Posts Tagged ‘trans female’

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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.
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Trans Women Have Always Been Female

5 September, 2013

Early today i was reading a post about how all trans women’s experiences are female experiences, even ones that happened before social transition. You can find that post at Cis-Critical, not Cisphopic‘s Tumblr page. The permalink is here. This is a point that people miss and a lot of times they miss it due to the incorrect but deeply entrenched idea that trans women are mimicking womanhood and femininity. i know too many people who are quick to agree that since transitioning i have had female experiences who just as quickly write-off pre-transition experiences as male experiences. This is just a rephrasing of the idea that i am a man who decided to become a woman. But i’m not.

i was born female. My brain or neuro-chemistry or psyche or what-have-you has always been female. i have always understood myself to be female and i have been aware of how others did not recognise me as female since i was four years old and reprimanded for lining up with the girls. i have lived my life as a female, but one whose femininity was not taken seriously. i was beaten and emotionally abused by peers and family because they did not see masculinity in me and they decided it should be there. These are not male experiences; these are the experiences of a female who was being conditioned by force and against her will to be male.

So i adapted. i learned to fake masculinity to protect myself. That act was convincing because it had to be, my life literally depended on my ability to hide who i really was, to play a part so flawlessly that no one would know that i was female. But, playing the part does not make me male. Whenever i was alone i expressed my femininity, i gave myself permission to drop the act. For as long as my body shape allowed me, i would wear my mother’s clothes every time i was alone in the house. When i could no longer fit into her clothes i would ride my bicycle (that horrible dark blue bicycle that i was given because the ones i was looking at were too ‘cute’ and not ‘man enough’) to the local Salvation Army thrift store and buy girl’s and women’s clothing that i could fit into. i had to hide it really well, because i knew being caught meant trouble and, depending on who caught me, another beating. Even with those precautions the fear of being caught was so high i would burn the clothes after a week or two, play my role till i couldn’t take it anymore and then start the cycle over again. i took ages in the bath because it was my time to experiment with make-up and nail polish. Sometimes i filled the tub with water but never got in, it was just a cover so i could buy an hour alone to be myself. i am thankful for my acceptance into the drama club in high school because it meant i could stop hiding stuff at home. There i had free access to a huge women’s wardrobe and make-up. Thanks to a brilliant English teacher/drama coach (whom, i suspect, had an inkling of who i really was) i had free access to the wardrobe after school and sometimes during English class. If it hadn’t been for that teacher and that place where i could be myself, i would have have committed suicide before graduating because the pressure of playing male to keep everyone else happy was that destructive to my health and well-being.

None of this is a male experience. And, i know, it is not the typical female experience, but it is a female experience because it was experienced by a female who tried desperately to make everyone else happy. A female who wanted nothing more than to make her Da and Mum and brother happy. So it kills me when people tell me i had male experiences prior to socially transitioning because they are actively erasing my past and ignoring my very real, very traumatic lived experiences.

My brother is a huge culprit in this erasure. He fully supports my right to be who i am now, despite his not really understanding it, but he does not accept that i was female before i announced my intent to transition. He holds to the idea that because i acted like a male around him that, obviously, is who i truly was. He rejects the notion that i was female from birth, that i had learned to hide who i was while he was still an infant, long before he could even be aware of gender differences. i’ve attempted to explain this to him, but i am met with rebukes. He tells me i’m exaggerating or lying. He says things could not have happened that way because no kid that age could ever be aware of those feelings or be clever enough to hide them. my past cannot be allowed to exist as it happened because he is too afraid of loosing what he believes happened; the lie, the act, is real to him and matters more than the truth of my experiences.

And he’s not the only one who does this. Yes, i received certain benefits of male privilege growing up, i cannot nor do i attempt to deny that, but having received those benefits due to other people’s insistence i was male does not alter the fact that i was a female pretending to be male. The existence of some aspects of male privilege (because of elements of my femininity i could not hide i was also excluded from aspects of male privilege) in my past does not negate my lived experience of being a female hiding as a male. i saw my experiences through the eyes of a female; i felt them with the heart of a female. i mourned and hated the existence of that male character because it was not me; it was a show and i loathed having to perform it. i constantly felt fake, on the verge of being discovered. i felt filthy and whoreish selling myself out to keep people happy. i may have draped myself in trappings of masculinity but i did it as a female trying to survive in a male dominated world that hates to the point of violence and murder my type of femininity. Every time someone says i was not female before i socially transitioned they erase my history and my life; they commit and act of psychological violence against me and hold up the patriarchal, sexist culture that forced me to hide who I have always been to begin with.

