Posts Tagged ‘trans education’

Question MarkA reader writes: “Can a person be both a part of the community and an ally? What I mean is, is an ally always an outsider to T/LGB? Is a transgender person necessarily an activist or informer, the way an ally is? What about those who question their gender but are otherwise supportive and politically/socially active?

“The third question applies mostly to myself, but my questioning isn’t at the heart of this email. Whatever I am labeled, I want to move transgender issues forward, giving clarity to others. If I hadn’t set out to find out all the information I know now, I think I would have a very distorted view on gender. It is not difficult to imagine a trans-ignorant/transphobic world beyond myself, especially with all the things I hear in my family and at school.”

To answer your question, I think that we need to look at the differences between an ally, an advocate, and an activist. To do this, we’ll use good old Merriam-Webster:

Ally: a person or group that gives help to another person or group.

Advocate: a person who works for a cause or group.

Activism: a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action, especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue. (Oddly, there was no definition for activist, but based on this, an activist would be a person who does this)

So, when we look at these definitions, we can see that an ally is not a member of the group to which that person belongs. An ally is an “outsider” who gives help to that group. You could be an ally to the transgender community, or you could be a member of the transgender community, but you couldn’t be both.

Now, you could be a member of the LGBT community and be an ally of the trans community – if you were a non-trans lesbian, gay man, or bisexual person. You could be an ally of the LGB community if you were trans and straight-identified or queer-identified. But if  you are trans and gay-identified, for example, you would be a member of the gay community and the trans community – not an ally of either. (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 MarkA reader writes: “I am avidly following your posts about how the T relates to the rest of the acronym. I’d like to bring up the A (or one of the A’s, as the case may be). Many people in the Queer community tend to alienate our Allies. I think this is abhorrent.

“I have seen cis allies of trans people get called out harshly simply because they didn’t know all of the proper terminology. I believe in education, but taking such a teaching moment and turning it into a bashing session is unacceptable. How do we as trans people (or queer people in general) help our allies? How do we help them learn and grow and support us how we need? How to we defend them from those who would rather not have them at all?”

This is a great question that I think will get a lot of varying responses from readers. I am of two minds regarding the education and support of our allies, and both of those minds get to say their piece in response.

First of all, I believe that we absolutely need allies, and this is not because we can’t get things done ourselves. Allies bring a different set of ideas, experiences, and viewpoints to the table. Allies can help educate those who would otherwise simply dismiss us. Allies can help turn the tide for those who are in the “teachable middle” – those non-trans people who aren’t sure how they feel about us or who don’t think they have to feel any way at all.

In addition, allies add numbers to our support base, and I believe that, the bigger the support base, the more clout we have, politically and otherwise. Allies are invaluable in any social or political movement, and I would hard-pressed to come up with a reason why we would not want them, although I’m sure someone has other thoughts on this.

I have seen allies torn to shreds over a simple misstep or slip of the tongue. I have seen allies dismissed out of hand because they asked a simple question, made an innocent assumption, or misunderstood what someone was talking about. I have seen them belittled or mocked for not knowing everything there is to know about one person’s trans experience (because not everyone’s experience is the same). This is unfortunate, because allies don’t have to stick around. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I am working very hard to teach my children to acknowledge their various privileges. Social justice parenting is extremely important to their father and I, but we know that because we are also riddled with various privileges that we will unintentionally pass on our biases to our children despite our best efforts.

“My questions are: What are the most important messages do you feel that we should convey to our cis gender children to help them understand their privilege and what it means to be trans? How would you direct these conversations to ensure that they don’t stand out as different than any other subject? I have tried over the years to talk to my children about trans people, and at this point, I am fairly certain that I am not getting the message across properly.”

I admire your commitment to teach your children about trans issues in conjunction with your overall parenting philosophy, and I wish more parents would follow your lead. Based on what you’re saying, I doubt that the problem is that you’re not getting the message across. It’s more likely that they are being influenced by outside sources, or, if they are young, that they simply aren’t all that interested in or concerned about the message right now.

But even with peers and other outside influences hammering away at them, it’s likely that your message is what will stick with them, even if they are not consciously responding to it now. Research shows that parental or caretaker figures are the strongest influence in most children’s lives. So even if they are indifferent, or even hostile, to the message now, they will remember it later on and it will have a strong effect on their opinions later in life.

For now, you might have to put up with the fact that they either don’t care about the message – it’s not affecting them directly at the moment – or that their peers are encouraging them to join in with jokes or teasing about trans and gender-diverse people, which they might go along with regardless of how they feel personally, because it’s really difficult to stand up to peers or be the only one to speak out. Again, as they get older, that will change, particularly because of your early influences.

