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Being one of eight daughters, raising two little girls was comfortable for Marie. Her youngest, Erin, wasn’t a girly-girl. Although Marie didn’t think too much about it at the time, Erin wasn’t interested in dolls or dress-up and gravitated towards Legos and puzzles. She resisted her older sister’s tween hand-me-downs, the shirts a bit tighter, the shorts a little shorter.
After a family gathering with her niece who had come out as a transgender female, Marie spoke with Erin, sharing that there are many ways to be in the world and opened the door to questions or conversation. Two months later, Erin emailed Marie, coming out as a transgender male named Coden. Reading the email, Marie was surprised at how much thought went into Coden’s decision. There were links to resources, support for Marie. Although uncomfortable when referred to as “she” or “Erin”, Coden reassured Marie that he had not suffered or felt burdened by being a transgender male.
Marie emailed back, thinking this would be an easy form of communication.
“I love you always and forever. This must have been really hard to write. I’m so glad that you did. I’m going to forward it to dad. We’ll work on pronouns, and the name may take a little while. We love you.”
Their oldest daughter, Molly, already knew. That night, their family continued on as normal. While the pronouns and names changed, Coden was the same person who had left for school that morning.
Inspired by a bear cub, Coda, Coden selected his name. Marie loves this unique name because Coden is a unique kid. That society as a whole isn’t welcoming to individuals seen as “other” is Marie’s greatest fear for Coden. Although the West Coast is liberal and accepting, Marie fears that as Coden ventures out, he will meet people who won’t see him for who he is.
To support Coden, Marie sought a counselor for herself and took time off of work. Her counselor was a safe harbor to ask questions, share her fears, to be taken care of. A physician expert in transgender health and development has been an invaluable resource. Coming out at thirteen, Coden was able to take medication to pause puberty. This allowed time to ask questions, explore options, and ultimately decide to initiate transition hormones allowing Coden the opportunity to go through puberty around the same time as his peers. Youth Eastside Services provided supportive counseling. Parents can best support siblings and other family members by being open and willing to talk. Avoid keeping secrets throughout the process.
Love, listen, and be willing to share, Marie advises parents of a transgender child. Become educated. Follow your child’s lead. Coden didn’t change; he remains the artistic, compassionate person he always has been. Help others see that this is normal; there are countless ways to “be.” After he came out, Marie noticed an ease and a comfort in self in Coden.
Her husband, children, and sisters have been Marie’s sources of strength and inspiration. Friends, teachers, and the school district have been important sources of support. A gift of her journey is the awareness that she placed people in boxes; you are “this or that”. Kids see others with 3-D glasses and care less about the boxes. Life is a broad spectrum filled with endless possibilities, not an either/or.
Marie’s greatest hope is that we all have the ability to see people for who they want to be seen as. She hopes to see this awareness spread beyond liberal pockets and that leaders in government, sports, and entertainment can be free to be themselves and be seen.
Marie’s two children fill her with pride. Molly has exceeded Marie’s wildest imaginations in her academic success and being the wonderful person she is. Marie couldn’t be prouder of Coden. His coming out story involves a persuasive speech delivered to his English class at the age of thirteen, one month after his email to Marie. Parents shouldn’t raise children as a particular gender, he said. They could get it wrong, making it harder for a child to say who he/she is when they are ready to do so. He proudly concluded, “I am transgender, and my name is Coden.” His self-awareness, courage, and confidence blow Marie away.
“Be willing to see people as they see themselves and talk about it.”Marie S.
Women for One Marie’s story about Coden’s coming out as a transgender male
WayOut Empowering LGBTQ+ youth to feel safe being who they really are
Youth Eastside Services Provides evidence-based mental health counseling, substance use and co-occurring disorder counseling and treatment, psychiatric services, and education and prevention programs to children and youth and their families in the Seattle area
Thank you for listening!
May our stories help forge your path forward. I hope you’ll stay tuned for our next episode and in the meantime, learn more about my story on my blog.