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Posts Tagged ‘education’

GenderBenderDayA Milwaukee mom refused to send her seven-year-old son to the Tippecanoe School for the Arts and Humanities on the day that the school originally tagged as “Gender Bender Day” – when boys were supposed to wear “girl” clothes and girls were supposed to wear “boy” clothes – according to the Wisconsin School Reformer. Amid complaints, the school eventually changed the name to “Switch It Up Day,” which is actually kind of funny considering the sexual connotations of the word “switch.”

Regardless, Deidri Hernandez was pissed and said that she did not want her son exposed to this apparent promotion of “homosexuality” in schools. She then went on to confuse sexual orientation with gender identity by saying, “They might as well call it Transgender Day.” She also complained about how liberals and atheists have the ear of the school, but others do not.

Well, Ms. Hernandez, I’m one of those liberals and atheists who are apparently so powerful and influential, and the truth is that I don’t like the idea of “Gender Bender Day” or “Switch Hitter Day” or whatever you want to call it either – but for very different reasons:

> This activity assumes that there are only two genders and only two acceptable ways to express them – probably a dress and makeup for girls and pants and maybe beard stubble for boys. There are no gray areas here, and it is likely that no alternative options for gender expression will be discussed.

> Most girls wear pants to school now anyway, at least some of the time, so the real “delight” of this day will be boys in dresses that everyone gets to laugh about and make fun of. Far from promoting “homosexuality,” an event like this instead promotes gay and trans bashing – “Wow, John, you sure look pretty in that dress. Who knew you were so gay?” “Albert, that dress fits you perfectly. Is it your mom’s or is it yours?” “Joe, you look so good in those high heels that I would date you – but I’m not a f*g!” (more…)

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Question MarkI have received several questions from trans guys that I am unable to answer fully or at all. I’m hoping that readers can chime in, point to resources, and provide their own knowledge and experiences. Thanks so much and, as always, thanks for reading.

A reader writes: “I’m a 23-year-old trans guy who has been on hormones for four years, but I just had my name legally changed. With a note from my doctor, I was able to change my sex marker on my driver’s license. I know I have to change my Social Security information, as well as my birth certificate.

“That being said, my goal is to finally start college this fall! My question is more about financial aid. On the FAFSA form, it will ask me my sex. Do I still put down F because that is what my birth certificate says, or M so it matches my driver’s license? I also have to get a note from Selective Service about why I can’t sign up, or else I won’t qualify for financial aid at all. If you (or a wonderful reader) have any advice, I’d greatly appreciate it!”

Based on the online research that I have done, it appears to me that you could have a problem with FAFSA if the name and/or sex that you list on your FAFSA application does not match the name and/or sex that the Social Security Administration has for you. This could delay your financial aid or cause your application to be rejected.

If you have not changed your name and sex with the Social Security Administration, then I would advise you to apply under the name and sex that the SSA has for you. This will also keep you from having to deal with the Selective Service problem, although Selective Service does have an exemption request form that you can download here (pdf document), and the exemption letter you receive will not say why you are exempt.

However, if you are applying to your school as male under your new name, which you likely are, then this can cause problems as well, because your school records won’t match your FAFSA application. I would suggest that you contact the financial aid office at the school and ask them how to proceed. That will out you at your new school, but because some of your paperwork does not match up anyway, your records will likely not all match up until you get everything squared away anyway.

I know that some readers have dealt with this, and some might even work in financial aid. Readers, what do you suggest? (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: I’m FTM, still in the closet, and I was wondering: What are the most common questions you get? I would like to know because I want to be able to think about questions that I may get asked when and if I come out of the closet.”

The questions never stop coming, and sometimes I still get caught off guard. Because I live in this “trans world,” I forget how little people actually know about this issue, even today. The good thing is that people are asking them, which means that they want to know more.

And although we all get tired of answering them sometimes, I try to look at the positive side of being a walking and breathing Google search engine – at least people want to be educated. And this is never a bad thing.

The questions I get depend in large part on what I’m doing. If I’m in an educational role of some sort – speaking in front of a group or to the media, for example – I would say that the top ten questions are as follows (in no particular order):

1. What does transgender mean and what is the difference between transgender and transsexual?

2. Who are you attracted to and who do you date?

3. How old were you when you “knew”?

4. Have you had “the operation”?

5. How did your family react?

6. What discrimination/prejudice have you experienced?

7. What do hormones do? Do you have to take them for the rest of your life?

8. What are the health risks of transition?

9. How did you feel when you “knew”? What was it that made you know that you were trans (or a man)?

10. What are some of the differences you see between living as a man and living as a woman? (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I’m thinking about speaking to a Gender Studies class at the college I attend because of some ignorant comments from ignorant classmates when I took the class last semester (such as ‘I can pick out trans* people by looking into their eyes’).

“The professor thinks that it’s a great idea. (I spent the whole semester educating him.)

“I am not actively out at the school and would use a pseudonym if I do a presentation. The college has a very large student population of 40,000+, so I’m not too concerned about being known, but don’t want to be stupid.

“Besides using a pseudonym and making sure everyone has their phone and computers put away, are there any tips that you can give me before I commit to do this – like what to say, etc.?”

This is a good question that I think a lot of people wonder about, particularly if you are not a speaker or teacher. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, we as trans people are often put into the position of either wanting to or having to educate, and sometimes we are asked to do this in front of a class or group, even if we are not professional presenters.

Unfortunately, when we do speak, we are often seen as representatives of our entire group, providing information that transfers to anyone who identifies as trans in some way. Whatever we put out there is seen as fact, and how we present ourselves in front of others is seen as the way “trans people are.”

