Ray Parker is a 24-year-old transgender person (he/they) who is living with type 1 diabetes. We first connected with Ray when he tagged Tandem Diabetes Care on his Instagram account. Whether it was accepting his T1D diagnosis or exploring his identity as a genderqueer individual after being assigned female at birth, both transitions shared difficult parallels.
"My eyes opened," he said. "I had a new reality to accept, and then the question — 'now what?'"
As a preteen, Ray was losing weight despite always being hungry. His mother initially thought it was puberty setting in. But she also noticed his fruity-scented breath and decided to test his blood sugar.
"My mom is hypoglycemic, has Celiac disease, and works in the medical field, so she had a meter in the house," Ray said. "I was at 580 [milligrams per deciliter]. We went to the hospital where they tested me and gave me my type 1 diabetes diagnosis."
Growing up, Ray did not know anyone living with type 1 diabetes his age. As he became increasingly aware he was gender non-conforming, he felt even more alone.
"I thought I was the only trans diabetic in the world," Ray said. "I study social media, disabilities, mental health, all of these things — I know consciously that I'm not, but it has definitely felt very isolating. I've had to learn a lot of things on my own as I go through life with type 1 and based on how I identify."
FEELING ALONE TO FINDING SUPPORT
While Ray didn't have as hard of a time adjusting to his diabetes diagnosis as one might expect, he feels that it was also because he had been so disassociated from his body. He struggled with eating disorders, as he felt that who he began to identify as and what his body looked like weren't a match.
"Something wasn't right," Ray said. "I was afraid to come out and admit my truth. With my friends, I felt like people were more ready for me to come out than I was, but they also wanted a lot of info I didn't have."
For anyone on their own gender identity journey, he encourages people to find a strong community of support through friends, family, therapists, or doctors to help pursue what's right for them.
"Your mental health is important because it also impacts your physical health, especially when it comes to diabetes," Ray said. "I can't imagine what I would've done without Control-IQ technology. It helped my levels stay well-controlled throughout everything."
Ray recognizes that the t:slim X2 insulin pump with Control-IQ technology helped him manage his diabetes as he was going through so many life changes.
"With me not being binary, I also had internal questions," said Ray. "… If there's one person on this planet who can be less overwhelmed by me sharing my story, that's enough for me."
Thank you, Ray, for sharing your experience with the Tandem Family.
From time to time, we may pass along suggestions, tips, or information about other Tandem insulin pump user experiences or approaches to the management of diabetes. Please note, however, individual symptoms, situations, circumstances, and results may vary. Please consult your physician or qualified healthcare provider regarding your condition and appropriate medical treatment. Please read the Important Safety Information before using a Tandem Diabetes Care product.
RESPONSIBLE USE OF CONTROL-IQ TECHNOLOGY
Even with advanced systems such as the t:slim X2 insulin pump with Control-IQ technology, users are still responsible for actively managing their diabetes. Control-IQ technology does not prevent all high and low blood glucose events. The system is designed to help reduce glucose variability, but it requires that users accurately input information, such as meals and periods of sleep or exercise. Control-IQ technology will not function as intended unless all system components, including CGM, infusion sets and pump cartridges, are used as instructed. Importantly, the system cannot adjust insulin dosing if the pump is not receiving CGM readings. Because there are situations and emergencies that the system may not be capable of identifying or addressing, users should always pay attention to their symptoms and treat accordingly.