About Terri Cook

I'm the proud mom of two young men, one of whom happens to be transgender. I’m a passionate ally, advocate, and co-author of the book, Allies & Angels: A Memoir of Our Family’s Transition. I hope to use our family’s experience to help others, increase awareness, and open hearts and minds.

Speaking out for Equality

Last month my husband and I took part in local history, advocating alongside others for a local law that would grant equal protection and rights to transgender individuals. The Transgender-Inclusive Non-Discrimination law was widely supported and passed by a vote of 8-1! Before the bill could be signed into law, a public hearing with the Mayor was held. I was asked to speak at the hearing and share my support of the bill and perspective as the parent of a transgender youth. Speakers were limited to 2 minutes. Those of you who know me know what a challenge that was for me! After all, I’ve got a lot to say on the topic…

I thought I’d share my speech on the blog.

Gender identity is often taken for granted. For most of us, our gender identity matches the body we were born in… and it can be very difficult for people to understand what it means to be transgender… or to understand an identification that is different from our own. I was one of those people, and if you asked me several years ago what it means to be transgender I would have provided an uneducated, and possibly insensitive, response.

But I’ve learned a lot over the past few years. I learned because I had to learn… because my child’s life depended on it. My 17 year old son is transgender. His struggle to understand, accept, and simply be who he is almost cost him his life.

As a mom, I could not be more proud of him. And I have no doubt that if you knew him, you would admire him, and adore him, and wish you had the privilege of raising such an incredible son.

It is through personal and professional relationships… through getting to know actual transgender people… that we can break down the myths, lies, fears and stereotypes that lead to discrimination.

I want to stress how important it is for all of us who believe in fairness to learn more about the challenges faced by transgender individuals — and to do something about it. We are talking about regular people who are trying to make a living, send their children to school and pay their bills — just like other Americans. And we are talking about children and young people who are trying to survive… to fit in and be accepted… to get through school without being beaten, bullied, or kicked out of their own homes.

Unfortunately, because they are transgender, they are often treated differently and denied the dignity and equality that every person deserves.

Laws such as this amended Fair Practices Act are needed to protect transgender individuals and prohibit discrimination. These are not special protections, but the same protections that other Americans enjoy. Thank you.

Power of the Personal Story

I’m really excited (and a little bit nervous) about my first blog post. There’s so much I want to share to generate excitement about the upcoming launch of The Ally Project! We have a big dream and a long list of ideas to make that dream a reality.

To keep you coming back, we have to keep it fun, informative, interactive, and eye-opening. And that’s what we plan to do.

One of the features I’m most looking forward to incorporating in The Ally Project is sharing personal stories. I believe real change comes about when we can see each other as real people…. no more or less important than ourselves. Often we have been exposed to myths or lies or stereotypes about people which simply aren’t true. A well-told story can help us get to know somebody and see the common qualities and shared experiences that bind us. As we get to know people, we can break down the myths, lies, or stereotypes that previously distorted our view of the world.

The Ally Project will be bringing you real people telling their real stories through video, photos, narratives, interactive webcasts and seminars. You’re going to meet some of the most amazing people… people just like you in many ways and different from you in others.

In October I attended the Human Rights Campaign 16th Annual National Dinner and had the opportunity to witness several incredible speakers. Among them was Academy Award Winning Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black who told a personal story, his coming out story. His speech demonstrated so powerfully how impactful our personal stories can be in bringing about change in others.

Dustin grew up in a Mormon home, in a military family from San Antonio, TX. As he put it, the deck was stacked against him… not the easiest place to come out. He travelled home from college one holiday break feeling fear and dread… not knowing how to tell his family he was gay. Before he could say anything, his mom made her feelings known. She started talking about the news of the day which was really bugging her… “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” She went on and on talking about how it really bothered her that gays and lesbians could hide in her army… why these people, these sinners, had any place in her nation’s army.

Dustin prayed she wouldn’t see the look in his eyes… that the tears welling up wouldn’t roll down his cheeks… but they did. When his mom looked down and saw the look on his face and the tears in his eyes, that’s when she knew the truth about her son. Dustin could see the despair… the pain. He saw her questioning what she had done wrong to ruin her baby boy.

Watch Dustin tell the full story to hear what happened that dispelled all the myths and lies and stereotypes that his mom had come to believe.

 

Through stories we can learn and develop compassion, understanding and connectedness to others. Stories can provide an understanding of the inner workings of different types of people. Through the stories of others, we can learn more about ourselves.

Never underestimate the power of telling your personal story. I hope you keep coming back to The Ally Project to see, hear, and participate in the sharing of other people’s stories… and perhaps even your own!