Posts Tagged ‘Self Image’


Trans Girl with a Lesson Plan II

13 May, 2016
Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a trans woman trying to teach in a public high school? If so, read on and learn about my day.
     It started before I got in the building. The principal meet me outside and said that (we’ll call him) “K’s” guardian “isn’t going to let his grade stand. They’re gonna fight this.” I told him, “K has missed 29 days of school and was tardy 42 times on the days he was present. HIs grade is a 48% and he needs a 73% to pass.” The principal said, “I know, and I’ve got you 100%, but they’re gonna fight it.” So, a lovely opening to my day, but that’s not all that will happen.
     Because the seniors are no longer required to come to school, I have been substituting for other teachers. I start the day off with a teacher’s credit recovery class. I’m not in there for thirty seconds when the first of the kids comes in. He takes one look at me and says, “Oh, hell no. I’m not sittin’ in no room with an it.” They walked out and the three students behind him followed suit. In the end, I had one student in the classroom.
     Halfway through this first period, I get called down to the guidance office to talk to a student about his grades. Oh, surprise, it’s K. I explained to him exactly what I told the principal and tell him the choices he made during the school year have lead him to a point of no return. There is no recovery for fourth quarter. He will have to do summer school. Then I’m sent to sub another class.
     Twenty-minutes later I get called in to meet with a different student and his mother. When the mother enters the room she looks at me, winces, and averts her eyes. I’ve seen this before, you can’t be a trans woman and not recoginise this look. She is so disturbed or offended by what she sees when she looks at me that she cannot bring herself to look at me. My HR person had the same reaction when I came out at work; after that he never looked directly at me again. So, we all stand up to shake mom’s hand. I offer my hand and she will not shake it. I’m standing there like a dope with my hand out, as everyone looks at us feeling awkward, but not near as awkward as I felt or even awkward enough to justify not saying something about this situation. She slowly take a deep breath, holds it, loosely places her hand in mine for about two seconds, then wipes it off on her jeans while expelling her held breath so she doesn’t catch whatever disease I have. She avoids looking at me the whole time, even when I was speaking to her directly. Oh, and it is my fault her whole family is coming to see her son not graduate.
     Then it’s K again. We have to call his mom to talk about his grade. It’s a conference call with the principal and vice principal included. Mom doesn’t acknowledge my presence except to ask what work I will give him so he can graduate. I explain everything all over again. She refuses to acknowledge what I have said. I explain about the summer school program. She says, “I hope you won’t be teaching it.” That’s all I get out of her the whole meeting.
     Then it’s back to my room for thirty minutes. Five of which are taken up by K emailing me pleading me to give him some work that will raise his 48 to a 73. The next twenty-five are taken up by a student who was part of the group I sponsored. He spent his time trying to guilt trip, whine, threaten, and cry his way out of the 60% he earned. Mind you, he’s still graduating because he earned 90+ over the required percentage for the year. When that fails he tells me, “I’m disappointed in you You think that you fight for equality but you don’t. If you can’t see I’m a good kid and deserve a better grade then you don’t stand for equality.” I told him the conversation was over and he had to leave. He sat there arguing for ten minutes, refusing to leave the room, despite my asking and telling him to leave no less than seven times. He finally left when I went to page security to the room. He left saying, “I’m gonna pray for you because you need it. God bless you and thank you for the service you rendered.” I locked my door so he couldn’t come back.
     Then I dealt with another email from K. This one tells me he will be homeless if I don’t change his grade and I will have personally ruined his future.
     Now it is fourth period. I have had no lunch and no planning (which is supposed to be third period.) Instead, I go to a science classroom to sub for a ninth grade teacher. It is acknowledged by the administrator that this is a very poorly behaved class. He used the words “out of control,” Why he thought I was a good fit for that is beyond me. It takes ten minutes to get them out of the hall and seated. I have to shut and lock the door because there is a different group of ninth graders in the hall mocking the “man in the dress.” They begin banging on the door. The students ignore me, ignore the instructions, ignore the school rules, and ingnore everything except their phones. Well, all except one student, who we will call “H.” H gets on his FaceTime and begins telling a student at another school that some “he-she is supposed to be watching us.” H then tries to let the students from the hallway into the classroom. I stand in front of the door and block him. He says, “Hey, SIR, I wanna let them in.” I stand there and say nothing. He goes to sit back down saying “He looked like he wants to knock my ass.” I call for the administrator; when he arrives he takes over the class and tells me to write the boy up. I do, but I also realise that nothing will actually be done about it.
     Then it’s back to my room. I answer one more email from K who tells me I should have been telling him everyday that he was failing because the failed papers, failed tests, failed grades in the system, and the failed grades on his progress report weren’t enough to for him to know that he was failing.
     The phone rings. It’s the credit recovery teacher letting me know I’ll be teaching the seniors who failed . . . starting Monday . . . for the next month.
     I turn off the lights, curl into my desk chair, and hide in the dark for the next fifty minutes. Hoping no one else will call or knock before I can leave for the day.
That is what it is like to be a trans woman teaching in the public education system.


