Beauty In Being Trans – The Ziffer Family’s JourneyTransgender teen August Ziffer, center, with his parents, Janet and Andrew. Photo provided to Decaturish
By Lucas Hill, contributor
Dunwoody, GA — This year, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed SB-140, which prevents transgender people under the age of 18 from accessing hormone treatment.
One transgender teenager and his family say they will not be silenced.
August Ziffer (Auggie) is a 17-year-old transgender man that lives in Dunwoody with his parents, Andrew and Janet Ziffer. Auggie initially came out as non-binary to friends and family in 2020 and later again as a trans man in the summer of 2021. In the summer of 2022, he began Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) to help with his physical and mental gender dysphoria.
The decision to take hormones is big, and Auggie and his family were sure to do their research before starting.
“There were lots of doctor visits, pediatricians, discussions…we made this decision with a lot of professionals involved,” said Andrew Ziffer, Auggie’s father. “It was not a spur-of-the-moment thing. Some people think it’s a whim…It was really not that. It was done with a lot of info.”
Auggie has pre-existing medical conditions, so the family carefully ensured that hormones would not interfere with his well-being. He began with a quarter dose of testosterone; he increased it to a half dose six months into that. He first noticed physical changes — such as his voice deepening — three or four months into the process.
“It was very affirming to see something that I had wanted for so long finally come true,” Auggie said. “…I’m living pretty authentically.”
Since starting HRT, Auggie has been misgendered less and less by strangers and in public. His mother, Janet Ziffer, mentioned a recent experience where a Delta employee told her to, “scan your boarding pass, not his,” referring to her son. Such a small interaction may not seem like much, but to trans people, it can be affirming and a source of gender euphoria.
“It was a non-event,” Janet said. “And it was very impactful for me.”
Although Auggie is under 18, he has already started HRT and therefore is not directly affected by the passing of SB-140. However, the Ziffers know plenty of other families and trans kids who have been hurt by this new law.
“[These families] are being forced into a decision by politicians instead of doctors,” Andrew said. “… There’s a big undertone that [politicians are] doing this to protect children and protect trans children, and there’s so much hypocrisy involved in it… If they truly were doing this for the care of children, they would be providing services for transgender children, like psychiatry… Georgia even has a lite version of these laws, and other states are getting more severe…there’s a whole new wave of LGBTQ legislation that is just unreal.”
“People have no idea about the actual physical implications of [the law],” Auggie added. “The people at the receiving end are real people. I am a teenager just like anyone else. I play with my cats. I’m a little too addicted to my phone. I drive my parents nuts. These are things that are universal.”
Janet called the new laws “distressing.”
“Some of the legislators don’t even know the statistics,” she said. “They can’t tell you how many children are affected, how many children are having surgery, how many are on hormone treatments…They could have taken the time to set up a committee and thoroughly research the issue…they just rammed it through. They pretty much gave up on what is reasonable legislative process in order to take advantage [of trans kids].”
Auggie said hormone replacement therapy saved his life.
“If I was not on HRT at the time that I was [sic], it would be very, very hard for me to imagine a life where I would make it past 18,” Auggie said.
Faith has also played a large part in the Ziffer family’s journey. Auggie has fond memories of going to Atlanta Pride with other children from his temple, even before he himself came out.
“[Temple] has always been a really wonderful community that I can take two pieces of myself and put together in one space in,” Auggie said. “One of the first people that I came out to was my rabbi.”
Auggie views his rabbi as a role model, with whom he has had many talks about gender in the Torah and how gender identity is viewed in Judaism.
After Auggie’s coming out, the Ziffers’ temple approached them with an opportunity to talk and share their story for the High Holy Days. Auggie and his family were extremely grateful for the chance. Both Auggie and his mother spoke, and the experience was educational for all involved, with many audience members thanking the Ziffers afterward.
“I think there’s a time when everything seems really hopeless, and it’s ok to be sad about these things because these are very emotional times,” said Auggie, when asked if he had any words for trans kids that are affected by the laws restricting hormone treatment. “Keep relying on your friends and your family, and if they’re not supportive, create your own kind of community… There is always something to look forward to.”
To parents of transgender children, Andrew and Janet advise leaning on communities for support if possible.
“Find other like-minded families,” Janet said. “…I have found huge support from moms of other trans kids. Find a good therapist, whether for your child or for your family or for yourself…There’s tons of online communities that can be supportive and help you.”
“If your faith community does not support you, go find another one,” Andrew added.
Auggie said transitioning has been worth it, despite the challenges transgender people face.
“Being trans can feel like a curse sometimes, but it is really one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me,” said Auggie. “…I get to not be boxed in by societal standards and norms, and I get to break free and be authentic to myself. It can be really, really hard sometimes, but there is really an inherent sense of beauty in being trans.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information about this family’s location. This story has been updated with the correct information.
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