortunately in Portland, Portland Community College has made it easier for trans students. PCC has the highest rate of Trans and non-conforming students among community colleges in Oregon and one of the highest rates in the country. They have added initiatives for these students such as using preferred names and pronouns and gender neutral restrooms. My son was able to graduate from PCC using his preferred name even though it has not been legally changed. Portland State also offers the use of preferred name and pronouns for their trans students. The website offers resources for their trans students and also for the community outside of PSU.
The Lambda Legal website has a great list of trans resources ranging from name change requirements to immigration issues.
Basic Rights Oregon lists tips for allies of the trans community in addition to information on OHP's trans inclusive health care coverage that was effective January 1, 2015.
Multnomah County Library has a database, Teen Health and Wellness, that provides information on a variety of issues including gender identity and coming out. Multnomah County Library also allows for the use of a preferred name on all library accounts for those people who have not yet legally changed their name. Just inform a staff member that there is a preferred name you would like to use and we will update your record. All correspondence will be addressed to the preferred name.