Nurse’s message during Pride Month: Unconditional love

June 28, 2023 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council of Edward-Elmhurst Health: We are DRIVEN to create a culture in which all races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, physical abilities and socio-economic backgrounds can meet, share, learn and flourish in an accepting environment. By creating platforms and opportunities that allow us to come together, we can begin to know and understand each other. And through better understanding, we can effectively meet the needs of our diverse patients and deliver on our mission.

Susan B. Smith, APRN, has been an advanced practice registered nurse at Elmhurst Hospital for over 20 years, and her husband Matthew B. Smith, MD, has been a gastroenterologist with Duly Health and Care, in affiliation with Elmhurst Hospital, for 30 years. Susan and Matthew raised their four children in Downers Grove. Susan recently joined Edward-Elmhurst Health’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council as an LGBTQ+ advocate and shares a personal story about their son, M, during Pride Month.

According to his parents, M is a fantastic writer, witty improv comedian and a friendly barista working in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. You wouldn’t know it, but life’s journey hasn’t been simple for this creative, introspective and caring young man. Along the way, his parents have stood by their commitment to love and support M as his story unfolds.

Growing up, M always felt different. He was assigned female at birth but opted to dress like a boy. At the young age of 3, M even asked to change his name from the female name given at birth to a boy’s name. Unfortunately, school and friendships were tough, and he never seemed to fit in.

When he was 21 years old, M gathered with family to celebrate Father’s Day, where he asked to share an announcement. M came out as gay. Earlier as a teen he didn’t quite know what those feelings meant or how to express them.

Immediately after sharing the news, his family responded with love and acceptance. His parents told him they weren’t going anywhere and would always stand by his side. His three siblings claimed that they already knew, and of course they would continue to love him.

Through his mid-20s, M continued to explore his identity, and he looked for ways to connect to his true self. On the outside, that looked like shorter haircuts and wearing a suit, instead of a dress, to his cousin’s wedding.

On the inside, M explored gender-neutrality and began using they/them pronouns. Eventually, M accepted his identity as transmasculine – a person assigned female at birth and whose gender identity is male. He changed his name to M and started using he/his pronouns in addition to they/them. M sought gender-affirming healthcare and moved to Andersonville, where he found a welcoming environment and built a circle of genuine friendships.

Navigating this journey has been tough for M, who is now 30 years old. Along the way, his parents have tried to uplift him with unconditional love and support.

“You love your children no matter what,” Susan shares. “We have embraced the journey and just want our child to be happy. We’ve supported M to do what’s best for him.”

Susan wants to empower people to have open communication with others. Something as seemingly small as asking someone how they like to be addressed (such as their name and pronouns), can have a big impact. Being respectful, non-judgmental and attentive to other people’s needs helps all of us create safe, welcoming spaces and more enriching communities.

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