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Dear Mom: You’ve often joked that kids don’t come with instruction manuals...

It sure would’ve been nice if they did, though, because nothing really prepared you for having a transgender kid. Let’s face it: nothing about the suburbs of Michigan screams “pride parade.”

So it doesn’t surprise me that when I came out as transgender three years ago, you were overwhelmed.


You told me you’d always wanted a daughter — that you’d imagined the sweet sixteen, the wedding dress, and even being there for me through a pregnancy. You had to grieve the future you’d imagined for me when I was born and all the experiences you pictured us sharing along the way.

Life didn’t just throw you a curveball when I came out — it threw you several. You learned that you had a gay, transgender son… and he’d just run off to San Francisco to be a writer.

But despite all that, your response to my coming out actually blew me away.

Photo by Rémi Walle / Unsplash.

You started by reminding me of something that had happened a few years before.

You asked if I remembered that time I had to get your car towed.

How could I forget? I was backing out of a parking spot, and didn’t realize until it was too late that I’d driven right into a median, impressively burying the tires deep into the wood chips. The more I hit the gas pedal, the deeper I got stuck.

I called you, panicked. Grandpa drove you to meet me, and I’ll never forget your horrified expression when you saw that tiny blue car, tires buried in the dirt. I’d somehow managed to find the only landscaped median in the entire parking lot. It wasn’t my finest moment.

[rebelmouse-image 19346523 dam="1" original_size="4786x3190" caption="Photo by Balazs Koczina / Unsplash." expand=1]Photo by Balazs Koczina / Unsplash.

The car was a little scratched up, but all in all, it survived my disastrous driving. We drove home separately, though, because you needed time to cool off. I was sure you’d be angry at me forever.

But you weren’t. Like always, you came around.

As we recalled that day’s events, you said “Do you know why I came around?”

“Because you love me,” I replied.

“That’s right,” you said. And in that moment, I understood why you brought up my terrible parking job, of all things, when I came out as transgender. Because even if in that immediate moment, when you were overwhelmed and confused, you still loved me.

Looking back, I understand now that there wasn’t anything I could do to make you love me any less.

Sam in 2010 (left) and 2018 (right). Photo via Sam Dylan Finch, used with permission.

Like you’d told me many times before, while the initial shock of something might throw you, there wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle. All you needed was time.

“Though I really wish you’d stop raising my blood pressure,” I remember you joking. Apparently I’m responsible for a good portion of your grey hairs, and I’ll give you that — I can be a handful.

I’ll be honest, I never really expected that you’d stand by me when I began my gender transition. But I’ve been grateful every day since then that you have.

Just a couple months after coming out, you and Dad sent me a birthday card in the mail. As I tore open the envelope, there peaking out was a card with a big rainbow on it. “100% chance of happy,” it read. And there was a little cloud on it raining glittery raindrops.

I was in tears. It was the first card I’d ever gotten that didn’t call me your daughter. And it meant the world to me that on the day I was born, you chose to celebrate me exactly as I was, rainbows and all.

I still have the card saved to this day.

The birthday card my parents sent me after coming out. Photo via Sam Dylan Finch, used with permission.

You never tried to change who I was — because you knew that what made me unique was also precious.

And whenever I told you that I felt like the 'black sheep' in our family, you'd lovingly remind me that I was still your "special child."

You were there to help me shop for men's attire for my brother's wedding, you listened to me as I excitedly blabbed on and on about all the ways I was starting to look like Dad, and I could always count on you to tell me if my haircut wasn't flattering.

What I expected least of all, though, was that you and I would be able to laugh along the way about all this, too.

When my facial hair started growing in, you didn’t skip a beat when you said to me, “Sam, you need to start manscaping.” I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped when you said that to me.

Sam, present day. Photo via Sam Dylan Finch, used with permission.

I’ll never forget when I told you about my surgery, too, and you jokingly asked if the plastic surgeon had a “two-for-one special,” because you had some work you wanted to get done, too.

So many of the transgender people that I know have been disowned by their families. Instead, I have the opposite problem — I can’t seem to get rid of you (not that I’d ever want to, of course). I feel lucky to be loved and accepted exactly as I am. It is what every kid deserves, but too few LGBT people actually get.

Sam, present day. Photo via Sam Dylan Finch, used with permission.

I know you wish you could do this whole “ally” thing perfectly. But what I want you to know is that trying your best is perfectly enough for me.

The truth is, I never wanted you to be a transgender expert or to lead a pride parade (you can leave that to me — I’ve got us covered!). I just wanted you to be there for me.

