“Until I had a child who was dying before me, I didn’t have a reason to understand it. It was just something that was out there, whether it’s on a talk show or in a news article or something. And oftentimes, those pieces are very destructive or negative and not very informative. They were just sensationalizing something without also trying to provide understanding and dig deeper,” Cook said. “Our experience has been that we have found so many people that are really like us. We had to learn these things because our son’s life depended on it. But so many people are like us in that they are open to learning.”
For most of his early life, Drew was a vibrant, cheerful child.
“He was the happy, crazy, life the party,” Cook said. “He was in every club, in every activity, in Scouts and dance and in student council, outgoing, had lots of friends.”
But that started to change in middle school. Drew became withdrawn and depressed. He didn’t want to go to school. His parents didn’t know, but he was being bullied and teased by his classmates. His parents transferred him to a local private school, hoping that would resolve the problem.
“We thought that was going to be the fresh start and he would fit in there. He thought, ‘Maybe I’m not fitting in because I’m not into girly things and the other kids just don’t get that,’” Cook said. “But still, even at [the other school], he was just struggling. He couldn’t articulate it. And he never stopped to think, ‘Could I be a boy in a girl’s body?’ Because who thinks that? I think like most people, most parents, it never came to our minds.”
The Cooks’ real wake-up call came in the winter of Drew’s eighth-grade year, when he attempted suicide. He started weekly therapy and antidepressants, and his parents pulled him out of school. He finished the school year on homebound instruction. Shortly thereafter, the family moved to a nearby town, where the vicious cycle started again for Drew. The Cooks once again had him finish out ninth grade on homebound instruction.