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Emma

All of our child's life we've tried to uncover the root cause of persistent anxiety, and recently we received the answer. Andreas let us know that he is transgender. Earlier this week we met with the world's leading transyouth doctor, Dr. Johanna Olson (also at CHLA), in one of our first major step toward supporting our daughter, Emma. In the last few weeks all of the close friends and family have learned of this news and have been supportive, which has been a tremendous comfort to Emma.

Our education of the transgender community has been swift after having only seen a program on 20/20 and knowing of Chaz Bono. We now know that between 1-200 and 1-500 people are gender non conforming, and all are unique in their own expression of gender. We have also learned that because of concerns of social acceptance forty-one percent of transgender people attempt suicide at some point. What Emma and those who are gender non conforming experience, or rather suffer, is Gender Dysphoria. This is where a person has a extreme discomfort with the sex they were assigned at birth and identify themselves as the opposite sex.

Since Emma was 4, she has experienced a general state of anxiousness and unease, which was most probably gender dysphoria that she was unable to fully recognize and has known that she should "act like a boy", because that's what society expected. At 8, she was able to articulate to herself that she felt like a girl, but felt confused, as she was unaware of what these feelings meant, and felt as if she was the only one, and needless to say was mortified as of the idea of sharing it with us. At 10, she began researching. By 12, she identified as Transgender, and with the onset of her male puberty, her internal situation became dire. The effort it took to keep this secret for all these years is unimaginable, as well as the toll it has taken on her. This explains years of bullying and struggle with school, and the resulting testing, therapy, and IEP, with only a general "emotional" disability determined, with no specific diagnosis. A psychiatrist once said Andreas (Emma) was an actor, not ADHD, bipolar, etc, and this is certainly what it took to play the part of "boy", along with near genius level of perceptual reasoning. She is one of the smartest people we know.

She told us last year that cancer were nothing compared to what she endured in elementary school and middle school. At the time we couldn't comprehend how she could diminish such significant life events, but now we get it. She told us in the past that she would have likely committed suicide if it were not for her cancer diagnosis. Cancer treatment became a distraction and the chemo's led Emma to feel more androgynous (gender neutral), due to lack of hair and such, as well as the chemo seemingly knocking back puberty enough to quell the dysphoria and suicidal ideation for awhile. Additionally the embrace of the community made Emma feel truly loved, which meant, and continues to mean the world to her.

The transition is happening rapidly, and must happen for Emma's wellbeing. She has never been so happy in her life. We took photos and she is beautiful. She's been in public with friends, doctors, ect. However, when Emma went to a friend's birthday party 2 weeks ago as Andreas, and the gender dysphoria returned to a moderate extent, as to quote her, "It is a very polarizing difference to go from being truly happy, back to that terrible feeling of being trapped within one's self, rather than that feeling being persistent and numbing, like the shock of jumping in to freezing water."

In only the last few weeks it has been difficult to keep the 2 personas straight depending on who we are talking to (unimaginable what Emma has endured), and we realized this has not been unlike the cancer diagnosis, where life does a 180 and communication can become overwhelming. Time is a gift and we don't want to delay Emma's life for one second... so we decided, with Emma's approval, it was time to move forward openly and honestly with our entire community.

Nothing could make us happier than to see our girl, who has suffered so much, live an authentic, happy life where she doesn't have to hide. Dr. Olson described how even a little pronoun slip can be a mini-crisis, so all we want is to support and assist the transition as smoothly and quickly so that Emma's life can be as routine as possible. She deserves this!

Now for cancer news... the good news is that SCANS LOOKED GOOD!!! Treatment side effects are minimal, and to quote Emma, "this is the most laid back chemo that 'she' has been on thus far". The most bothersome part of the current situation is the unknown. Being that Emma has been fighting and survived this cancer for so long, she has exhausted all known treatments. She has utilized the top 7 chemo drugs and the top 3 trail drugs, none of which have completely eradicated the cancer. If the current chemo fails, we have but one more option that holds promise. Emma is acutely aware of this and is the source of much fear and anxiety.

