Remember Marcelas Owens? The adorable, chubby-cheeked 11-year-old kid stood alongside Obama in 2007 when he signed his historic healthcare bill, with Joe Biden‘s hand on his shoulder? On Owens’ official photo from the day, Obama wrote, “You helped make history at an early age.”
The story was poignant, as Owens’ mom had died from a lack of health care coverage and Owens wanted to be an advocate for change.
“I’m going through a reinvention process,” she told CNN in a long story. “I’m growing into adulthood. I’m not the Obamacare kid anymore.”
She went on: “I like it that I can be called the Obamacare kid, but in some ways I wish I could look past the Obamacare kid and become Marcelas and people would have the same reaction to me that they had with the Obamacare kid.”
Marcelas lives with her grandmother, Gina Owens, who says she wasn’t happy learning about her grandchild’s gender identity at first. But it seems like love has prevailed, because on Marcelas’ recent 17th birthday, Gina wrote this lovely post on Facebook:
So today, on your 17th birthday; I tell you AND the world; My grandson is on a new journey in life… I am so happy that SHE has trusted our relationship enough where SHE felt more comfortable sharing with me first; BEFORE the rest of the world… I give my heart & blessing to HER. I LOVE YOU AND YOUR COURAGE IN LIFE, MORE THAN YOU WILL EVER KNOW. Walk your journey in love & light.”
Marcelas’ mom, Tiffany, died at 27 from pulmonary hypertension. Because she was sick, she missed work days and lost her job. Yet she’d made too much money to qualify for Medicaid — something that Obamacare has addressed by giving states the option of raising income limits on Medicaid. (Not all states have taken up the offer, though.)
Marcelas says she wants to be a surgeon. And she’s politically active. She’s already served as a page for Washington State Senator Pramila Jayapal, the senator writes movingly in The Nation.
Marcelas is not transgender on Monday, black on Tuesday, and an activist on Wednesday,” the Senator writes. “She is all of those things, all of the time.”