15 August, 2011

12:22 pm

When I was in college I took a course in Ancient Greek. I remember two things from that class quite distinctly. The first is the abject horror I felt sitting down to a textbook that was unreadable. With the romance languages you work with the Roman alphabet, so you can haltingly read the language before you are able to understand it; by engaging the text it helped you become familiar with the language and sped up the process of learning it. Ancient Greek, however, is more than a new language, it is also a new alphabet. Nothing looks familiar. It was necessary to start over from the beginning studying a whole new system for reading, writing, and creating meaning. Of making the scrawling lines make sense.

The other aspect I will never forget is the day those lines finally made sense. I was sitting in the classroom watching Fritz write on the board trying to recognize individual letters. Suddenly the random seeming lines shifted into focus and one word popped into my head: anthropos. I hadn’t read the word, per say, rather it was almost an instinctual recognition. The lines made sense. They weren’t random chicken scratchings, but an organized method of conveying thoughts.

As I go through the transition process, I look in the mirror and I see only lines. I’m tired of seeing only lines. I see my ex-relationship, I see a chin that’s too strong, I see feminine eyes set beneath a masculine brow. I see parts but no whole and I’m tired. I’m tired of not seeing the whole. I’m tired of seeing only lines when I want to read the language.


Caitlin on Hair

27 May, 2011

This post will be a bit different from previous ones. I just wanted to “talk” for a moment about what has been on my mind, or rather, what has been above my mind, that is my hair. For the last two days I have been of the opinion that my hair seriously sucks. I had been letting it grow out and it was getting to the start of a good length when M and I fell into the Pit of Despair (martial issues). Fool that I am, I thought that getting my hair cut the way M liked would help the marriage. It would show I was willing to compromise and to see her point of view. We all know how that turned out.

So, I am back on the task of growing it out, but I am starting all over again. So now I am Caitlin and I have this hair that is too short to be long and too long to be short. So, I was asking myself: Self, why do you feel your hair length is such a negative. There are women aplenty who have short hair, some shorter than yours. Why is this such a big deal? Because, I reply, hair length is one of society’s great litmus tests for femininity and true womanhood (second only to breast size). The longer a woman’s hair the more feminine or girlish she is. Don’t buy it? Let’s look at the facts.

  1. The narcissistic primate, that is typical human, notices hair before facial features. (S)he also notices the hairline and associated problems with its placement before facial features.
  2. Hair related activities take up almost half the amount of morning prep time. From shampooing to conditioner to hair gel and hairspray to curling to blow drying to straightening to teasing and lord knows what else.
  3. Today, in the course of eight hours, I heard three distinct conversations about hair and dissatisfaction with it; none of these conversations involved the same participants twice and none had a positive tone.
  4. If you have curly hair you need to straighten it. If you have straight hair you need to introduce waves, and curls.
  5. You can’t go thirty minutes without hearing/seeing an advertisement for hair-related products and services or referencing some great hair disaster.
  6. Society considers women with short hair as more assertive, annoying, and irreverent–traits typically thought of as male; they are, also, more likely to speak their minds, making their opinions known. Women with longer hair are considered thoughtful, kind, and soft but also naive, coquettish, and emotional typhoons.

Still doubt my statement’s veracity? Try shaving your head ala Sinead O’Connor and see how long it is before people begin looking at you with concern for your mental and physical health.

These ideas are a bit dated and, of course, painted with a broad brush but enough commonality exists in people’s experiences that this broad stroke puts us on the same page. And that page is right in the middle of society’s expectation that a “real” woman has mid-length to long hair. And thus, my statement, my hair currently, seriously, societal-expectationally sucks.

:: . . . sigh . . . ::

I am so over this patience thing. Too bad I have another two years of puberty to go.


Caitlin on Myth, Fiction, and Legend

22 May, 2011

Attempt One:

“It is Saturday. The temperature is in the seventies, the sun is out and shining, the lawns and trees are green, there is a light, pleasant breeze blowing  south to north. In short, it is delightful. No, it’s more than delightful, its brilliant. Unfortunately, I am not outside enjoying this respite from rain but am inside packing boxes. With only a week remaining and a number of odds and ends and a kitchen left to pack, I do not have the time go outdoors, no matter how much I might like to–and I would like to; though I am taking sometime to enjoy how nice it is while I click-click-click away on the laptop keyboard.  I shouldn’t blog; I should focus on the task at hand, but I can’t focus on it.  It’s painful. A dull aching pain in my chest, like having just walked into an I-beam sitting at chest level only this ache is not physical; it is mental. And its cause? Photographs.”