I can’t thank you enough for doing just that, even when you had your own grief to process. It takes a remarkable kind of mother to not just talk about unconditional love, but to actually love without conditions.

For someone without an instruction manual, Mom, I’d say you’re doing a pretty amazing job.

Love, your "special child,"

Sam

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


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As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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Pop Culture

'90s kids share movies that will 'take you back to a better time'

It was a magical time when animals played sports and yet somehow things were just simpler.

YouTube/Upworthy photo illustration

Honey, I shrunk the kid named Matilda while jamming in space!

Everyone knows that '90s movies just hit different. From sports movies to rom-coms to even horror, there was an undeniable innocence, without being overly simplistic or juvenile. They didn’t have nearly the amount of money going into production as they do today, but somehow managed to transport us to magical places.

Movies of the '90s are so iconic that there have been several attempts to reboot beloved titles. Which, let’s face it, tends to be a fool's errand at a cash grab. These movies are so timeless that simply viewing the original is more than fine.

Not sure which movie to start with? You’re in luck—a Reddit user by the name of YouBrokeMyTV asked ’90s kids to share movies that took them “back to a better time,” and because the internet can be a wonderful place, tons of people responded with some beloved classics.

These answers certainly don’t make a definitive list (there are just so, so many gems) but they're a fun glimpse into what made '90s cinema so special. A nostalgic romp through memory lane, if you will.

Enjoy these 14 titles that just might leave you jonesing for a rewatch:

1. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

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A perfect example of how '90s movies were silly, but smart at the same time. And oh so wholesome.

2. "The Sandlot"

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It taught us nothing about baseball, but everything about friendship, rooting for the underdog and (most important) how to make s’mores.

3. "Drop Dead Fred"

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Critics might have run this cult classic through the mud during its inception, but audiences fell in love with the bizarre charm of this story about a mischievous little girl and her anarchist imaginary friend. So take that, snotfaces!

4. "The Goonies"

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Everyone just wanted to set off an epic quest with their friends for pirate treasure after seeing this movie.

5. Tim Burton's "Batman"

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Before the superhero genre was the behemoth it is today, a quirky director and the dude who was best known for playing the creepy demon in "Beetlejuice" breathed new life into comic-book movies. Marvel might be the leader on creating stories with adult themes that are digestible for kids nowadays, but this DC film was the first of its kind. Plus, that soundtrack … forget about it.

6. "Hook"

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Pretty much any '90s film starring Robin Williams was an absolute gem, but this one in particular is timeless. His gift of balancing childlike humor with emotional gravitas lent itself so well to playing the now grown and cynical Peter Pan, who must learn to reclaim his joy (relatable, millennials?). It was a bang-a-rang-er, no question.

7. "Space Jam"

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It had Looney Tunes, it had aliens and it had Michael Jordan. That’s a winning combination.

8. "Matilda"

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I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this movie helped a lot of kids make their way through difficult childhoods.

9. "The Parent Trap"

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Even '90s reboots were awesome. And how fun it is to see that Lisa Ann Walker—the actress who played Chessy the housekeeper—is not only yet again gracing the screens in NBC’s “Abbott Elementary,” but is also being revered as a style icon on TikTok for her ultra casual looks in the film. We all knew she was onto something with long button downs and shorts.

10. "The Land Before Time"

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No cartoon, not even “The Lion King,” was a better depiction of childhood grief. And yet, despite encapsulating tragedy, director Don Bluth still left viewers hopeful. The subsequent 14 (yes 14) sequels definitely pale in comparison to the original, but "The Land Before Time" continues to stand the test of time nonetheless.

11. "Richie Rich"

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The scene where they play tag on four-wheelers is simply iconic.

12. "Dunston Checks In"

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Man, the '90s were the golden age of animal-centered films. And not just monkeys either—we got sports playing golden retrievers and not one, but two movies starring talking pigs. What a time to be alive. These films were made before CGI had reached the levels it’s at today, and the authentic interactions between humans and creatures reached right through the screen.

13. "George of the Jungle"
george of the jungle, brendan faser

Watch out for the tree!!!

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Have I seen this movie at least 20 times? Probably. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of silly action films with bird puppets. It’s crazy to think that this role would eventually lead Brendan Fraser to "The Mummy" franchise, turning him into a household name. Though his career has had some tragic ups and downs, we are all grateful for the glorious comeback he’s been having.

14. Anything involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
mary kate and ashley

Yes, they were professional detectives.

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Whether vacationing in London, Paris or Rome, whether playing magical witches or making a huge billboard so their father could find love … Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered zany, whimsical entertainment while wearing fun outfits. Sometimes, that’s all you need.