Time is such a gift and every second is so precious... not a second will be taken for granted.
Emma has started taking yoga classes, and is wrapping up some schoolwork at home. Sunday she'll meet her good friends Annina & Simone at Okizu for a week of volunteering as a dishie. Every day is a new evolution in the journey, and every day the butterfly continues to emerge, despite a few bumps in the road so far.

Dr. Olson recommended this link for educational resources http://www.imatyfa.org/.

In regards to the above link,

It is of the utmost importance that society becomes more educated and openly accepting, of LGBT people, with open arms, as societal stigma, and the atmosphere of hate towards LGBT people, especially trans people led me to nearly kill myself self when I was 12. There is no logical reason why we as a society should hate others for being different, whether it being something as simple as being tall, short, fat, or something a bit more significant such as having cancer, being racially discriminated, or being on the LGBTQ spectrum. It is, I feel, our duty to do what we can to change society so that 41% of trans people don't attempt suicide, or anybody for that matter. If nothing else, please just love each other for being who we are, beautiful in our own right, and openly accepting of one another as to not lead some to feel pressured to cram oneself into the archaic boxes that society would have us occupy, which for some, can be too much to bear.

-Emma

Not to be lost in Emma's larger-than-life journey, Bo has been plugging away at school and has committed to road cycling full-time now, and recently earned 3 bronze medals at the state championships. Soon he will be heading to Mammoth for an altitude camp before heading to the National Championships in Madison.

Gratitude for support you have given our children is immeasurable... Thank you.

Also, if anyone has any question feel free to ask as Emma is opened to fielding any questions.

Deb and Roy
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Comments

30 Comments

Julie Stephens
By Julie Stephens
Emma is truly blessed to have a loving, supportive and accepting family. It helps her to be her best, when she knows you are right there beside her through her life journey. You have taken all the right measures for your child and you are applauded. She is a beautiful girl with a lot going for her and that's what we should all look for in our kids. My son is a transgender male "ftm" (female to male). He has brought courage and inspiration into my life I never knew I had. I would love for the two of them to communicate. Prayers and good thoughts to all of you <3
Sherrill Almes
By Sherrill Almes
Kathy dulski
By
I read the latest treatment update and at first I was confused. I missed this entry. Sending support and prayers for this journey called life and all its twists and turns both positive and negative.

Peace and healing!
cp: isthisasgoodasitgets
Kathy
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1 person hearted this
Mary Frintner
By Mary Frintner
We are a Dr Olson family too. Blessings on your journey. My Ftm son is so much happier expressing his true self.
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1 person hearted this
Beth Mize
By
Ouestion please. What is a "dishie?"
I am praying for you and. Your family.
Beth
PICU RN Georgia
Susi Wissink
By Susi Wissink
Emma, you inspire me every day. Thank you for sharing your story. I have watched others cram themselves into boxes that do not fit and have seen the devastating consequences. If we all could be more open and vocal about our acceptance of these beautiful individuals, the voices of hate will be drowned out. For such a young person, you are very wise. Much love to you.
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3 people hearted this
Dawn Van Bramer
By Dawn Van Bramer
Thank you for being brave and sharing. Emma, you look lovely! Here's to happiness when we find our true selves!
All the best!
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2 people hearted this
Rebecca Fleming
By Rebecca Fleming
What an amazing story. There is just so much I love about it. Emma, you are brave and so very strong. Your parents are awesome. What a gift to have parents who get it and understand.

I hope every day of your future is only as sad as the happiest day of your past.

Love and hugs!!!
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1 person hearted this
Valerie and Carl Armstrong
By Valerie and Carl Armstrong
The Best to you, Emma and may your life NOW be fulfilling.
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3 people hearted this
lenora engeldrum
By lenora engeldrum
Dear Emma, You are a very brave soul. I know you will find the happiness you deserve