New Clinic Helps Transgender Children

Lurie Children's Hospital provides resource for families with children suffering with gender issues

A new clinic at Lurie Children's Hospital is designed to help transgender children struggling with their identity.

The clinic's director, Dr. Rob Garafolo, says the clinic already has 30 patients, helping families who didn't have anywhere else to turn for guidance.

"It doesn't happen when you're an adult, it doesn't happen when you're a teenager, someone's gender is determined when they're 3, 4, 5," Garafolo says. "It's not about giving a child a label, or making some sort of extreme intervention early on. The biggest thing our clinic serves is it gives people a sense that they're not going through this alone."

Lisa Salas says she knew something was different about her son, David -- now known as Jae -- when he was only 2 or 3 years old.

"Wanting to play with dolls and wanting pretty things like ribbons," Salas said.

Jae says she had always felt conflicted about her identity.

"In my heart I've always know that I was a girl," Jae says. "I just pretended to be a boy. I was miserable."

A couple of years ago, Shales and Jae watched a show about being transgender and started reading articles online, and things started to click.

"The definition of gay isn't really me because I always knew I wanted to be a girl," Jae says.

Jae started to embrace her femininity, growing her hair, wearing girl’s clothes to a school dance and even getting a school bathroom designated for her use. But they were searching for a doctor who understood the situation, and didn't find one until the Lurie clinic opened.

"Had I known then what I know now, I would have raised her as a girl," Salas says.

Jae says she will soon start taking testosterone blockers to prevent male puberty and also start taking female hormones.

"I'm excited to take the next step toward being a girl. I can't wait to have all the things that girls have," Jae says.

Jae, born as David Jacob Gonzalez, is among the 30 patients at the transgender identity clinic at Lurie Children's Hospital. She describes how it is to live being "uncomfortable in your own skin."

Lisa Salas says she knew something was different about her son, David -- now known as Jae -- when he was only 2 or 3 years old. She describes the impact of having a transgender child on the family.

Dr. Rob Garafolo is the director of the Gender, Sexuality and HIV Prevention Center at Ann & Robert H Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. He describes gender variance and the clinic's goals.

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