Attempt Two:

“I came across a book of photos my Mom put together for me. Photographs of my family and myself at work around the house and at leisure. I flipped through the photos. Looking at them fills me with nostalgia for those times, the sweetness of those days captured on photographic paper while the mundane events are lost to the fog of memory.  I hesitated as I held those photos, unsure where to put them. Not what box to pack them in, but in my new home, my new place. I’m not going to want photos of who I was visible in the bachelorette pad, it will lead to questions and feeling the need to justify and explain myself.  I don’t need to explain myself or justify my choices.  I do, however, because I have respect for those around me and I want our transition as pain-free as possible. The problem with pain is its unavoidable nature. Struggle against it, rage against the dying of the light, but it will come to you just the same. It is a natural and unavoidable part of the universe. It’s all part of the natural order of things, which makes me wonder–”

Attempt Three:

“I shoved my laptop aside in frustration.  This is too pleasant, too neat and clean and squared away. What I feel today is raw and jagged and will cut deep leaving a nasty scar if handled wrong. I cried looking at those photos because of the conflicting emotions they stirred in me.  They were not nice emotions.  The word nostalgia is polite and shallow attempt to express the pang of loss and the ache of what has gone before and can never be again. But even that is not quite right, because there is also a part that is angry.  Part of me hates the photos as I hate all–”

The Raw Truth:

I don’t know how to start this. There is no poetry or flowery prose. Words are too plotted and planned. They betray the intimate emotion, the raw energy of the moment. What I want to say is simply: I am sorry.  I am sorry to all of you. For what I have done to you. I am the little boy-girl in the dark basement in Omelas. The one Le Guin wrote about; the one who must suffer for the residents of Omelas to know perfect pleasure. For thirty years everyone could be happy because I kept a dark secret buried inside me.  I was making myself miserable and ill, but the people around me could be happy. They didn’t know this was the condition for their happiness, but I did. Then I did something horrible. I let the boy-girl out of the basement and gave the kid what the kid needed for happiness. On the surface a kind act, a humane act, but in doing so I ruined paradise for the citizens of Omelas. I made everyone around me miserable by becoming myself.

Perhaps overstated a bit, perhaps not. It depends on who you talk to. But I know what I see and what I see makes me feel very selfish and very guilty. From those who do not approve of my choices I expect to see anger and resentment, but it is what I see in the dark corners of the eyes of those who support me that hurts so perfectly and completely. Buried beneath the support and well wishes–which are genuine, I do not doubt them–is a sadness. The sadness born of loss and grief as everyone mourns for the person they used to know. And now I think to myself, what gives me the right to pursue my happiness if it is at the expense of everyone else’s happiness.  What have I done to my friends and family?  I have survived thirty years of living counter to my perceptions, emotions, and understanding of myself; why can’t I play the role another thirty years and let everyone else be happy? Who am I to place my needs, my happiness, above everyone else’s. Someone must either be a rare, influential individual or a self-absorbed egotist to place their personal happiness above the happiness of the community. I am not that special. Am I that selfish?

I am afraid I am. I cannot stand misery any longer, but my happiness means hurting those I care about and that leaves me with a ragged hole in my chest. The Pandorica, the box-like cell containing the universe’s most dangerous criminal and outlaw, opened; she is out and everyone knows about her existence. It’s too late to put her back in that box because now everyone knows she’s in it. If I managed the trick, some people would easily return to the bliss they felt before it opened.  But others lost themselves and lost their peace when the Pandorica opened. They are the ones who walk away from Omelas; they are ones who could not be happy knowing I was miserable and that makes my selfish act of telling them I was miserable as horrific as it is. To those I have hurt, I apologize.

Superman and his alter ego, Clark Kent

Image via Wikipedia

But there is a B side to this album. The idea that people are heartbroken over the loss of A. A was a construct, an image. A was larger than life, the Übermensch. He was illusion supported by a feminine self. The human qualities in A were me, Caitlin.  Those qualities still exist in me because I could not be who I am without them. They are a core essence, the reality. So, why then mourn so deeply? To see the pain of loss in people’s eyes leaves me feeling like Clark Kent who longs for connection with a woman who is in love with a costumed version of himself and cannot see the real essence in him, Clark, the farm-boy from Kansas, the real person, the real hero. That’s not to say I am a hero. I’m no more a hero than I am a criminal, but the reality I face exists within these stories of  “a visitor from another world” and “a mad man with a blue box.” And although mere words cannot contain the energy and power of my emotions and the sorrow I feel at the mass number I have injured a mythos can, because, after all, aren’t we all a bit myth, a bit fiction, and a bit legend.


Turn and Face the Strange

9 April, 2011

Flitting through my mind is a melodic phrase from David Bowie:

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes! Turn and face the strange.

Bowie’s song “Changes” features heavily in my life now. My entire life is in flux and the changes occurring (some wonderful, some terrible, and many of them strange) leave me feeling as though The Divine thrust a hand into my reality and drug the internal out of Plato’s cave and into the painful light of the mundane everyday. From my marriage to my friendships to my presentation of self to my inner monologue, everything is changing.

Yeats said:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.

And I agree with him, in part. Everything is crumbling back into the lumps of red brick clay from which they were fashioned, but the center, ah yes! the center, Dearest Reader, must hold. It must hold because it does not have a voice in the matter and because without it the world, my world, will go gyrating wildly through the inky void and careen into the sun. This is how the world goes out not with a bang but a puff of fission created smoke.

So, to help stabilize the center, the essence of who I am. I have joined the mass of people tapping their neurotic musings out into the net’s ether. Stick around and watch from your secure vantage in font of your screen as I journey down the rabbit hole.