Is Philly the New Transgender Capital of the World?

With specialized surgeons, counselors and support services in the City of Brotherly Love, many who feel trapped in the wrong body are coming here to find their true identities.

Transgender reassignment surgery in Philadelphia in Philadelphia magazine September 2013

Before Patrice Golgata pushed through all the crying and questions, before she started looking for a surgeon, before she got in the car to drive her unhappy son from New Hampshire to Philadelphia on what she considered a life-saving mission, she was feeling pretty good.

She was a single mom of three, and worked as a nursing assistant. Her family’s problems seemed routine. Money required managing; the kids always needed something. But the good outweighed the bad. Even her son’s odd behavior was only a nuisance.

At 15, Shane held “good kid” status. Painfully shy, his long hair covering his eyes, he spoke little. He had a few close friends, and they played video games for hours. But he didn’t get into fights, didn’t sneak out, didn’t experiment with drugs and alcohol. So Patrice wasn’t all that concerned when she caught him stealing his sister’s clothes.

She would enter Shane’s room to put something away and there they’d be—skinny jeans, tank tops, underwear, folded in a tight pile in a drawer or under blankets.

What’s this about? she thought. “I was just fooling around,” Shane would tell his mother. And that was enough.

Then she found small plastics bags filled with water, lolling incongruously in his sock drawer. Oh, she’d think, he and his friends must be having water balloon fights.

In his sophomore year of high school, Patrice told her son: Stop the nonsense. Then she found her daughter’s underwear and skinny jeans in his room for the sixth time. Or was it the 12th? She’d lost count.

She sat down at her computer, opened a Web browser, and typed in various combinations of words, all meaning: My son habitually steals his sister’s clothing. The computer spat back one explanation, link after link, page after page:


My boy, she thought, wants to be a girl?

Patrice Golgata didn’t understand what was happening, didn’t understand that more kids than ever, at younger ages, are stepping forward to say they are physically trapped in the wrong body, the wrong gender.

No way, she thought. Not Shane.

Even in the midst of denial, however, she was already on her way—to a different life, and to Philadelphia, a city that has quietly become one of America’s leading hubs to help you when the child you always took to be a boy, or a girl, comes and tells you that God has made a terrible mistake.