Understanding complicated gender issues and what it means to be trans in America is still a continual learning curve for many. But when hits home it gets personal.
Jodie Patterson, mother of five, says she had no choice but to respond when her presumed daughter, Penelope, told her that he was actually a boy at the age of 2.
"Really early on there were signs that Penel was very different. Something was laying on [him] really heavy. Every time we would try to put clothing on him, or dress him or bath him, there was an intense reaction to his body from himself," Patterson shares in a mini documentary by Cosmopolitan.
"Once Penelope began to speak...it was like no to clothing, no to shoes, no to hair brushing. One day I remember pulling Penelope aside and just being like 'what really wrong baby? why are you so upset?' And Penelope said 'because everyone thinks I'm a girl."
While most parents would be ill equipped for such a revelation, Patterson says she quickly began to affirm Penelope and who he felt he was from the inside out.
"He said, 'no mommy I don't feel like a boy, I am a boy," Patterson recalled Penelope saying.
Patterson says her identity as a Black woman raised by a Black mom with Black sisters left her at sort of crossroads.
"All of my sisters and my mom raised me to really be proud of being a woman, and my child was like 'I'm not a woman, I don't want to be a woman. I don't want to look like you. I want to look like dad. I felt like what had I done. Had I forgot to do something that was essential to self-pride?" Patterson says.
"A lot of people confuse this conversation I had with Penelope as being something too advanced for like a 2-year-old to talk about, but identity is something that happens that early."
For those who may question why Patterson chose to let Penelope "lead" on the issue of her identity, she says it's because it "smacked" her in the face.
Though she's years away from puberty, Patterson says she does dread the day it comes because for trans children it can be a nightmare and "super depressing." Not to mention, some people may not know how to respond to Penelope within a body she doesn't identify with.
She maintains that he doesn't have to medically change her anatomy if he does not want to. The decision, she says, is all his own.
"He's a boy regardless," she says.
Despite the lack of education and acceptance around trans identity, Patterson says she hopes, in 2015, that is beginning to change.
"The collective understanding is that we are who are from the inside out. That's kind of the direction we're moving in."
(Photo: Cosmopolitan via Youtube)