KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Katelynn Jenner’s transgender experience was very much in the public eye last year. Out of the spotlight, dozens here in the metro have already made or are making the decision to transition their bodies to the gender they say they’ve always been in their brains. One metro woman says she’s now living her truth.
As a child, Madeline Johnson, then named Matthew, felt her body didn’t match who she really was.
“I can remember having dreams about being a girl at a very young age,” Johnson said.
She’d ask for a Barbie doll.
“And my mother, in particular, was always one to very quickly direct me away from that and tell me, ‘No, you’re a boy’,” she recalled.
But living as a boy, then a man, never felt real.
“Inside, I was miserable. Always, I was miserable.”
The attorney says in her early forties, she did a lot of spiritual reflection and then went to the Transgender Institute in Kansas City. It is a first stop for people considering transitioning.
“Gender therapy really means helping people figure out whether or not it’s an appropriate step for them,” said Caroline Gibbs, the founder of the institute and a licensed professional clinical counselor.
Gibbs has had more than a thousand patients of all ages over the past 16 years.
“Some people do decide not to transition. I would say it’s very rare,” she said.
In the past year, she’s seen 25 percent more patients. The magazine in her lobby, which has Jenner on the cover, hints at why.
“People are feeling safer to come out of the closet,” Gibbs said.
Johnson started transitioning in 2012, before Jenner, and doesn’t think Jenner represents the transgender experience.
“She’s had financial resources that so many folks in the trans community don’t have,” Johnson said.
The institute refers those transitioning from male to female to clinics for hair removal, and all patients are referred to doctors for hormone therapy. They must be on it the rest of their lives.
Dr. James Mirabile is among a growing number of doctors providing care. Patients no longer have to engage in risky self-treatment.
“It was more of an underground thing and that’s what exposed people to buying hormones on the internet or (being) improperly treated with dosages that could be harmful,” said Dr. Mirabile.
“After starting hormones, I felt natural. I felt me. I felt like me,” Johnson said.
She sees Dr. Mirabile every three months to have a pellet called SotoPelle injected.
“The hormone is continuously there in the method we’re doing,” he said.
“I just noticed a steadiness, more evenness,” Johnson said.
She wouldn’t discuss whether she’s had surgery. Gibbs says most do have it.
“Not critical from the outside, but critical in their hearts. It’s truly a devastating condition and it’s so important to have surgery,” the counselor said.
Johnson said her transition went well professionally.
“Nobody has ever said anything unkind or mistreated me in any way,” she said.
After a year, the transition was complete.
“I’m female. I’ve always been female. Now I’m living my truth and much, much happier for it,” she said.
She said her body wasn’t congruent with her mind and spirit. Now, it is.