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Meet Kathie Moehlig of Trans Family SOS

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kathie Moehlig.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Kathie. So, let’s start at the beginning, and we can move on from there.
My desire to be of services to others has been with me my entire adult life. I was ordained as a minister at age 30, not because I wanted to be a minister of a church giving ‘sermons’ on Sundays but because I wanted to serve others. I have worked or volunteered for nonprofits my whole adult life.

Starting in my early twenties, after I became clean & sober, I realized that my passion revolved around helping others. I found myself always being the first one at events lending a hand and being one of the last people to leave ensuring the ‘clean up’ was done. Whether it was a dinner party at a friend’s house or a large gala, I found being of service was my way of connecting with others. Six years ago, my 11-year-old son, ‘came out’ as transgender. This was not a huge surprise.

After watching him struggle with anxiety and depression for years, we were relieved to now understand the source of his struggles. When he started his transition, there were so little resources to help trans gender youth in San Diego. There was only one support group in San Diego that I was so grateful for but nothing else. What I did know at the time was that there was so much I did not know. I knew it was imperative that I learn.

Since there were no doctors in San Diego treating transgender youth, the few families we knew with trans youth were going to Los Angles for treatment. The first place I started was finding a doctor at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego to treat my son. It took some work but I found one, and that has now turned into several doctors in the Rady network who treat trans youth.

While on the journey, increasingly other parents were reaching out to me asking for help and guidance. They needed someone to walk alongside them to be able to have someone to lean on. From challenges with school to extended family, and medical questions, so many issues can come up.

Through word of mouth, folks would direct parents to me. They would say ‘go talk to Kathie she has done that’ or ‘Kathie can help you with it.’ And of course, if there is assistance I can offer I will. So really the organization kind of started itself! I believe that all my years of serving in nonprofit has prepared me to do this work!

Has it been a smooth road?
Nothing in life is a smooth road, is it? Life is messy and the more we get into it, the more success we will experience. In some of my greatest struggles, I have found the strength that led me to peace. For TFSS we have had some tremendous growth in a short time. Much more than I thought we would experience when we started.

Most nonprofits struggle with some of the same issues, lack of funding, keeping board members active and engaged, getting your message out. I am grateful to others in the nonprofit world who have helped to coach and guided us. The biggest struggle is always FUNDING.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Trans Family SOS story. Tell us more about the business.
TransFamily Support Services is a nonprofit organization that serves transgender and non-binary folks and their families. We provide navigation for this very challenging journey. TFSS serves all ages but focus especially on youth.

Research shows us that a trans and non-binary youth whose family does not accept their gender identity have a 58% suicide attempt rate. In stark contrast, youth who have at least one parent that accepts them only have a 4% suicide attempt rate. The two key factors we see for these youths are family acceptance and support. TFSS guides parents with education, support, and resources to be able to move to acceptance and being a support for their youth.

Many times, we are working with youth before they have even come out to their parents. TFSS provides them a safe place to process & practice what they want to say. We believe the ‘coming out’ process is really inviting in. This is a very intimate experience the individual is having, and they hold the power as to whom they want to invite into the experience.

One of the services we provide that is not being provided elsewhere is that we serve families in their home. We go to them to have these important and intimate conversations. As the transition process begins, we walk alongside the youth and their family, offering navigation for what can be a difficult process. TFSS helps in planning a process for sharing with family and friends, finding the right medical provider, and ensuring insurance are covering the cost of medical transition.

All of these details can be overwhelming. TFSS is proud of the community networking we have done, and the over 200 medical & mental health providers who have been trained on Trans needs and issues in the area. Training and education is an important part of our work. Whether it is in the healthcare field, school staff, or employers; we believe that when you know better, you do better.

Most folks just need a little education and exposure to become allies. I think one of our greatest accomplishments is seeing a youth go from quiet, withdrawn, depressed, and anxious to happy, smiling, making eye contact and engaged in their lives. We are privileged to witness this on a weekly basis.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
We are looking forward to expanding our volunteer force to be able to serve even more families. Growing our support group network to other areas of Southern California and expanding into more states.

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