A mother of five, Jodie noticed from an early age that her third child, Penelope, would study and imitate the actions of his father and brothers. Penelope – or Penel for short – was assigned female at birth but was certain of his true identity as early as he was able to express it.
After Penelope seemed withdrawn and angry for a period of time time, Jodie realized something was wrong. When she pulled Penelope aside and questioned his behavior, Penelope responded matter-of-factly, “Because everyone thinks I’m a girl.”
“’Transgender’ was something I did not know anything about. There was a whole process of just getting a lot of information,” Jodie explained. “And then after you research for days and months, you realize you have to decide to lead from the heart.”
Jodie swiftly made the important decision to empower and support her child unconditionally.
“We made vows to him – who you are, I respect; where you’re going, I’ll go with you; and I’ll make sure the world moves out of your way so that you can be you,” Jodie said. “The collective understanding is that we are who we are from the inside.”
The extraordinary mom recognized that this was the perfect opportunity to not only educate her family so it could reinforce Penelope and his true identity, but to also inform the public and help breakdown harmful stereotypes and baleful labels.
“Everything about Penelope makes us question our categories that we box people into,” Jodie said. “You have to keep reinforcing truths, keep helping people to see it differently.”
When discussing Penelope’s inspirational story of living happily and openly as his authentic self, Jodie exudes pure joy.
“When we treated Penelope as he wanted to be treated and when we allowed him to present as he wanted to present, he blossomed,” explained Jodie. “And I want Penelope to remain that way. I want him to be able to explore all of the sides of him.”
For transgender and gender-expansive youth, parental support is incredibly important, and HRC is committed to providing the kids of resources children, families and other youth-serving professionals need to support one another in their journeys. For more information on supporting transgender and gender-expansive youth, visit www.hrc.org/trans-youth and for resources for K-12 schools about supporting transitioning students, as well as other helpful materials, visit www.welcomingschools.org.