Surgery Unburdens Transgender Boy
April 14, 2016
By Peter Rowe
The night before his surgery, Rancho Bernardo’s Sam Moehlig woke up several times. “Then I’d see it’s 2 in the morning and go back to bed.”
He rose at 4:30 for breakfast, his last meal before his 2 p.m. operation in a Thousand Oaks clinic. Going under the knife, the 14-year-old said later, “was kind of like a dream.”
“It was just pure excitement,” he said. “I was finally getting rid of something that had been bothering me for years.”
Sam, who was born female, got rid of his breasts.
Gender reassignment operations are controversial, especially for minors.
Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego will not recommend surgery for anyone younger than 16 because of the irreversibility of the procedure. Said Dr. Maja Marinkovic, medical director of Rady’s gender management clinic: “Adolescents may not have the capacity to make informed decisions.”
Sam’s surgery came after years of anguish and depression. His suicidal thoughts eased when a psychiatrist suggested that Sam might be experiencing gender dysphoria, the intense sense that one’s body and sexual identity are in conflict.
More counseling followed, as well as hormone blockers, testosterone shots and constant talks with his parents, Kathie and Ron, and his sister, Jacq. Sam’s struggle has been a team effort.
Sam’s double mastectomy was “the next step in our family as our family grows and gets closer,” said Ron, 62, a service advisor for a local automobile dealership. “God has plans for everybody.”
Samantha was born Oct. 20, 2000. The Moehligs adopted her from her homeless birth parents, tending the baby through fetal alcohol syndrome. Breathing was such a trial, her skin would turn blue. The infant needed nine medications and, from the age of 6 months until 3, feeding tubes.
Despite this fragile start, Samantha grew up to become a boisterous kid who loved sports and sci-fi movies. While she thought of herself as a boy, her body had other ideas. Her breasts began developing around the age of 9, plunging her into what Kathie calls “the deep dark.”
COMING OUT AND “INVITING IN”: TRANSFAMILY DIRECTOR KATHIE MOEHLIG TALKS ABOUT CHALLENGES FACING TRANSYOUTH
March 3, 2016
By Melanie Yarborough
At Neutral Corner’s February meeting, Special Guest Speaker Kathie Moehlig gave an inspiring talk on her work as Executive Director of TransFamily Support Services (TFSS), a non profit that assists families and trans youth on their journey. Her discussion touched on raw, difficult truths, but also featured enlightening observations and humorous anecdotes.
Kathie is the proud mother of Sam, her teenage trans male son. She freely admits that Sam is privileged to have “a Mom who has a big mouth and is not afraid to use it… and who won’t take no for an answer”. She is a regional director of PFLAG (a support and advocacy group for parents family and friends of the LGBTQ+community) as well as a Unity Minister. In addition, she has many years of experience as a parent counselor and motivational speaker.
A transgender child’s coming out can be scary for parents, and Kathie has seen parent reactions cover the spectrum from loving acceptance to brutal rejection. So she shares this thought with concerned families: “It’s not a matter of coming out. It’s about inviting in. This is an intimate path your child is on, and they want to invite you in.”
Mom of Trans Teen Pushes for Resources
That Could Have Saved Her Son
Kathie Moehlig, who helped the Prescotts through their darkest hour, has started a new family advocacy organization.
JULY 3, 2015
Katherine Prescott’s transgender son, Kyler, took his own life after being bullied online. Still in mourning since his death in May, Prescott is urging people to get behind a family friend’s effort to bring more resources and support services to trans teens and their families.
“It is my hope that Kathie will have the opportunity to support many trans youth and their families, so that we as a community can better embrace these amazing kids,” Prescott, 47, of San Diego, tells The Advocate.
“Kathie” is Kathie Moehlig, a local advocate for transgender rights and mother of a 13-year-old son named Sam, who is also transgender.
“Since Kyler passed, I have a far deeper sense of urgency to get this out there; this void I think we can fill,” Moehlig tells The Advocate during an interview at her home in San Diego’s Rancho Bernardo neighborhood.
In the wake of Kyler’s death, Moehlig has launched TransFamily Support Services, and she is currently in the process of securing nonprofit status. Already, the group is providing local families with intrafamilial coaching and support and advocacy around educational issues specific to trans youth, in addition to guidance navigating the health care system — for parents and for their trans children — and the myriad legal concerns that come with being or loving someone who is transgender.
Early efforts to launch the group were under way even before Kyler’s death. Moehlig helped the Prescotts deal with the onslaught of media attention that quickly followed their son’s death by suicide. Advocating for the Prescott family crystallized in Moehlig’s mind the need for the organization’s mission, and accelerted the pace at which TransFamily Support Services took shape.
“I’m an ordained minister, so for me to say that I ‘minister to the Prescott family’ is an easy thing to say,” Moehlig says. “I don’t know if they would put it that way. But when Katherine called me and told me what happened, immediately my thought was I have to drop everything and get over there now.“
San Diego Transgender Teen Shares Struggle With Gender Identity
Monday, June 29, 2015
Sam Moehlig’s 11th birthday was unlike any he had before.
It was the first time he was addressed as a boy.
Sam, who was born Samantha, had battled depression and anxiety over gender identity struggles.
The Rancho Bernardo teen is now 14. He was the first patient to go through Rady Children’s Gender Management Clinic, and after years of taking hormone blockers, the Moehlig family feels it is time for Sam to take the next step in his gender transition.
“I always knew it from a young age — it was ‘I’m a boy’ but I never had the words to say it,” Sam told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday. “It was just confusing.”
It was confusing for his parents too.
