“Sam transitioned around 11 or 12 right before seventh grade,” says author and LGBTQ advocate, Leslie Lagerstrom speaking about her child, Sam, who was “assigned female at birth” before transitioning to become male around the age of 12. “That whole time, I wanted to hear from another parent who had been through this, but there was nothing out there on the subject.”

Lagerstrom will be co-presenting an upcoming event at the Osceola High School highlighting gender, identity, and sexuality with Dr. Todd Savage, a Professor of the School Psychology Program at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. 

Being a mother of a transgender child, Lagerstrom has presented in many locations with Dr. Savage for the sake of educating those who want to learn about the subject. With hardly any information, or people to talk to during Sam’s transition, Lagerstrom started writing about her journey in her blog

“I just started writing, and I was writing for other parents,” she says. “Once it was out there, it started getting picked up by a few national magazines. From there, people wanted me to come out and speak, so here I am nine years later. Todd and I figure if we go someplace and just one person walks out of the room with a better understanding, it was totally worth our time.”

While Lagerstrom will present her firsthand experiences as a mother of a transgender child, Dr. Savage will stand with her in presenting the studies around gender, identity, and sexuality.

“Over the last six years, more and more kids are coming out as transgender, or gender diverse,” Savage says. “Because of that, schools are scrambling to best meet their needs. So, Leslie and I have been in almost 100 school districts educating school staff and community members on what gender diversity is, how schools can support students, and what families can do to support students who identify this way.”

According to some statistics that Dr. Savage and Lagerstrom will be covering at the event, 80 percent of transgender identified adults report having become aware of their true gender identity before leaving elementary school, or by the age of 10 while only four percent of transgender adults report becoming aware of their true gender identity after the age of 18. 

“When you think about that, 96 percent of transgender identified adults were aware of their true gender identity before finishing school,” says Savage. “So, this presentation is about making people aware of what this is, how prevalent it is, and what schools and communities can do to be supportive.”

This is a free event open to anyone who would like to attend at the Osceola High School Auditorium January 15 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event is funded by an AODA grant written and submitted by Osceola High School students and is created in partnership with the Osceola School District, Osceola Medical Center, Osceola Police Department, and the new Osceola Inclusive student group.

“This event is about getting the most current information that’s available on gender identity and sexuality and tying it into the context of supporting youth in our community,” says Osceola High School director of instruction, Becky Styles. “It truly isn’t meant to be any sway this way, or that. It’s deliberate information. Anyone who is interested, or curious, or has ever had a question, this is a great place to get it answered. We would love to see a full auditorium of people who want to learn.”

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