Jodie Patterson: Mothering the Nation though Radical Parenting and Acceptance
Jodie Patterson’s life changed the day her transgender son, Penelope, claimed his identity. “Mama, I am not a girl,” Penelope told his mother with tears streaming down his cheeks. “I am a boy.”
An author and activist, Patterson has been lauded by Essence, Cosmopolitan, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and many others for her work in LGBTQ advocacy. She serves as Board Chair of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and is a sought-after public speaker addressing a wide range of audiences about identity, gender and family solidarity. But perhaps closest to her heart is her role as a mother of 5.
“Penelope is my only trans child, and I realized that our family is made up of very different identities,” Patterson said. “I know the conversation of my son’s gender identity has divided America on a national platform, so I’m sure that division is happening in families as well, and I didn’t want my family to be split apart.”
She wrote about her journey of acceptance and growth in her book The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation.
Like most siblings, Patterson’s kids don’t always see eye-to-eye, but they do know how to have difficult conversations, disagree and still respect each other’s opinions and identities.
“Change happens first at home with family, and then policy catches up,” Patterson said. “When we push for more collaboration in our homes equally as we push for more collaboration in black and queer communities and more radical parenting for the future, that’s when we see change.”
Patterson knows that faith can help us through difficult times. She explained that as a mother she always wanted to fix everything, but when Penelope shared that he was a boy, she realized that there wasn’t anything about him that needed to be fixed.
“A lot of people isolate themselves from their faith when they are dealing with LGBTQ issues due to non-affirming churches or families, but I needed strength,” Patterson said. “Reinvesting in my faith has given me patience [and] trust. It made me radical, and it has made me a better parent.”