When Jennifer Petter began her transition journey in the summer of 2016, she knew one thing: she wanted – and deserved – to be heard and respected. After an unpleasant appointment with a physician who was less than accepting, she found her way to Fenway Health – and an entirely different experience.
“[The message] was ‘we’re going to treat you like an adult, and as long as we have provided informed consent, we’re going to make adult-like decisions on this together,’” Jennifer said. It was exactly the sort of environment that Jennifer was looking for, so she set up her first appointment.
Jennifer met with Dr. Aditya Chandrasekhar, who she still speaks highly of today. After consulting with Dr. Chandrasekhar about her health and transition goals, Jennifer was prescribed an androgen blocker and an estrogen patch.
“I got those filled, took them home, and promptly stuffed them in my drawer,” she recalls with a laugh. She wasn’t quite ready to take that next step just yet.
A few months later, she reached a point in her relationship with her wife where they both agreed that medical transition was clearly the right path forward for Jennifer. In December 2016, she began using her prescribed hormone therapies.
“It was such a very critical moment – one of those cusps in your life – that my relationship with Fenway started,” Jennifer said. “Fenway and I just seemed compatible.”
Jennifer was pleased to learn that Fenway’s sister hospital was Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, where her primary care provider was located. She began having regular appointments with Dr. Chandrasekhar.
“He was very helpful and very straightforward,” she recalled. “You can look [transitioning] up online and find info, but I think it’s so much better to be in front of a physician who can explain how it will effect you personally.”
Fast forward to December 2018. Jennifer had been on HRT for two years and had completed gender-affirming surgeries. That past summer, at the age of 61, she had also transitioned socially. This included coming out at Arrakis Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company she co-founded and where she is currently Chief Innovation Officer. Much had changed since the first day she walked through Fenway’s doors!
A few days after that Christmas, Jennifer and her wife were deciding where to direct their end-of-year donations and they found a clear frontrunner. “We could both see that Fenway had become a big part of my life,” she said. “I greatly appreciated not only what Fenway was doing for me, but other people,” so the Petters were happy to send a generous donation that year.
The following year, Jennifer decided to become even more active in the Fenway Health community. She joined the Board of Visitors and attended her first Fenway Gala, the Dinner Party, filling up two tables as a Table Captain.
In 2020, Jennifer took on a leadership role, serving as a Co-Chair of the 2020 Gala. Unfortunately, COVID-19 made it necessary for her to serve that role virtually, as the Gala took place on Zoom. Nonetheless, she had a fabulous time.
Jennifer would go on to join the Corporate Giving Committee, leveraging her professional ties to make connections between Fenway and corporate supporters in biotech. At the 2022 Gala, she gave a speech about supporting Fenway in front of many of her colleagues in the industry.
Today, Jennifer is still a Fenway Health patient and a very active member of the community. In fact, she is reprising her role as Co-Chair for this year’s Gala!
Seven years after her transition journey began, what keeps Jennifer coming back to Fenway?
“I’ve always liked how Fenway has positioned itself in the community and nationally,” Jennifer said. “But I now have a child of my own who is non-binary and is transitioning in their own way. That really brought home that there are a lot of other people with a lot of other needs out there, and Fenway provides a space for all of them.”