Marcelas Owens was 11 years-old when he was frozen in time in these photos of him at the signing of the Afforcable Care Act seven years ago. This month, Marcelas turned 18 and is taking on another important cause. Read on and see what she looks like now (Yes we said she.)
When President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in March 2010, Marcelas Owens was the chubby 11-year-old at his side. The Seattle boy, then 11, was asked there because he was a health care reform activist.
Marcelas’ mother died because she didn’t have health insurance. She was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension in 2006. Her illness caused her to miss days at work, which led to her losing her job. She was denied Medicaid because she had earned too much money working the previous year.
Marcelas’ loss led to him becoming a child activist for health care reform. His mother and grandmother were volunteers in the Washington Community Action Network, a Seattle group formed to fight for economic and social justice. When Washington CAN became involved in the health reform movement, Marcelas began sharing his personal message of loss, often speaking to crowd of 6,000 or more. When Sen. Patty Murray, (D-Wash) heard him speak it was her idea to invite him to the White House.
The young man who people know as the Obamacare kid has changed. More than growing into adult hood, at age 16, Owens came out as a transgendered teen.
Sometimes it’s hard to be what you want to be when people only know you for what you used to be.
“If I wasn’t me, I would like to know, where did he go?” Marcelas told CNN.
On the surface, though, Marcelas remained the Obamacare kid. He became an honor roll student, graduating from middle school magna cum laude with a 3.8 GPA. He got awards for being a community activist. He dutifully gave interviews each year when Obamacare’s anniversary came around, once even wearing the same blue tie and vest he wore at the White House signing for a television interview.
However, Marcelas said, he didn’t like playing the games other boys played. He preferred his sister’s clothes to his own and he felt strange in his body. He kept his feelings to himself for a while but at 16 made a decision to come out.
Marcelas lives in a townhome in Seattle with two younger sisters, Myanna, 13, and Monique, 14, and their grandmother, Gina Owens. On March 10, turned 18. The first person she told about being transgender was her grandmother, who took over raising the three siblings after their mother died.
When Marcelas began telling friends and classmates, the reaction was mixed.
“At first they thought I was joking,” she says. “Once they saw I was serious, they were confused, and then they got mad.”
Others supported her.
“When I was thinking of coming out, I was thinking a lot of the Obamacare kid thing,” she says. “I was like, I’m the Obamacare kid and I have to live as the Obamacare kid. That was kind of my reason for not identifying as who I was.”
Then she realized that her experience as a kid didn’t have to be a burden; it could be a blessing.
If she could help others in one struggle, why not another? Transgender teens, especially those of color, have few people to look up to. Maybe she could lead the way.
“This would be kind of a new thing,” she says. “I would help advance another issue. It’ll be good for me.”