Kathie Moehlig, Sam’s mom, said her son became depressed when he began going through puberty.
“He became extremely depressed and anxious,” said Kathie Moehling who is starting a nonprofit to help other families. “It took us a couple of years to figure out what was going on.”
But when Sam was introduced to the process of changing his gender — he was able to be himself.
“I woke up one morning and I was happy,” Sam said. “I could be proud of who I am.”
JUNE 6, 2015
Like teens everywhere, Rancho Bernardo’s Sam Moehlig can’t wait for school to end. He’ll play video games, hone his martial arts skills, perhaps visit his favorite place, Disneyland.
Another highlight: In July, this 14-year-old who was a girl at birth will undergo surgery to remove breast tissue.
“When I found out I could be a boy,” Sam said, “it was oh, yes, sign me up!”
An unusual sentiment, no doubt, but no longer unheard of. On Monday, ABC Family network will premiere “Becoming Us,” a reality show about a teen whose divorced dad is becoming a woman. A day later, an Olympic champion formerly known as Bruce will appear on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine, wearing a slinky outfit that displays her new curves.
In the transgender community, Caitlyn Jenner’s debut is applauded. But for non-celebrities — especially teens and their families — this public makeover is almost irrelevant.
We are thrilled that the society is talking about it,” said Kathie Moehlig, 53, Sam’s mother. “But Caitlyn has the privileges of prestige and money that most trans people don’t have.”
Jenner has another advantage: She’s an adult. “Trans teens” like Sam embark on a journey that can be as daunting as anything endured by adults, while also undergoing the strains of adolescence. Voices and bodies change in unwelcome ways. Self-confidence, rarely a strong suit among teenagers, can plummet to lethal levels.
“At first, I was confused about what’s happening to my body,” said Kyler Prescott, 14, a Vista resident who was born a girl but identified as a boy. “This is wrong, this is not supposed to be happening to me.”
SAN DIEGO – For the first time, the first child to be treated at a local clinic for transgender youth is talking about his trip back from the abyss.
From his Star Wars themed bedroom to a busy schedule which includes gymnastics and other sports, Sam seems like your typical 14-year-old boy.
But Sam has not lived a typical life.
A tomboy since early on, Samantha always felt like a boy.
By age 9, there were thoughts of suicide and daily anxiety. “I started puberty and things started to grow, so I would try to push it physically back into my chest until it was purple. I would think,’I want to die. Get me out of here.”
Soon after, Sam became the first child enrolled in the Gender Management Clinic at Rady Children’s Hospital. Sam received hormone blockers, which blocked him from maturing into a woman. Later, he received doses of testosterone. “If my mom hadn’t done the research and I hadn’t gotten what I need, I think I would be dead,” said Sam.
More than 70 trans youth are enrolled in the program, which includes counseling services.
“I think Rady Children’s Hospital helps normalize something that isn’t always understood and allows trans youth to feel supported and understood,” said Kathie. Kathie runs a program assisting families of trans youth or young adults.
Sam says he now wakes up every day happy. “Because I’m living my true self, the person I’ve had in my heart since preschool. Open the door and I can let myself out and be in the world,” said Sam.
A transition within a transition:
learning from San Diego transgender
teen Kyler Prescott’s death
SAN DIEGO, California – On Monday, May 18, San Diego transgender teen Kyler Prescott died by suicide. He was 14-years-old.
Imagining what it feels like to live inside a body that doesn’t feel genuinely yours might be hard to understand for some, but close friend of the Prescott’s, and mother of a transgender teen herself, Kathie Moehlig talks about Kyler’s life and the challenges transgender children face within the world and within their ever-evolving selves.
Kathie Moehlig got to know the Prescott family through transgender support groups around San Diego. The two families became friends and created a support system within their own circle. The grief stricken Prescott’s have given Moehlig permission to speak to SDGLN on their behalf.
Moehlig explained that Kyler was slowly emerging as a transgender teen a few years ago. The family was in full support of Kyler’s journey, even asking the teen if he minded the pictures around the house of him in dresses. Kyler was fine with that Moehlig said. Some transgender teens are more comfortable making their announcements, or transitioning at a slower speed than others.
This was the case for Kyler, “Probably starting a few years ago there was some gender fluidity; transition has been at Kyler’s pace,” Moehlig said. “Some teens when they come out, they come out and that’s it. Other teens tend to flow between the genders. He chose male pronouns, but was completely comfortable with the family still having all the pictures up of his childhood. Because in Kyler’s world a guy can wear a dress.” Kyler was involved in the youth group in North County, the youth group in Hillcrest and The Transforming Family support group.
These organizations helped Kyler to understand what he was going through and offer a stable environment for talking about and sharing feelings on his transitioning. “Kyler wasn’t necessarily an activist for the trans community,” Moehlig said. “However Kyler was a very outspoken activist for marriage equality–and since pre-school age, a huge animal activist. The family has a small little zoo, and Kyler really connected to animals. He did amazing art, sketching. He was also a very talented pianist and he loved to write stories and poems.”
Moehlig said that Kyler was well supported within most aspects of his life. There were a few times when he was mis-gendered by others and had to endure the rigorous challenges of just being a teenager, but overall Kyler was met with acceptance and approval. Unfortunately, the developing teen was unable to come to an armistice between the battle of puberty and the pace of time.
“It just was too hard.” Moehlig said. “Teens once they start that seed of puberty, or whenever age it is they come out we typically start them on hormone blockers. And that just stops whatever puberty is happening in their body. For some kids they just stay on blockers for a while. And with more gender-phobic kids that gives them time to kinda figure out who they are.”