LGBT History Month – About Jae Palma
Jae Palma, born Jason Palma, grew up in South Florida with a brother, two sisters and a single mom.
At a very early age, things just did not feel right, she felt like a stranger in her own skin. Growing up in a primarily female household, she became drawn to the lifestyle of a woman and wanted so badly to be one. This put her in an internal conflict with herself – a struggle not only difficult to bear on her own but also one that she couldn’t share with her family.
“I was so close to telling my mom so many times, but I would chicken out,” says Jae. “I would go into my sisters’ closets when they weren’t home and try on their clothes but always made sure everything was put away before anyone noticed.”
When Jae turned 18, she left her family in south Florida and started figuring out her own body. She needed answers and physicians who could help. Jae knew she wanted to transition to become a female, and after substantial research, she found answers from the physicians at UF Health.
“I moved to Gainesville in January, 2016 and never looked back,” says Jae.
Jae sought help from the UF Health Youth Gender Program, where she saw therapists and began receiving hormonal replacement therapy and medications. Janet Silverstein, M.D., a professor of pediatrics, is board certified in pediatric endocrinology and is the founder of the UF Health Youth Gender Program. She has been an integral part of Jae’s transition.
“The providers at the Youth Gender Program, especially Dr. Silverstein, have gone above and beyond to try to help me,” says Jae. “I’ve come a long way in nine months. I look back at photos of myself a year ago and don’t even recognize the person I was back then. It feels so good to have come this far already.”
At the age of 19, Jae finally made her transition official and public by announcing it on Facebook.
“My friends were really supportive and more open-minded than I expected them to be,” says Jae. “Unfortunately, my family is another story. They still don’t understand and don’t accept what I’m going through. While that’s difficult, I don’t regret making this decision.”
For Jae, hormone replacement medications will be a part of her routine for the rest of her life. Gender confirmation surgeries interest her, but they are not something she’s considering right now. She plans to continue going to the UF Health Youth Gender Program for support and for her prescriptions.
“Working with Jae has been a joy,” says Silverstein. “At our very first visit together, she knew who she was and was ready for hormone therapy to transition. Jae, and the other youth who attend this program, have all had to overcome major obstacles to get where they are today, and I have so much admiration and respect for all of them.”
Jae is part of the Pride Student Union on the UF campus. She also takes part in UF’s Pride Leadership Program and has a mentor who helps her get involved in the local LGBT community.
Jae hopes her story will inspire those who are also going through similar internal struggles.
“At the end of the day,’’ she says, “you have to get out of your comfort zone to be in your comfort zone.”