Terri Cook — an author, advocate and mother of a transgender man — will make two appearances in Cooperstown this week to speak about what it means to be transgender and describe "the joys of loving someone who is trans," she said.
Cook's son, Drew, transitioned at the age of 15, and is now 20 and a college student, she said. Cook is the author of “Allies and Angels: A Memoir of Our Family's Transition."
Cook will be the Rotary Club of Cooperstown's featured speaker on Tuesday at noon at The Otesaga Resort Hotel, according to her website. A discussion and book signing will follow. She will speak again at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the First Presbyterian Church Chapel on Pioneer Street in Cooperstown.
After seeing Drew's experiences, Cook and her husband, Vince, who live in western New York, decided to write their book, she said. Cook serves on the board of the Empire State Pride Agenda Foundation and helped launch Family Allies for Transgender Equality in New York State, she said.
"Our whole family's life was changed through this experience," Cook said. "I learned a lot because I had to learn to save my son's life. I learned about the challenges transgender individuals face and about the lack of awareness and understanding, and the discrimination and rejection from society."
During her presentations, Cook will also discuss the state Education Department's recently released “Guidance to School Districts for Creating a Safe and Supportive Environment for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students," she said.
"It's so important for schools to understand fully what it means to be transgender," Cook said. "And it's equally important to have the conversation with transgender students and their parents to understand how the school can best support them, what they want and what they need.
"There's no one best practice for this," Cook continued. "Every person is an individual and everyone's needs are a little bit different. Some people may want others to know they are transgender, and some do not. Would you like a school-wide assembly? What kind of restroom would you like to use? What name should we use? These are the questions that have to be asked."
The most important thing to keep in mind when raising a transgender or gender nonconforming child is to listen, Cook said.
"Let your child lead the way and help you," she said. "Let them tell you who they are and what they need and what they're ready for. Let them know and feel that they are loved unconditionally and that, although there may be challenges they will face in the outside world, they will always have a safe place to land with you at home."