"All you need to think about is being yourself. That's the key to success." That is the daily mantra 12 year old Hannah Rini of Providence, Rhode Island says to herself every morning. Hannah, named Sebastian at birth, is a transgender girl who after coming out to her family at the age of 10 has inspired them to create TransFamily New England.
TransFamily New England is a free and confidential group for family members of transgender, gender variant, or intersex people. The Rini family hopes through their experience, to help children and their families navigate the challenges of growing up as a trans youth.
After coming home from school one day, Hannah told her mother she "wanted to be a girl". Soon after her family took her to Dr. Michelle Forcier of the Hasbro Children's Hospital where she treats transgender youth. (Dr. Forcier was a guest on the episode of Katie that introduced the world to Coy Mathis and her family.)
Hannah, before transitioning, says she would force herself to throw up before entering school and said her Tourette's ticks were more intense. Although she says she was not bullied, that is not the case for many youth that express their gender identity in a way that does not conform with the gender they were assigned at birth. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a 2009 survey of 7,000 LGBT students between the ages of 13-21 found that eight out of ten students had been verbally harassed at school; four of ten had been physically harassed at school; and one of five had been the victim of a physical assault at school. In Hannah's case, her family fully supports her and her school is doing their best to ensure she is comfortable and safe. After making the school aware of her decision, they provided a private bathroom for her to use and have changed her name on all school documents. At the start of her sixth grade year she introduce herself as Hannah and has since noticed a decline in her Tourette's ticks.
TransFamily New England will join organizations such has Trans Youth Support Network in Minnesota, Gender Spectrum, and Trans Youth Inc. of Rhode Island has groups that gear their services to transgender and gender non-conforming youth. TransFamily holds meetings the second Tuesday of every month.