Summer afternoons are filled with planning for C.J. Carman and daughter Nicole: there are college apartments to rent, books to buy and surgical procedures to undergo.
“Everything is going to be different," Nicole said. “I will have a new name, new gender, new place, new school.”
Come August, when Nicole heads to Sacramento State for her freshman year of college, the Pittsburgh High School graduate will embark on a new life into adulthood as a trans man.
After years of discontent and unease, Nicole will fade away and Cole will emerge.
“It’s not something where I woke up one day and was like I’m transgender," Nicole said. "It took a while, many steps and days and conversations with myself before I knew it was the right decision.”
Home videos growing up show the path to that decision was marked by Barbie houses, princess cakes, lots of happy holidays and Nicole's signature pigtails.
Adopted when she was just five-and-a-half weeks old, mom C.J. said Nicole was always a vivacious child. But by middle school C.J. began to notice a change, both physical and emotional.
“I did know there was some unhappiness and when we discovered what was going on I knew I had to do something," C.J. said. "I knew I had to be on his side and support him 100 percent."
By senior year Nicole had made a decision to begin the long and complicated transition from young woman to man, a process that for Nicole involves therapy, hormones and eventually surgery.
“Right now I’m 18 and at an age where it is awkward going from teen to adult, trying to find yourself and now doing the transition as well," Nicole said. "I’m trying to find myself as a person and create the man I’m supposed to be."
C.J. and her husband support Nicole’s decision and are committed to helping make the gender transition a reality.
Asked if she felt she was losing her daughter, C.J. said not in the least
"To me I’m not losing anything. Cole is still going to be Cole," C.J. said. "The true essence, the soul is still there, and that’s who I connect with…that's who I love. I don’t care what form that is."
Nicole is grateful for the unconditional love her family has shown her, a connection she wants to someday replicate when she has her own biological children.
The 18 year old is among the first transgender teens in the country to have her eggs harvested and frozen to use later as a man. How she made the decision and the medical advances being used to preserve her fertility before Nicole becomes Cole.