Because of these misunderstandings, and because speaking in front of a group is just plain tough, especially if you’re not used to it, there are a few tips that I can offer that might be helpful. Readers will probably have others. Here are some that I consider essential:

1. Overview: Start out with a brief introduction, including who you are (even if you are using a pseudonym), how you identify (tell them that definitions will come later), and why you are there. Explain (briefly) what you intend to talk about during the class period. Explain to them why this information is necessary and important for them as students and as human beings functioning in a very diverse world. (more…)

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Question MarkThe following two questions are actually quite different, but there was enough of a connection that I was able to pair them under the same headline. So to keep the Ask Matt questions from getting too backed up, that’s exactly what I did.

A reader writes: “I’m a mid-twenties FTM (four months on T) and a devout meathead. Now I KNOW you’re not a doctor, but I was hoping I could have some input regarding body fat during transitioning. At what point, if ever, are transmen able to use the male standards for body fat percentage? And is there a general point in time when body fat redistribution steadies? I’d appreciate any technical info or just personal accounts. Thanks!”

This is an interesting question, because I have wondered this myself on occasion and have never thought to ask my doctor. Although I no longer work out to any extent, when I look at Body Mass Index and Basal Metabolic Rate calculators online to try to figure out where I should be weight-wise or what a realistic calorie intake is, I always question whether I should enter “male” or “female.”

Testosterone has given me a little extra muscle mass, which is waning in my golden years, and I went through a period of time when I worked out frequently and added some more, or at least enhanced what I had. But even without a lot of muscle, it seems that T does have some influence over metabolism, and it definitely influences body-fat distribution, so it would seem to me that “male” would be an appropriate selection based on that.

However, I still have a “typical” female bone structure, and my forty-two years with minimal testosterone and a lot of estrogen had a strong influence on my body type and structure, and some of that no doubt remains. Based on that, do I choose “female” when trying to decide how many calories I should have or what my “healthy” weight should be?

I don’t know, and I hope someone out there with medical or health and fitness training can tell us. I would be inclined to say that, given your age, the fact that you are a muscle guy, and the fact that T, combined with working out, is going to greatly influence your muscle mass over time, you should probably be able to use “male” standards after six months to a year on T. (more…)

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Trans symbolSome of you might be aware that I have gone to a once-a-week posting schedule for my blog. I will be posting every Monday for the time being, because there are some things going on in the near future that I will be focusing on.

The most exciting of these developments is the “Transgender Studies” class that I will be teaching at Metropolitan State University of Denver for the Spring 2013 semester. This is not a weekend seminar, but a three-credit, full-term class being offered through the Institute for Women’s Studies and Services as part of their Gender and Sexualities minor. I am not only teaching it, but I am designing the curriculum as well, and I couldn’t be prouder.

If you or anyone you know attends Metro State, please spread the word. This is an important class that is designed for anyone who wants or needs to know more about transgender and transsexual issues. It will benefit future therapists, educators, medical personnel, business people, politicians, and everyone else who takes it. No prior “transgender knowledge” is required, and there are no stupid questions. The class was just approved, so will be listed in the online catalog in time for November registration.

In addition to working on this class, I want to write some more “10 Tips” short books (10 Tips for Parents of Adult Trans Children is now available as a pdf download – see right sidebar) and start on some other projects. So for the immediate future, I will be posting on Mondays only. Thank you so much for your support, and thanks for reading!

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I’m twenty years old, FTM, and have been out to my family for two years and on testosterone for one year. My little sister is eleven. When I first came out, she was really fine with it and, from what I could tell, only struggled with it for a short while because she felt like she was losing her big sister. But now she is one of my best allies and embraces me wholeheartedly as her big brother.

“Recently, she’s been getting her hair cut short – shorter than mine, even. She doesn’t wear anything that would really be described as ‘feminine,’ shopping in both the boys’ section and the girls’ section at stores. She also seems really interested in the LGBT community. I haven’t pushed her to do any of this. The thing is, my sister told me that she might be gender-neutral, and I may have heard her mention once that she thinks she could be bi.

“I just don’t know if eleven years old is too young to decide any of that. I told her that I support her no matter how she identifies, but I also encouraged her to keep an open mind because she doesn’t have to know exactly what she is right now.

“However, my biggest concern is that she seems miserable at school. And today was only her second day of sixth grade. She says her classmates are rude to her and no one likes her. I suspected that it might be because of her more ambiguous gender presentation, but I can’t know for sure. She was so excited to go back to school, but on the first day she came home and cried.

“Right now, I’m starting to worry if maybe I did unintentionally influence her too much, and confuse her about gender. So I guess what I want to ask is: Do you think I’ve influenced my sister negatively or confused her at all? Is she expressing her true gender/exploring gender or is she just trying to be like me because she looks up to me? What should I do to make sure she knows I support her no matter what, and how can I encourage her to be herself? What are the chances that two siblings could both be FTM (considering that we have three cisgender brothers, if that means anything), and what should I do if my sister turns out to be trans/wants to transition? Do you have any other advice?”

I had to edit your letter for length, but I think the gist of the situation is still here. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know whether or not your decision to transition has had an influence on your sister. She might not even know.

Many younger siblings want to emulate their older siblings, and your sister is at an age where young people often struggle to figure out who they are and where they fit in. They sometimes try on various identities over the course of adolescence until they find one that fits. An older sibling can provide a role model for trying out a certain appearance or identity.

Her classmates are in the same situation, which is why middle school youth can be so cruel. They are incredibly self-conscious, they are terrified that they are not okay and that others won’t accept them, and they welcome any chance to join with others against someone else. This takes the imaginary spotlight off of them, and allows them to feel accepted and part of the group. (more…)

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