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Voices of Viatris
By: Niki Kapsambelis
June 1, 2023
In hindsight, as is often the case with parenting, it all seems so clear.
But in real time, when David Marin’s younger son, Leo, began transitioning his gender to male, it happened incrementally -- across a span of a few years.
“We started seeing snippets that the gender that Leo was assigned at birth wasn’t the right one fairly early on: you know, 9, 10, 11, 12,” said David, Viatris’ Head of Corporate Affairs for North America. “His definition of himself, his understanding of himself, evolved over time. And now he’s a young transgender man.”
It started with a social transition. Leo changed the way he dressed, then asked to be called by different pronouns. David and his wife, Ellen, supported their son’s journey with gender-affirming care, including a therapist, doctors, hormone therapy and top surgery.
“As a parent, you watch his voice deepening, his shoulders broadening; you watch him becoming himself,” David said. “And you’re just filled with joy.”
Even so, the road to manhood was complicated, both for Leo and those who love him. Now 18 years old, a lot of his transition occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, when schools were closed and social interactions scarce. As someone who is highly social, Leo struggled with the absence of in-person interactions with his friends and support group.
He also is entering adulthood during a particularly volatile time for transgender people, with political and societal backlash, and his parents are all too aware of the potential consequences from that backlash as their son graduates from high school and heads to college in the fall.
“He’s fierce. He’s a leader. He’s theatrically and musically super talented. He’ll do great things,” David said. “But he’s also going to face hate and division most of us don’t have to face. So that’s why we try our best to arm him, and love him and protect him the best we can.”
Hear more from David about his thoughts on the transphobia his son may face.
When he speaks with parents of other transgender children, one piece of advice David offers is to get a support team in place. That might include family and friends, teachers and subject-matter experts, and it may also include a community such as VIVID, Viatris’ Employee Resource Group (ERG) for members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community.
“You start by starting,” David said. “The creation of the ERGs has been critically important. I think the emphasis on allyship has been incredibly important.”
For example, he cites a workshop VIVID held in 2022 guiding employees on the importance of pronouns and why they are meaningful in creating an inclusive environment.
He also recommends researching and understanding what it means to experience gender dysphoria – the conflict between the sex a person is assigned at birth and their gender identity.
“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s O.K. Listen more than you talk,” David said. “Don’t forget about your own health. It’s O.K. to be confused, and off-balance, and uncertain … it’s also O.K. to make mistakes.”
In fact, he acknowledged, “through Leo’s journey, I’ve made many, many mistakes,” adding, “There’s no guidebook for your specific child. It just gets a little more nuanced and complicated when you have a transgender child. Because you can inadvertently, unintentionally hurt when you didn’t mean to, and you need to just be continually open to learning how to be the best parent you can be.”
As parents and allies learn and grow their understanding of what it means to be transgender, David advises: “Be an advocate. Call out transphobia. Demand support and respect for your child’s -- or your friend’s, or your colleague’s -- identity. Correct misgendering. Promote degendering.”
As a member of VIVID, he’s encouraged by Viatris’ commitment to promote inclusivity.
“Most importantly, I think what the company has shown during the creation of VIVID is consistently and persistently showing unconditional support,” he said. “That’s what people deserve and want.”