WellesleyWeston Magazine

SUMMER 2017

Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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Alex was very clear in his preference for the boy Spiderman. Lauren notes, "I thought I was going to have a tomboy." From ages two to five, Alex gravitated toward all stereotypically male things: boy Halloween costumes, the color blue, and boy characters in television shows. "Looking back," Lauren says, "I think he thought if he chose boy things, this would solve the problem." Lauren and her husband, Steve, supported Alex's preferences. Alex was "happy and funny" until about age five, but in kindergarten, things changed. "He started to have behavioral problems — temper flares, dis- ruptive episodes," Lauren says. Alex also developed depression, anxiety, and ulcers. And while he did well in school, relationships were difficult; he wasn't connecting with many kids. By second grade, Alex's preferences were only increasing. "He really put his foot down. He refused girl clothes and begged for a boy haircut." have no more depression and anxiety than non-transgender children. Dr. Carswell witnesses this firsthand. "The kids who come to us at younger ages don't have gender dysphoria because they're getting the support they need. Society as a whole is so much more accepting. It's such a joy to see." " i a m n o t a g i r l " Lauren Leahy's realization that her 10-year-old son, Alex, might be trans- gender occurred in stages, and, like Merrill, Lauren has specific moments that she remembers well. Her first memory was when Alex, born Alexandra, was two and they were visiting the theme park Story Land. "There was a face painting station with hundreds of faces to pick from. Alex pointed to Spider Man. It wasn't what I was expecting. I pointed to all the feminine faces." FROM A VERY EARLY AGE, Chris Edwards knew that the girl staring back at him in the mirror wasn't him. Born and raised in Wayland, Chris was extroverted and fun-loving. But after struggling with gender dysphoria, depression and hope- lessness ensued. He couldn't bear the thought of continuing to live his life in a body that didn't match his gender. In 1995, at age 26, he chose to affirm the gender he'd always been in his heart and mind, coming out to family, friends, and coworkers. He was working at a high-profile Boston ad agency when he transitioned. He applied what he'd learned in advertising to "rebrand" himself, orchestrating a remarkably well-received gender transition — at a time when the word "transgen- der" wasn't part of the vernacular. His memoir, BALLS: It Takes Some to Get Some, is told with candor and humor. He dis- cusses the confusion and isolation of growing up in the wrong gender, and finding happiness after completing his social and physical transition. Had Edwards grown up in society today, he would have welcomed the chance to socially transition and start hormone blockers at an early age. "Transitioning before puberty kicks in defi- nitely has advantages," Edwards says. "I could've avoided the trauma of getting my period and growing breasts. I also could've been taller and developed the build of a biological male. I'm 5'4", so my best chance when I began transitioning was convincing every girl I knew that flats were making a comeback (nobody bought it). My hands and feet are also small (for a guy), and I'm very self-conscious about it. Of course, the opposite applies for kids transition- ing from male to female. Tall, big feet, big hands — they are just as self-conscious. Their bodies would develop a smaller, more female build, and estrogen would prevent the adam's apple from developing and facial hair from growing. So transitioning prior to the onset of puberty gives kids a better chance of 'passing' as their affirmed gender later on. There is no better feeling than looking in the mirror and seeing the real you in the reflection. Transitioning early gives kids that gift — a gift so many people who aren't transgender take for granted." With tremendous support from those he loves, Edwards endured 28 surgeries to complete his physical transformation. But that wasn't the worst of it. "The most painful part of my journey wasn't all the surgery," Edwards notes. "It was the 25 years leading up to it when I had to pretend to be somebody I wasn't." He thinks it's great that Caitlyn Jenner has opened up a dialogue and taken this topic mainstream, but feels her life is un-relatable: "No parent can look at her as an example and say, 'Oh, well, Caitlyn did it. My kid will be fine.'" According to Edwards, more "everyday" success stories from regular people can show trans kids, their parents, and society as a whole that being transgender doesn't have to define you. "That's one of the main reasons I wrote this book," he says. "That voice is missing." Edwards' advice to a transgender adoles- cent? "You can build a successful career, get married, have a family…be whatever and whoever you want to be. The pursuit of happi- ness is your right. You can live a full and happy life just like everyone else." Chris Edwards' Story 96 Transitions W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | s u m m e r 2 0 1 7

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