Nov 13, 2013 Tami Scott Uncategorized
Editor’s note: This column relates to Sarah Hall’s recent article “Becoming Drew: CNY family discusses coming to terms with son’s transgender journey,” which can be found here.
When I first met Vince Cook, I was working part-time as a server at the Market Diner in Syracuse. Vince was sitting alone, drinking coffee and reading a book on editing. He told me that he and his wife Terri were writing and publishing a book. He didn’t tell me the topic at that time, nor did I ask. We simply began to talk about the writing industry, and that it has always been a dream of mine to write a book as well. I gave him my card for freelance work, and after his breakfast, he thanked me and left.
A few weeks later Vince approached me through email asking if I would consider working with them. He then apprised me of its sensitive content and asked if I knew anybody who is transgender or knew of the challenges faced by transgender individuals. I admitted that I did not; however, I took the opportunity I was given to learn and accepted the position as their development editor.
At first meeting, I would have never guessed their book, “Allies and Angels,” would be about their journey through their son’s transition from “girl” to boy. It took me by surprise, really. Vince was normal. He was well-educated; he and his wife were both successful engineers and married for more than 20 years. How could something like this happen in such a typical, functional American family?
Unfortunately, that’s what most people think when not educated on matters that don’t directly affect their own lives. As I came to know Vince, Terri and their kids, I realized they are no different than any other family. They have two children, and one of them was born with a condition that for many people is extremely hard to grasp — this included Vince and Terri at one time. They had the same questions as anyone else would have: How can a baby, born a girl anatomically, be a boy? It makes no sense. But it does, actually, when you inform yourself with the evidence provided through medical research.
Being transgender is not something a person chooses. Their son, Drew, was frightened, confused, scared; uncomfortable in his own skin and bullied because he was different from other kids. He attempted suicide. He sought comfort from and confided in strangers in forums online; those people helped him engage in conversation with his parents. They told him he had worth. He was not alone. Hang in there. Be strong. You are loved.
The transition took years. Neither Terri nor Vince nor Drew knew he was transgender for quite some time, even after sinking into a deep depression. It took a village — many allies and angels — to bring him into his own person — who he is and was always meant to be.
The last thing Terri and Vince wanted was to lose their daughter. They hoped and prayed it was a phase. But when they realized it wasn’t, they had to accept it or deny it. They chose to accept their child and gained a son. They chose to educate themselves, advocate for his safety, as well as his physical and emotional wellbeing. They lost some old friends and grieved for their old life, but at the same time continued to push forward with open minds and inviting hearts. Former Lockheed Martin employees, they now have the drive and determination to share their very personal, delicate and insightful story with others, in hopes of bringing light to what is still a dark topic to many. They seek understanding, love and support. They have been guests on Anderson Cooper’s talk show. They want to dispel the myths and fears of what it is to be transgender, as well as minimize the risk of discrimination and violence that their son is subjected to at the hands of ignorant individuals.
It is paramount for our government to recognize this small but significant percentage of people as real human beings who deserve the same rights, not special rights, in order to live in peace and prosperity — just like everyone else. The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, also known as GENDA, is a bill that would outlaw discrimination in New York state based on gender identity or expression. It would also expand the state’s hate crimes law to include crimes against transgender people. This bill has been at a standstill for quite some time. Although the bill has passed in the NYS Assembly six years in a row, the leadership in the NYS Senate has refused to allow the bill to be brought to the floor for an open discussion and vote. It only seems reasonable to me to grant people who are transgender the same — again, not special — rights that everyone who breathes has. My plea to the government, to the Senate leadership, which includes Senator John DeFrancisco, is to provide the opportunity for these people to have a fair shake at life. Consistently denying the ability for the bill to progress gives no chance for the Senate to deliberate the bill. This is a selfish and uninformed way to handle an issue one may be at odds with.
If you are interested in learning more about the Cooks story and this topic, visit AlliesAndAngels.com. There you can learn more, buy the book, or link to the book on Amazon.com. I promise you that you that if you decide to read the book – because you know someone who may be going through a similar journey, or just because you are open to learning more about something you don’t quite understand – you will gain a completely different perspective than what you may have started with.
To learn about another family’s experience with a transgender child, consider following the story of Coy Mathis in Colorado. All you need to do is Google Coy Mathis. These children are real, they are precious and they need our support, encouragement and love, as do their parents.
Just put yourself in their shoes, as I did, and consider how you would want you and your children to be treated. That may sometimes be the easiest and most thoughtful way to learn and show compassion.
Tami Scott is the editor of the Baldwinsville Messenger, which covers the towns of Lysander and Van Buren, and the village of Baldwinsville. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.