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Transgender Day of Visibility: Call me Kade.

“Gender is the poetry each of us makes out of the language we are taught.”— Leslie Feinberg

On the last day of March each year, we celebrate International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV). It’s a day to celebrate the beauty and richness of the transgender community and the gifts we bring to the world and each other. It’s also a day to recognize that while the visibility of transgender, non-binary, two-spirit and other gender diverse identities is increasing, there are still many in our community who do not feel safe or comfortable sharing their authentic selves, and many who are punished in big and small ways for their gender identities and expressions.

This year, I am choosing to celebrate TDOV by making parts of my identity and my journey more visible to all of you. It’s not just transgender and non-binary folks who have a gender journey — we all do. We all have a gender identity; we all use pronouns and we all explore gender expressions that feel best to us at different stages of our lives. As you listen to my story, I welcome you to reflect on your own gender experience.

What messages have you been given about your gender identity and expression? Have you ever felt you couldn’t express parts of your authentic self with others? Did you ever feel trapped or boxed in by society’s expectations of girls and boys or men and women? Have you ever been misgendered? Were you given a name at birth that doesn’t feel like you and adopted a chosen name or nickname as a result? If you take time to reflect as you listen to my story, you may find we have more in common than you think.

Part 1: Tomboy

I was raised in the 80s — in an era of Barbies and Star Wars, Cabbage Patch Kids and Hot Wheels. As a child, I was largely given the freedom to play with all of these things and more. I was rarely told that my interests and toys were “for boys” and yet, I knew that I wasn’t as feminine as my female peers. I remember the day I marched all my dresses into my parents’ room and told them I was done wearing them, which they largely accepted. And I remember the day that same year that my parents proudly presented me with my new bike — a pink “girls” bike with a “banana” style seat. While I graciously accepted the gift, I (not so) secretly coveted the dirt bikes that all the boys in my neighborhood rode.

I was a girl who was allowed to be masculine and play with the boys. I was an athlete, I played hard, I spoke up and I stood my ground. When I was a kid, I never once heard the word transgender. I never knew about things like gender identity and gender expression. I knew there were boys and there were girls, and then there was me — a kid everyone called a “tomboy.”

Part 2: Coming out

After graduating high school, I headed to college, and in addition to dorm living, the mysteries of organic chemistry and the rigor of playing college basketball, I was also exposed to new language and new ideas that expanded my worldview. In college, I learned about oppression for the first time, I learned about privilege, and I learned new words to describe myself, including the romantic feelings and crushes that I had long experienced but had never been given the language to describe.

At age 19, I came out as gay. As a young gay person, I was still a “tomboy.” By that time, my hair was cut quite short, I began to wear more masculine clothing and I discovered that in the world of the LGBTQ community, I was considered “butch” or what queer theory described as a “masculine woman.” I was fundamentally me, that same tomboy from the school yard, but now had new language to describe myself to others and to myself. And with this, I began to feel a little less alone. I read about more folks like me who shared my identity and expression, I met more folks in the LGBTQ community who looked like me and I felt like I had an identity that felt more like home.

Part 3: Finding community and new language

After college, I moved to Minneapolis, and as I started medical school, I also found a vibrant LGBTQ community to explore in the Twin Cities. My understanding of what it meant to be queer expanded once again and I was introduced to the concept of being transgender. I devoured information about gender identity and expression, participated in queer community events, and began to advocate for improved health care for the LGBTQ community, particularly transgender folx, who at the turn of the millennium, were experiencing horrible discrimination in health care and beyond.

I learned more language, new words, to describe the poetry of my gender identity. I adopted the identity of “genderqueer” to describe the tomboy I had always been and expand on the narrower identity of “butch lesbian” that I had embraced in college. Being “genderqueer” gave me permission to be a “both/and.” I could be masculine and not male. I could embrace femininity without identifying as a woman. This in-between language was new to me and felt even more like a fit than previous words I had encountered.

As I moved into my professional medical career as a pediatrician, concepts of gender identity and expression within and outside of the LGBTQ community continued to expand. I learned so many words and identities that were being newly introduced, and I began to lay down deep roots with many friends who identified as transgender. As I watched some of those close to me adopt new names, new pronouns and begin medical journeys of transition, I was once more given the opportunity to reflect on my own identity. As a former tomboy and now queer and genderqueer adult, I realized how feminine my given name, “Angela,” sounded to my ear, especially when paired with “she/her” pronouns. Just like a pair of too-tight pants, that name and pronoun combination eventually began to feel too constrictive. In my late 20s, I adopted the name “Kade” for close friends to use to refer to me.

Part 4: Non-binary

In my mid-30s, I legally changed my name to Angela Kade Goepferd, adopting my chosen “nickname” as a legal middle name. While those in my family and in my professional life largely used the first name, “Angela,” my LGBTQ community largely called me “Kade.” As I became a parent, adopting the chosen parenting name of “Mapa,” a combination of Mama and Papa, reflecting my “both/and” gender identity, it became more important to me to show up as my authentic self in all settings. I wanted my kids to be proud of their parent, even if I didn’t look like other “moms” and “dads.” And to make that happen, I needed to first find the most authentic version of myself to claim with pride. And then, I learned a new word: non-binary.

Non-binary fit me like a glove. Not a boy. Not a girl. Not binary. Beyond male and female, embracing both identities while being neither. That little tomboy I was as a kid stepped confidently into this adult identity. New words, new language…same me. As I began to identify as non-binary, the pronouns “they/them” were gaining traction; in fact, “they” was the Merriam-Webster word of the year in 2019.

Part 5: Call me Kade

In my life outside of Children’s Minnesota, I confidently introduce myself as “Kade” and use they/them pronouns. It feels like me. It fits. It’s the “athleisure” pants for my gender identity that I always wanted when traditional pants felt too tight and restrictive.

My kids know that their Mapa is non-binary, both a boy and a girl, both a mom and a dad. I dress in clothes that feel like me, down to my extensive collection of bowties.

And until recently, my professional life as “Angela” and “she/her” or “she/they” was relatively separate from my personal life as “Kade” and “they/them.” But as my work in gender health has increasingly changed from simply providing essential medical care for kids and families to professional education and advocacy to protect the rights and health of transgender and gender diverse kids, my worlds have begun to collide. What was at first a minor discomfort has now become a sign that it’s time, once again, to make a change. A new poem is ready to be written.

So, to all who are reading this — colleagues, community members, friends and family — call me Kade. My journey with my gender identity and expression has given me new words and a new language to write the perfect poetry of who I am. My name is Kade, I use they/them pronouns and I am a proud queer and non-binary pediatrician, parent and member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Dr. Kade Goepferd, (they/them)
Chief education officer and medical director of the Gender Health program

Dr. Kade Goepferd, (they/them), is the chief education officer, pediatrician and medical director of the Gender Health program at Children’s Minnesota. Dr. Goepferd is an advocate for advancing equitable health care for all children – including trans and gender-diverse youth. They have been named a Top Doctor by both Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine and Minnesota Monthly for the last several years and gave their first TED talk, “The Revolutionary Truth about Kids and Gender Identity” at TEDx Minneapolis in 2020.
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