ChangeMakers: Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd pioneers gender-affirming care for kids

A person stands in an exam room
Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd, founder of Children’s Minnesota’s Gender Clinic, poses for a photo inside the Specialty Center in Minneapolis on May 5.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

In celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, throughout June MPR News is featuring transgender and nonbinary Minnesotans making an impact. See more at

For the past 17 years, Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd has worked to change the way Minnesotans view pediatric health care for gender-nonconforming youth.

Goepferd, 45, is Children’s Minnesota’s chief education officer and medical director of the Gender Health program at the hospital. They hold a long career as a pediatrician and helped launch Children’s Minnesota’s program for gender diverse youth back in 2019.

The program was possible because of a “perfect storm” of medical professionals coming together to create a holistic approach in treatment of gender diverse youth, in response to an increase in transgender patients. Goepferd is nonbinary and uses they/them and she/her pronouns.

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Although the program is a huge part of who Goepferd is, they’re also a parent, friend and sibling. Goepferd, originally from Iowa City, Iowa, has lived in Minnesota for 23 years. They live in Minneapolis, where they co-parent their two third graders and one first grader.

“My passion is wanting every human to be able to live up to their full potential, whatever that is,” said Goepferd. “And that connects to why I became a pediatrician in the first place.”

Editor's note: The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Who are your trans or nonbinary heroes?

The very first one that comes to mind for me is an activist named Leslie Feinberg. Leslie Feinberg was someone who when I was coming out as gay or queer in the 1990s, Leslie was very active and had written a novel called “Stone Butch Blues,” and then when I was in medical school, wrote a book called “Trans Liberation” and was doing a lot of speaking and talking about trans identities and specifically trans health care. 

It was because of Leslie Feinberg that I went into and formed an interest in doing trans health care and specifically working with LGBTQ populations. So I would say Leslie Feinberg is probably the cornerstone hero for me.

Who is a rising trans or nonbinary leader in Minnesota?

The standout for me is probably Rep. Leigh Finke. She's a new representative to the legislative House, but has already had such a huge impact on Minnesotans, particularly trans, nonbinary and LGBTQ Minnesotans. But really, I think she is going to be a force for really progressive change in the state. 

What's something you want everyone to know about trans or nonbinary people?

You know that US [Weekly] magazine, “Stars: They’re just like us”? I feel like, “Trans people: They’re just like us!” That's sort of what I want people to know. The other day, I was out for breakfast with my three kids and we were playing a card game at the table and I almost took a picture to post to social media: this is my trans agenda, is beating my three kids at cards. We're just living our lives just like everyone else is. 

I think the unique difference that we have is that we have the ability to see and understand a lot of different perspectives. We know what it's like to struggle to be heard, we know what it's like to be marginalized because of our identities. And so I've really experienced it as a gift and a way to connect with other communities and other people, because it's given me a unique perspective on what it is to be a human being and what it is to be in community.

What are your hopes for the future of gender-affirming care?

As a physician, pediatrician and scientist, I'm always looking to provide the best possible care for the patients that I care for. When I first started doing gender-affirming care and transgender medicine, that was where we were headed in the field — really looking at, how can we improve outcomes? What's new on the horizon? Where can we invest in research? 

The last two to three years has really just been protecting the basic foundation of care. We've been in this defensive mode of just protecting the health care at all costs. So what I hope for the future is that we can get out of that stance, understand that gender-affirming care is basic health care, and invest in science and research to advance this field of medicine, just like we would advance all other fields of medicine, because we all deserve the best health care possible.

Outside of your work as a pediatrician, what activities do you enjoy?

Quiet fills me up right now, because my days are really, really busy. So I read a lot. I really enjoy emerging authors and novels and young adult fiction. I love being outside, when it's nice weather, spending time with my three kids.

I grew up playing a lot of sports, so I really enjoy shooting baskets in the backyard, going for a bike ride, going for a run. I play as part of an LGBTQ softball team in the spring and summer and that really gives me a lot of joy. I don't spend a lot of time just celebrating my identity in my community and the softball team feels like one way to do that.

Is there anything you’d like to share that feels meaningful to you now?

The things that I feel like are important that I want people to know about me are that while I show up a lot in the LGBTQ community and advocating for trans and gender-diverse kids, I do that not just because it's connected to my own identity and my own liberation, but because I really believe that it's connected to the liberation of all other people. 

My drive for justice and for social justice is just as connected to the anti-racist movement, the land reclamation movement of Indigenous folks, or any other situation in which people don't feel free to live as their full, authentic selves in ways that they can just go to the grocery store or own a home.

That's really what drives my work and my passion is wanting every human to be able to live up to their full potential, whatever that is. And that connects to why I became a pediatrician in the first place.

Why did you become a pediatrician?

I became a pediatrician because I witnessed a child who was failing to thrive. When I was a college student, I did an internship and what struck me so much about that child is that they were failing to thrive not because they have an underlying medical condition or a genetic disorder, but because of the social circumstances in which that child was living.

And I realized what a meaningful difference I could make as a pediatrician in helping all kids thrive by not just treating their ear infections, but making sure that their family was supported and they had access to good nutrition, and they had a high-quality education and stable housing and all of those things. So that's why I became a pediatrician. That's why I came to work at Children's Minnesota. 

My work in advocating for and helping to access care for trans and gender diverse kids is intimately connected with that desire to help kids thrive. So I really want every kid, whether they are LGBTQ or not, to be able to thrive, and I'm committed to getting all kids what they need to thrive, including trans and gender-diverse kids.

What is something, when reflecting on your life and career, that you’re really proud of?

Launching the Gender Health program, I will look back on that as a career milestone for me. It was something I hadn't done before. It was new, I was working with other people who hadn't done it before. I looked to a lot of mentors around the country who had already started programs in terms of what were best practices, and how we can really make something great. And we've been building ever since we started in 2019, and continue to build. So I think that's been a personal growth experience for me and something that I will look back on. 

In my personal life, it's really raising my kids. Parenting is like the hardest thing I've ever done in my whole life. Being a pediatrician is simple compared to parenting — it’s so hard and complex. And the thing you most want as a parent is to see your values reflected in your kids, and then them experiencing joy and happiness. I feel like I've been able to see both of those in my kids.

Recently, one of my third graders was describing to his class the work I was doing at the Capitol. The teacher was describing how simple and yet eloquent he was at 9 years old in explaining these concepts to his class, and that made me feel so proud that he's becoming someone in the world who understands the importance of advocating for people and that everyone deserves access to basic things like health care. Watching them grow and develop as people is also something that I will look back on and feel really proud of.