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From Robert To Emma: The Journey Of A Transgender Minnesotan

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Caitlyn Jenner told the world what the transgender community needs while accepting an award for courage last week.

The former Olympian announced months ago she would begin living as a woman.

A transgender woman from Minnesota made the same decision, and she is now documenting her very personal story.

The name Emma Thrumston was given at birth traces back to male tradition.

"My birth name was Robert Edwin Thrumston the Third," Thrumston said. "I was named after my grandfather and after my father."

But Thrumston says there were differences her family could not ignore while growing up in Colorado.

"I think my mom kind of noticed that I wasn't as boy-like as a typical boy my age would have been," Thrumston said.

It would take nearly 30 years for Robert to become Emma. Now the person used to hiding is instead detailing her decision to her blog readers around the world.

"The truth is that inside of this male physique, beneath the facial hair and deep voice, there is a frightened and terrified woman," Thrumston said.

It all started as a secret when at 8 years old, she would sneak away to dress in her mom's clothes.

"It was something that I felt definitely very ashamed about because I was a boy -- I'm not supposed to wear women's clothing," Thrumston said.

Thrumston made friends in school, played sports and dated girls. But there were bouts of depression that had him consider suicide.

Those feelings were pushed aside after Thrumston and his girlfriend Sarah, a Minnesota-native, were married six years ago.

"I always knew that I was married to a man who was more effeminate and more sensitive and kind of had that quiet nature," Sarah Thrumston said.

But Sarah says there were never conversations about the possibility of a transition until Thrumston had a powerful dream last fall gave that gave him the strength to finally speak up.

"I knew that whatever changes she went through on the exterior, the same wit and sense of humor and intelligence would all still be there," Sarah said.

Thrumston says Sarah's positivity was all the encouragement she needed.

"It was like, 'Okay, I'm not going to do this alone,'" Thrumston said.

While there are no statistics that exist in Minnesota on gender identity, it is estimated that 0.3 percent of the adult population is transgender. That would make more than 12,000 Minnesotans.

The state became the first in 1993 to pass legal protections that protect transgender people from discrimination.

A current bill at the capitol would tell transgender students which sports teams they can join and which restrooms they can use. Backers believe it is a matter of privacy and safety.

Monica Meyer is the executive director of OutFront Minnesota.

"When people feel like they have to hide parts of themselves, when they feel like they can't be who they are, we're all losing out," Meyer said.

Advocacy groups like OutFront Minnesota consider that bill a step back. Meyer says there are still many challenges transgender people face in this state.

"We just have more work to do," she said.

It is why she applauds someone like Thrumston for coming forward to fight back against stereotypes.

Working as a paralegal, Thrumston gave the notice she was most nervous about last month.

"I actually sent an email to the entire law firm," she said.

She informed her colleagues of her new name and her decision to live as a transwoman.

"It was like a 10,000-pound weight had been lifted off," she said. "I didn't have to be a man anymore."

Thrumston will continue to share her story, believing her visibility will give courage to others.

One Minnesota study found 77 percent of transgender people polled experienced workplace harassment, 57 percent have been harassed in public places and 43 percent had attempted suicide.


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