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Posts Tagged ‘trans education’

Bayard RustinA bill working its way through the California state legislature would mandate the teaching of LGBT history in California schools, reports Chicago Pride. If the bill passes, the LGBT community would join several other marginalized groups whose history has been identified as a required topic.

I think this is extremely important, and I hope the bill passes. I also hope that the writers of the history books used in California schools and other schools across the country recognize that “LGBT history” is really just “history.”

I’m sure that history books and history lessons have come a long way since I was in school (I sure hope so), but the fact that we still need laws mandating that certain groups be included in history lessons tells me that they haven’t come far enough.

I appreciate certain months and certain units set aside for the history of marginalized groups in the United States. If we didn’t have those months and units, often the most important members of those groups, and the history of the groups themselves, would not be recognized at all.

But we also need to keep in mind that the history of the many marginalized groups in this country did not happen in some parallel universe while “real” history was being made by economically privileged straight white men. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “My family has been super-supportive of my transition. My mom still lives in the same house, in the same neighborhood I grew up in, and although our city isn’t small, it is not uncommon to run into people we know when we are out.

“I am willing to introduce myself as my new male self to take the burden off my mom (or other family members), but also ask your advice as to how to make those re-introductions when you run into friends or acquaintances of the family who may not know about the daughter-to-son transition I have undergone. I don’t want to make anyone feel awkward, but can’t seem to figure out the etiquette of it either. Suggestions?”

I’m not sure that you will succeed in eliminating awkwardness. It’s not an everyday situation, and unusual or unique situations tend to make people feel awkward. But there are some things you can do to make things more comfortable.

When I first started my transition, my sister had the same problem you do. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as thoughtful with her at first as you are being with your family.

I said (irritated and annoyed), “Just introduce me as your brother!”

She said (equally irritated and annoyed), “You still have boobs! They show!”

And then I realized just how unreasonable I was being.

Based on my own (rather awkward) experiences, I have some suggestions, and I’m sure that readers will have others. (The names are made up.)

Scenario 1 – for when you don’t want to come out, for whatever reason:

You and your mother are out at the mall or elsewhere, and an old friend comes up to her.

“Jane, how are you? It’s been a long time,” her friend says.

“I’m just fine, Nancy. I hope you are well, too. Nancy, this is John (that’s you). John, this my friend Nancy.”

You say hi, Nancy says hi, and it’s over. Your mother owes Nancy no explanation about who you are. If Nancy has any sense of etiquette of her own, she will just move on with the conversation and then be on her way. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “In a comment, you wrote about gender norms: ‘I also believe that, no matter how much we relax (the binary gender system) or expand it (or even if we eliminate it), the medical need for transition will remain. People who need to transition need to transition, regardless of the gender system in place. The elimination or expansion of the binary gender system would serve to reduce or eliminate the stress and discrimination that trans people experience, but I don’t think it would eliminate the need to transition.’

“I would like to hear more about your thoughts on this and the reasons why you think so. How would trans issues look in some sort of gender-diverse/free utopia?”

The comment that the reader refers to above was my response to another comment on the post “I Don’t Regret Seeing ‘Regretters.” There are people who believe that, if gender norms were relaxed or eliminated, there would be no need for any trans person to correct his or her physical body. I believe that such a system might reduce some people’s need to go through a physical transition, but I don’t believe that it would eliminate such a need for all trans people.

I am, of course, looking at everything through the lens of a Western, binary gender system. That is the system into which I was socialized, and although I can acknowledge, and even favor, other systems, I will probably never be able to look at things with complete objectivity.

It’s interesting that this question comes along now, because in “Writing Your Gender,” the class I teach at Metropolitan State College of Denver, we have been discussing that very thing – if a society recognizes more than two genders, and if genders did not correspond so strictly with the physical body, would anyone be compelled to change his or her body based on gender identity? (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I am lucky enough to have a number of people in my life who, though they ‘cannot understand’ my experiences, are truly empathetic and supportive.

“But I have hit a wall with a couple of people – not in terms of the reality of gender dysphoria, but in the extent of it. This results in a lot of conversations along the lines of ‘I support your transition, but I don’t understand why you have to do X,’ or ‘I want you to be happy, but I don’t see how Y would make you happier,’ or ‘Why do you have to do this now?’

“Is it even constructive to try to bring these people along with you on your transition? When they claim to want to participate, but only on their own terms, I wonder if I’m doing anyone any good in trying to push them to empathize.”

There are huge differences among the concepts of experiencing something, having a general understanding of it, and simply accepting that it exists. When I speak to classes or groups, I often say, “It’s very difficult for people who have never experienced this to understand it. But you don’t have to experience it yourself, or even understand it, to accept that it exists.”

It sounds like the people you are referring to accept the fact that being trans exists and that you are experiencing it, but, as you say, they are accepting it on their terms. They are asking you to explain yourself and to defend your decisions and your path to their satisfaction.

The problem is that they will never be satisfied, because they haven’t experienced what you are experiencing, and they are not willing to simply accept the fact that your situation exists in the way that it does, and you have to do the things that you are doing, for no other reason than because you say so.

And that’s honestly the only explanation that you have to give. (more…)

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Me and meOf course, the cardinal rule of outing is – don’t.

But what if your spouse/partner/child/parent/best friend or other loved one has transitioned, and you happen to run into someone who doesn’t know? And what if that person says to you, “Oh, Mary, how’s your husband, Bill? I haven’t seen him in ages! What’s he doing now?”

And what if Bill is now Sandra?

This could happen at any time for a person whose loved one has transitioned. So what, in this case, is Mary to do? (more…)

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DictionaryI think that trans language and meaning can be regional. Because there are certain areas that have gender centers, and because there are a limited number of medical doctors and therapists who treat trans people, people who seek information from a certain gender center, Web site, or group, and are then referred to certain doctors and therapists, will use the language and the meanings that they “learned” from those resources when they started gathering information about their transness.

As they become more aware of the larger trans community through various connections, such as the Internet, people’s language, and their understanding of such, can change.

In part one, I talked about my early self-definition as a transgendered female, and how that changed to transsexual man or trans man as I started transition. But I find that some trans people are aghast when I mention that I saw myself as a transgendered female. (There are a lot of things in life that make perfect sense to me that seem to make others back up slowly and then head in a different direction.) (more…)

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DictionaryWords are the tools of a writer, and, since I’m a writer, it shouldn’t be surprising that I’m obsessed with language, although my constant ruminations on the topic might get boring for my readers.

But since it has now been 13 years since I started what I call my gender transition, a term that is increasingly unpopular with others; since gender and transgender issues are what I write about; and since we have started a brand new year that could lead to who knows what, I thought I would glance back over the evolution of my own trans language.

Two of the major changes I have made are:

1. Dropping the “ed” from “transgender,” which I did kicking and screaming all the way. I did this out of respect for GLAAD media guidelines and the influential trans activists who prefer to present consistency to the non-trans public.

2. Separating “trans” from “man” or “woman” — “transman” is now “trans man” and “transwoman” is now “trans woman.” I did this as the result of one blog post I read that I agreed with. It’s amazing how exposure to one simple idea can change a person’s mind. (more…)

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