By Big Mike Phillips
As I get older, I have noticed I’m learning more about the people we share our world with every single day. Understanding what one must think and feel are challenges we do not comprehend for those who fight just to be their honest self. It’s a hard decision one must make without losing the people they love and need the most support from. As a gay man who came out in the mid-1970s, it was a hard time to chance coming out — we could lose our jobs, our homes, family, friends and more. Coming out of any closet is and can be a very scary, hard choice to make in the world with so many judging you with hate and fear of what they do not understand. As times have changed, support and education has increased and helped more and more individuals of every age group and sexual orientation become who they truly are, and it’s a blessing.
This week, I want to introduce you to Kathie Moehlig, a strong woman who has been an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, and active in community service in general, since she was very young. By the young age of 12, Kathie started using alcohol and drugs. She became addicted and, in fact, as soon as Kathie got out of high school, she married her first husband who was also her drug dealer. As the years passed, she knew she had to make a change in her life; by the time she was 23 years old, she was clean and sober. Kathie decided to commit herself to helping others in her early years of recovery by running a halfway house where she began to meet not only newly sober individuals, but several young men who were coming out of the closet as gay. It was during these early years where she grew to not only accept these men as gay but began a close, loving friendship with a lot of them. This humbled Kathie, knowing these people were trusting her guidance, love and compassion. AIDS took one of her closest friends in 1995, which broke her heart, like it did to so many of us. Kathie’s love and support for the LGBT+ community has been steadfast all her adult life. This has proved to be very helpful since both of her children have come out as LGBTQ. Her son, Sam, started his gender transition at age 11. There were very few medical professionals in San Diego that were even aware of gender dysphoria and no one who was seeing him was properly diagnosing him. It was very hard because they thought they were going to lose him. Kathie’s daughter, Jacq, came out three years ago; she met a wonderful woman at Rich’s one night and fell in love.
Kathie was born in Michigan, just outside of Detroit. With her second husband of 24 years, Ron, she moved a few times to Oregon, then to New Jersey and then to San Diego. They fell in love with our beautiful city next to the ocean, and now call it home. Ron has been the family’s rock; he is very supportive of Kathie’s work and the LGBTQ+ community. He even took a second job when Kathie first started volunteering for the grassroots efforts of what would become the organization known as Trans Family Support Services. Having been involved with nonprofits her entire adult life, she was blessed by the great fortune of having amazing mentors in those early years, which gave her the knowledge to take on this new adventure. It all started when Kathie was helping other families that had trans youth with the same issues she had had with advocating for her own son. One day, while Kathie was meeting with a family and their school principal, she realized she held no power in the room. She was simply the family friend, so why would the school listen to her? Kathie knew right then she needed an organization behind her in order to really create systemic changes for other families. This was the birth of Trans Families Support Services, never looking back but moving forward to be that voice and encouragement these families needed. She thought at the time she would devote 20 hours a week to it, but that has proven to never be the case at all. Kathie told me that she has always worked countless hours to be able to ensure service to everyone who needs her help. It never stops.
The one thing Kathie and her family rely on is each other — they are a very close and loving family and truly enjoy being with each other. Kathie says that her passion outside of helping others is Disneyland. Since she was a little girl in the second grade and living in the Midwest, Disney was a magical place in her heart. Moving to California has made her entire family annual pass holders for 24 years now. The family tries to make it a point to go at least 10 times a year. Even now, with the kids grown adults, it’s still their favorite family time together.
When it involves her children, she knows it is important to be a voice. Besides being the founder and executive director of Trans Family Support Services, she also serves on the board of PFLAG San Diego. PFLAG is a 45-year-old national organization that includes family, friends and allies of the LGBTQ+ community as members. Both organizations’ missions are closely aligned and they work together to help those who need support.
I was lucky to meet Kathie and her beautiful family several years ago at an Imperial Court fundraiser. We became very fast friends and over the years, I have been honored to do photography with Kathie, her family and the organizations she is involved with. She is very kind to always think of me.
I asked Kathie what she wanted people to know about her: “I would like people to know that I truly love what I do. I am busier than I think I ever have been in my life, however nothing is draining me. I truly live by: do what you love and everything else falls into place.” Kathie also gave me a quote she wanted to share: “I love what I do and the amazing people I do it with. I wish it wasn’t needed, I wish that the world was such that trans folks didn’t need advocates and allies.”
Not only does San Diego benefit from Kathie’s organization but she helps families all over the country. It takes a lot of dedication for anyone to put their heart and soul into improving other people’s lives. Fortunately, Kathie has become an angel to so many people that rely on her help, encouraging and educating those who do not understand the trans community. I am personally learning and understanding the trans world better because of Kathie. She is a treasure to our community and a treasure to me as well. Thank you for loving the world and its people like you do, we are all better because of it.
Kathie Moehlig can be reached at Kathie@transfamilysos.org and you can follow Trans Family Support Services on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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