A few weeks before the November issue went to press, our photographer Elizabeth Lavin told me about a project she had been quietly working on for the better part of a year. Lavin and her colleague Jill Broussard have been taking portraits of children as part of an ongoing photography series that documents patients receiving treatment through Children’s Health GENECIS program. GENECIS is the Southwest’s only pediatric clinic for treating gender dysphoria, the distress that may occur when an individual does not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.
The images tell their own story – striking portraits of joy and innocence, warmth and individuality. For their presentation in the October issue of D Magazine, I was tasked with telling the other side of the story, the part about Dr. Ximena Lopez, the UT Southwestern Medical Center doctor who helped launch the GENECIS program and has pioneered the treatment of transgender children in Texas.
The need for GENECIS is clear: 30 percent of transgender youth report at least one suicide attempt, and 42 percent report a history of self-injury. At Dr. Lopez’s clinic, they find more than treatment, they find new hope, familial reconciliation, and the support of a community that Dr. Lopez can only describe as a kind of family. Particularly in Texas, where the depth of misunderstanding and the social and religious taboos perhaps run more deeply than elsewhere, Dr. Lopez’s work is vital and necessary. This is made evident by the dozens of families who travel hundreds of miles to visit GENECIS, and its success can be witnessed in the depth of feeling and emotion expressed by Lavin and Broussard’s images.
This feature is not the end of the Lavin and Broussard’s project. They will continue to document the children at GENECIS and hope to organize their images into an exhibition. As more details emerge, we’ll keep you informed. In the meantime, you can read about Dr. Lopez and see their work here.