Now, on to your questions, which I’m sure readers will also have thoughts about and suggestions to make, so I hope we hear from a lot of people. Here are a few of my thoughts: (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I will be talking and teaching teachers about being transgender and working with them to create a safer school climate and a respectful school climate. This particular school is getting its first trans boarding student. Several teachers have asked about the other students, as in, ‘They should be told that the new student is trans’ and ‘We need to protect the trans student and we need to protect the other students.’ How would you respond to this?

“I know it takes time to get used to something unfamiliar. I also believe, even in private high schools, that teachers must leave their baggage at the door, which is hard, but we did it with big areas like religion, racism, etc. How would you help faculty see what they need to do to create not only awareness, but eventually acceptance?”

I have done Safe Schools training in the past, and it’s sometimes tough to get everyone on board. However, in my experience, most teachers really do want to help all of their students, and I think that is the key. In order for all students to learn, the classroom must be a safe environment for everyone.

While it’s sometimes hard to leave personal baggage at the schoolhouse door, particularly when it comes to topics such as sexual orientation and gender identity, which have somehow become both political and religious topics (and which, in an ideal world, would be neither), teachers who are truly committed to helping kids learn will also be committed to separating their personal agenda from their professional one.

I certainly commend the school on bringing in a trainer for the teachers in light of getting its first trans student. I wish more schools, businesses, and other organizations would do as much. But with this student will come controversy, no doubt, and you are wise to be concerned about teaching the faculty everything that they need to know in order to make all their students comfortable while promoting acceptance for this new student.

I don’t have all the information I need to avoid making assumptions, so I’m going to assume that this is a trans girl (transitioned or transitioning from male to female) and that she is living full-time as a female. I am also making an assumption that, because this is a boarding school, she will be sharing living quarters with other females, as well as classes. Based on these assumptions, in my opinion, in order to protect the new student, the teachers might have to forgo “protecting” the current students. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “My dad has asked me to visit him, and despite the poor state of our relationship, I have some reasons for seriously considering going. He recently moved, and I don’t really know any people where he currently lives.

“My concern is that he will have told his new friends all about his daughter using my old name, and will then (no matter how much I ask him not to) introduce me to his friends as his daughter and with my old name.

“These days I’m almost always perceived as male, so it’ll either out me as trans or they’ll think my dad has dementia or something. But he’ll have old photos and such if he wants to back up his story, and I wouldn’t put it past him to do that. I also don’t think his friends will be very aware of or open-minded about trans people.

“My dad would not be sympathetic if I ask him to change/correct his story for my safety. He’d have a ‘You brought this upon yourself’ kind of mindset. Most likely, I’ll just not visit, but I really do have some good reasons for wanting to go. Any advice for how to handle this?”

Although I (and probably several readers) would agree with you that you might just want to cancel your visit based on what you’ve said, I’m going to operate from the assumption that you are going to go. Based on that, here are some of my thoughts. I know readers will have more, and some of them may have even experienced this, so be sure to check the comments for some good input.

> You say that your dad has “asked” you to visit. That means he wants you there, and he might want you there more than you want to be there. That gives you some bargaining power. I’m not a fan of manipulation, but I am a fan of respecting a person you want something from. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I’ve had an idea that I might be transsexual for a number of years now. I’ve kept it pretty quiet until now, and even then have only muttered it to a couple people who I trust, because I’d like to start making some changes in my life.

“My problem is this – my sister is in the middle of transitioning. She has started hormone therapy, and is very happy, but our parents are still having some difficulty, especially our dad, who lives a considerable distance away and can be somewhat ‘stand-offish.’ My mother feels a lot of guilt over the fact that one of her children was born in the wrong body (that she knows of) and one is a ‘butch lesbian.’

“I’m terrified of bringing it up, because I feel like there might be an official tally somewhere in their brains that monitors the number of transgendered children they can deal with, and that the limit is one. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.”

This is a dilemma, but it’s not as bad as it might appear. It’s true that your parents might have a difficult time facing the fact that they have two trans children. But it seems that they do, and they will probably eventually have to deal with that. There might be some things that you can do to make it easier. I have a few thoughts, and I’m sure that readers will have plenty more.

> I don’t know your age or your sister’s age, but I am going to assume that you are both adults. No matter how important you are to your parents and your parents are to you, there comes a point when adult children must go off and live their own lives – and their parents can’t predict or control those lives. (more…)

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