Madison Magazine

February 2019 cover story, “The Person They Were Meant to Be”, by Maggie Ginsberg


More and more children are openly identifying as a gender that’s different or more complex than the sex they were born into. About 9,000 Wisconsin middle school- to high school-aged kids self-identify as transgender, nonbinary and gender expansive/nonconforming, or TNG. Some families of TNG kids — ages 4 to 15 across Dane, Jefferson and Rock counties — talk about who they are, what they need and why it matters.

As soon as Trish could talk, she told her parents she was a girl.

Her father, Mike Winter, is a burly, gregarious stay-at-home dad in Lake Mills, a community of 5,898 people that’s about a 20-minute drive from Madison. Winter is known as the friendliest guy in town, inviting everyone within shouting distance to his frequent cookouts and garage parties. His wife, Jen, is a pediatrician, their daughter Katie is in sixth grade, and Trish — born a boy named Patrick — is now a fifth-grader.

“Do you remember telling me you thought the nurses gave you the wrong body when you were born?” Jen asks Trish, who doesn’t — she was too young. But it was Trish, not her older sister, who first brought Barbie dolls into the household. Trish — still Patrick, then — was too anxious to use the boys’ bathroom. Wanted to be the flower girl in a family wedding. Wanted to be called beautiful instead of handsome.

“When we were playing the Meet the Parents [board game] when she was still a boy, she always wanted to be the girl,” Katie remembers. “Yeah, and Katie was so nice to let me,” Trish adds, sending a sweet smile her sister’s way. There’s a lot of love in this family……