Who could forget the cherubic face of the little boy in a vest who stood by President Barack Obama as he signed his landmark Affordable Care Act into law nearly six years ago?
The child in the photo, Marcelas Owens, then an 11-year-old health care activist, has just turned 17 and has also recently come out as trans, according to a recent CNN profile. The outlet reports that Marcelas, though born male, has long identified as a female.
“I’m going through a reinvention process,” she says. “I’m growing into adulthood. I’m not the Obamacare kid anymore.”
Each March, Marcelas gets calls from the media to talk about her historic moment on March 23, 2010, and understands the curiosity.
“If I wasn’t me, I would like to know, where did he go?” she says.
The outlet also reports that she now wonders if people will still accept her.
“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,” she says.
The Seattle-based teen lives with her two younger sisters, Myanna, 12, and Monique, 13, and their grandmother Gina Owens, the first person she told about being transgender. Marcelas has lived with her grandmother and sisters since their mother Tiffany died at age 27 from pulmonary hypertension.
CNN reports that Marcelas’ mother died because she didn’t have health insurance. After 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 then denied Medicaid because she had earned too much money working the previous year.
This is what spurned a then 7-year-old into a pint-size activist, one who became victorious when Obamacare became law.
Owens, who said she initially “didn’t like the idea” of Marcelas being trans, has definitely come around. In a Facebook post last week, she wrote a touching birthday wish to her firstborn grandbaby:
On this day [March 10] you were born to the world as your mother's 1st child. You are 17 now, and have in so, so many ways, made your mom & me very proud. We both have watched you grow & become the person you are today.
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.
The typical teen, who listens to Drake and hangs out at the mall, keeps a reminder of the “old Marcelas” in the living room: a signed photo from President Obama with the inscription, “To Marcelas. You helped make history at an early age. Barack Obama.”
And so it goes.
Read more of Marcelas amazing story at CNN.