Unconditional Love: Cook Children’s Employee Shares Her Journey of Raising and Accepting Her Transgender Child
As we conclude Pride Month, Megan Hodges Cook, Community Program Coordinator, wants to share her story with you. This story isn’t an easy one for her.
Not because she’s embarrassed or ashamed, but because she’s not sure how you will react to what she wants to tell you. She hopes that we live up to our values of kindness and respect, but she understands that some of you reading this will have a very difficult time understanding the story of her transgender daughter.
Megan grew up in the church. Even as a child, she accepted a God and Jesus that loved people. It was easy for Megan to put away some of the more established beliefs and “choose people, choose acceptance and choose to value our shared humanity.”
“Fast-forward to today. Never did I think our culture would be moving further away from each other instead of closer in connection to one another around the topic of the LGBTQ community. Never did I ever anticipate being the parent of a transgender daughter. So the toxicity of these divisions now touches me daily,” Megan said.
In her efforts to educate and find understanding, Megan answered some of the more frequently asked questions she gets about her child, who identifies using they/them and she/her pronouns.
When did you know your child was transgender?
Megan: She came out to me two years ago at the age of 12, but I have seen signs since she was 3 years old.
Isn’t your child too young to know? Or Why don’t you try to encourage her to be straight/or to explore her gender more?
Megan: Let’s look at the numbers. LGBTQ kids are 40% more likely to die by suicide if they do not have supportive, accepting adults in their lives. My child does not need to become a statistic because being straight makes others more comfortable. They need me to be loving and supportive. Also, if you knew my child, you would know my child has an old soul, and a deep conviction about who they are. There are very few positives at this age to being out, and a whole lot of negatives, so, they would not be out and proud if they were still questioning their identity. Also, their gender is not a reflection of my parenting decisions, but who they are at their core, and I think it would be bad parenting me to try to force them to change that.
What do you say to people, who ask, “Is this what you want for her?”
Megan: This is the hardest one for me to answer. In a moment of complete vulnerability--No, being transgender would never be what I would have chosen for my child. Mostly because if you ask her what she expects of people when they find out that she is transgender, she will tell you, she expects rejection. What a heavy burden for a child to bear, to look at every person they meet and think, if they knew the truth about me, without knowing any other part of me, they will reject me in my opinion, this is why allies need to be obvious about their allyship, so she knows that you will see more than just gender.
What is it you do want for her?
Megan: I want her to be seen for being more than their gender, I want my child to know that I love and accept them I hope that my unconditional love gives them the freedom and confidence to fully embrace themselves I hope that she can live in a world where it doesn’t matter who you love, but it does matter what kind of person you are. I want her to be kind, caring, accepting, empathetic, compassionate, and maybe smart, and successful, too.
If you asked me when I was a young adult, if I ever expected to be a vocal advocate for the LGBTQ community, I would have told you ”No way.” I am thankful that my origin story is not the end of my story. In this atmosphere, if my story resonates, I ask you to be loud and proud in your support. My kid is just one in a growing community of our patients that needs your voices to drown out the hate. My kid needs you to vote for those that truly consider the humanity of those they are supposed to serve.
What signs did you see early on that your child was transgender?
Megan: When I get this question, I certainly have funny anecdotes I could share, and if you take each of these anecdotes independently, people often feel unconvinced.
I can tell you about their best friends from ages 3-7--the “girliest” girl you could ever meet, and a boy who loved to wear leggings and skirts My child was so curious and smitten with these attributes and with these friends, we “had” to play with them every day.
I can tell you about all the years from kindergarten to third grade when my child was obsessed with purple sparkly shoes, we had a large collection. We had to prepare them to be faced with questions from peers like, “what if someone asks you why you are wearing your sister’s shoes?” Their response, “Do you wear clothes you like? I like these shoes, that’s why I am wearing them.”
To the repercussion of getting in a fist fight with a best friend because the best friend was embarrassed by the feminine clothing my child was wearing. To my child’s understanding of who they are becoming even clearer to them, knowing they were losing a best friend over it
To our experiences in safe settings when my child is all dolled up with friends who know and don’t care. Their whole demeanor changes, sheer joy on their face, relaxed posture, and laughter, lots of laughter.
Even as I am sharing these personal anecdotes, as the mom of this beautiful child, I say this out of respect for you, it honestly doesn’t matter to me if you are convinced or not. When I see my daughter being authentically herself, I know this is who they are, and I know they will be OK if we as a community can figure out how to just let them be who they naturally are.
I’ve had people who know my child will say things like…that can’t be true because your child loves math and science, your child played with trains and Legos, not dolls and dress up clothes. Toys and subjects are not gendered. Just because my child’s brain is analytical does not inform if they are male or female. Humans are complex and we have many different identities, I am female, I am a mother, I grew up outside of Texas, one specific thing is not the fullness of me. Just like being both analytical and transgender can co-exist in my child.
What are the hardest things about being the parent of a transgender child?
Megan: The transition, and the grief of giving up certain hopes and dreams for my child. It is not a light switch where one day they were male, and now they are female. It’s hard for me to not refer to my child as their birth name, and birth pronouns. Out of love and respect for my child it is so important that I do not dead name them (referring to a person who’s transgender by the name they used before they transitioned), or misgender them, it is important for me to get this right so I try as hard as I can, and I apologize when I get wrong.
Having family members who love me, and who love my child but struggle accepting them and me (as their parent who is “allowing” them to be trans) due to deeply ingrained religious beliefs.
Having to put a level of separation between our families of origin so their beliefs don’t harm our relationships any more than they already have. It’s that phrase, “be careful who you hate, it might be someone you love” lived out in our lives. Our extended families let their hate show before they knew. The damage was done and none of us know how to do relationship repair. And though they love us, their beliefs on the topic predates even my birth. So, those beliefs still seep into our lives, in spite of their love for us, and out of protection for my child, we won’t allow those beliefs to do any more damage to our family.
Megan: Not being able to share on social media all of the ways that I am proud of my child because I know if I do, we will get push back and questions about their transition, and I don’t have emotional space to take on internet trolls who might also be friends, extended family, or past friends.
Weighing in conversation, how much can I share with you, are you a safe person? Am I putting myself or my child at risk by sharing our truth with you? When I misjudge someone’s character, being surprised by their judgement can hurt.
Can I keep my child mentally healthy? I can cultivate a loving home but my child has already faced so much hate, and discrimination. Will our little world be enough to protect them through middle and high school in Texas?
Why stay in Texas?
Megan: This is a hard one. Both my husband and I have jobs we love, and that is not a given as a working professional. Our family lives nearby. Our kids have had years of their childhoods here so that would be hard to leave behind. We think about this question weekly if not daily and we know if we get to the point where we cannot receive lifesaving/emergency health care for our child (which is on the table in some anti-trans bills), we will have to leave.