SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Local transgender teen, Sam, is sharing his adoption success story, hoping to inspire others to support transgender youth - especially the children in foster care, who are waiting to find a loving and accepting forever family.
There's now laughter and joy among this family of four that once faced multiple challenges and struggles, beginning with heartbreak years ago when Ron and Kathie, who already had one daughter Jacqueline, wanted to have a second child.
“I actually had five miscarriages over four years and so I just couldn't go through that process anymore and we decided to turn to adoption,” explained Kathie.
But through their sorrow and grief they discovered a blessing in disguise because their new path led them straight to Sam.
“I would have died, if they hadn't stepped in when they did,” said Sam.
Sam, who's now 15, was adopted shortly after birth. Born 13 weeks premature with fetal alcohol syndrome, Sam was still in the NICU and was only two weeks old, when Kathie and Ron began caring for the medically fragile baby. It was at that time they knew in their hearts Sam belonged to them.
“One of us was with Sam almost 20 hours a day,” said Kathie. “When you're fighting for your life, you need a support system and that's what we wanted to be able to provide.”
Sam's prognosis was uncertain.
“They expected him to have cerebral palsy and not be able to walk,” continued Kathie.
Sam proved doctors wrong and has thrived through the years. He's an accomplished gymnast and martial artist, who has persevered through life.
“I mean doctors said he wasn't going to walk or talk. He's a third degree black belt, by the way. That's amazing! You know? That's amazing and I think it's a testament not only to him but to my parents as well,” said Jacqueline.
But Sam's biggest challenge, by far, is the fact that Sam was born a girl.
It has been the most confusing struggle of my entire life,” said Sam. “It's throughout my entire childhood, "I'm a boy, I'm a boy, why are people giving me these pink dresses, these girly gifts? I play baseball, I wear blue, I play with the boys, I shave my head. What are you not getting about this message?"
Sam came to us, assigned female at birth, and for the first 10 years of Sam's life, that's what we thought,” explained Kathie. “And then we found out, after a series of long, depression for Sam and anxiety and a lot of issues that really Sam had identified as a male from birth.”
With the full support of his family, Sam transitioned from girl to boy at the age of 11 and had surgery to flatten his chest.
“After I woke up from the surgery, I literally thought, I must have died, because this is too good to be true,” explained Sam. “My family is behind me, I'm getting to be who I am, my chest is flat.”
He celebrated by jumping into the pool without a shirt.
“I was like, I'm in heaven, life is just too good,” Sam added.
With help from Sam, his mom now runs a non-profit group to help other transgender youth. They talk to families in the adoption and foster communities about the need for supportive homes, spreading the word that adoption is a cherished gift.
“It's made our family complete because there was that missing element that one we struggled to have that now we have,” said Ron the father.
A legacy Sam hopes to continue.
“I do want to adopt a child, because I know that when a child needs your help, they need your help and I want to be able to help a child, and bring them into my life and they can make me as happy as I can make them,” Sam said.
If you are interested in adopting or becoming a foster family, please call 1-877-I-ADOPT-U.