“Living with Change” looks to change the LGBTQ conversation

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Sometimes, we find our calling in life. Other times, our calling finds us. 

Chris and Jessica Cicchinelli didn’t know their calling would be to help transgender children and their parents—until the issue hit home. When their own child, born a boy, insisted she wanted to dress, and be identified as a girl, Jessica and Chris, the CEO of Pure Romance, started doing research on where to find help on what to do next. 

“When we first started looking into this we thought, are we the only people in the world dealing with this?” Jessica said.  “As we were looking for resources we found there was a Transgender Health Clinic at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, but there was a six month wait to get in. We were fortunate in that we were able to get in early, but we thought, how about all the other families who need help now?”

From that need came Chris and Jessica’s foundation, Living with Change, launched early this year. The foundation has four focus areas: Family support, offering resources and programs for parents; safe schools, in partnership with Cincinnati Public Schools, to provide training for principals, superintendents, teachers and classrooms; safe work spaces, to offer corporate training to businesses in the region in order to create safe workplaces for transgender people, and policy to ensure the right for transgender youth to have equal access to safe schools, public places and health care. 

Today the Cicchinellis, through Living with Change, announced a $2 million pledge to Children’s to increase resources for the clinic, create a learning network and start a Center of Excellence for LGBTQ care. 

“Since the launch of the foundation in January I can’t tell you the number of people who have come to me saying my child, my nephew, my cousin is transgender or just came out to me,” said Jessica. “There are so many people who need help because in March the clinic saw its 1,000th patient. And that’s just the need in our area alone.” 

Within the clinic, experts work with transitioning children and their caregivers. Outside the clinic, Jessica sees the clinic’s mission expanding to one of education. “With the foundation we want to educate everybody. We want to take the information to businesses, any school in the area, free of charge, go in and train their teachers, administrators, counselors and help them with diversity and inclusion.

“Schools, camps, churches, we’re talking about doing a general training for anybody who wants to come in and get training on their own,” she said. “The thing I keep saying is what you don’t know about, you’re scared of. Once you’re educated, I think it opens people’s minds and they’re not so scared because they understand it better.”

As for their own child, who now goes by the name LC, Jessica has the same hopes and dreams for her daughter as any mother would. “I want her to feel safe,” Jessica said, “I want her to feel like any other person walking down the street. I want her to feel like she can go away to college and not be scared to live in the dorm and go out at night. 

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“I want her to feel safe when she goes to interview for a job, when she gets a job, in her place of employment, I want her to feel safe to go to the gas station and pump gas. I want her to feel included, to be herself, and I want everyone that’s different or dealing with these things to feel the same way. 

“By showing our love and support for our child, we can teach people to love and accept others. Whether or not it’s your child, or the person next to you, who cares? Let them be them. In the end, it’s safety and acceptance. I just want people to accept, so I believe educating will hopefully do that.”

About Cincinnati Children’s Transgender Health Clinic:

  • Has served over 1,000 unique patients since its inception five years ago, and has tripled its patient base in the past two years
  • Serves patients between the ages of 4 and 24, with approximately 50 patient visits per week
  • Meets families where they are in their journey
  • Include an assessment and support of the patient and family and uses evidence-based treatments and expert opinion to guide care 
  • The treatment plan for each patient is individualized based on the needs and preferences of the patient and family or guardians
  • Meets an important health need, and is a resource for our community, as approximately 2 to 3 percent of the population is transgender

The Living with Change Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to providing education, resources, and financial assistance to families, friends, teachers, and the community while fostering confidence and acceptance through change. Find out more at www.livingwithchange.org.

Alex ReillyPROFILES