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On Socialisation

19 June, 2013

From the article “Follow up re: “I date women and trans men” by JOS:

”Cisnormativity, essentialism, & socialization “I’m also baffled by the assumption that trans women were all successfully socialized as normative dudes. Obviously, there is no universal trans experience. In my experience, the socialization failed at every turn. Because I was never a man – that was sort of how my body was understood by default (even the shape of my body got policed) because our culture’s understanding of bodies is cisnormative. But I’ve always been a girl who got forcibly put into the boy box. I tried really hard to fit for 22 years, and I failed miserably. My failure was policed with verbal, emotional, and physical violence.”

My personal thoughts on this run parallel to JOS’s. I don’t understand the argument that all trans women were socialised male. I can’t say that there weren’t trans women who were (there are as many ways of being trans* as there are trans* people), but I know my own socialisation was more female than male. Though society wanted to put me in a box with others assigned male at birth, I did not take to that socialisation. The fact my uncles not only allowed but also encouraged my cousins to inform them when I was acting in a non-cis male manner and approved of beating me when I failed to act appropriately male is proof that the male socialisation did not adhere to me. The beatings I took from my “peers” at school for my failure to perform masculinity and the teachers who turned a blind eye to this abuse is further proof that male socialisation was not successful in me.

This lack of male socialisation, however, does not imply full female socialisation. As someone assigned male at birth I was excluded from female society and socialisation. As a result, the female socialisation I received was what I could learn through observation or through the media. Thus, my socialisation taught me to be meek, submissive, and always put everyone else’s (especially men’s) needs before my own (how else could I go thirty years hiding who I am, if not to keep everyone else happy?). I was not, however, a recipient of a female socialisation that taught me how to protect myself, believe in myself, or embrace my femininity as part of who I was. My feminity was never acknowledged as natural, real, or beautiful.

So, I ended up with a hodge-podge socialisation that told me it was my place to be submissive and pleasing and that others (particularly men) had the right to physically and emotionally abuse me when I failed to meet their standards of acceptability. A socialisation that taught me I was disgusting, corrupted, and of no value. These are the messages I internalised and these are the messages I need to incorporate or move beyond as I develop from a frightened girl who has normalised her abuse into a woman who can move through the world with poise and confidence. Does this sound like male socialisation to you?

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A Place to Stand?

28 March, 2013

This is difficult to say, i really don’t think there are words that accurately reflect the depth of my emotions on the subject or the pain i feel when acknowledging the issues involved. After a lot of time and consideration i have come the conclusion that i cannot participate in the trans* communities and support groups in my area because there is not a space for me. When i go, i feel i don’t really fit in or belong with members of the groups. It is not an issue of “being trans enough” (though that is a very real discrimination some trans* identified individuals face). Instead, it is an issue of whether i belong in attendance.

i had a group i attended regularly for a year and a half. There are good people in that group, but i don’t belong in their space. They are college-aged kids that are radical and experimenting and that’s not me. i felt increasing outside the acceptable attitudes of the group because i am not subversive enough. These young trans* and gender queer people call into question the ideas of a binary, cis-normative, non-kink culture through their actions, dress, and public discussion/displays of kink/sex. They are young radicals who stand against the myopic perceptions of society in a vocal, visible manner. This is good. We need groups like that. my presence in such a group, however, is inappropriate. As a woman fifteen years older than the members of the group, i am not subversive enough to be part of their community. i want to blend in, i want to go unnoticed, i want people to not question me and to not harass me. i fall into a pretty standard female role and i am okay with that; it’s who i am, but it means i don’t fit.

i attended another group on occasion. This group was the opposite of the first in both age and attitudes. It is a group of trans women in the metro area that are just trying to be themselves. i was one of the youngest members of the group, with the majority of the women being in their fifties (an age difference as great as the first group, only reversed). Most of the women in this group tend to be either post-op and stealth or pre-op and part-time. The path they walk is one of hiding and making sure that people do not under any circumstances learn who they are, ever. It is a hard road to walk, living dual lives, and keeping secrets. Ultimately, the women in this group believe every trans woman must receive surgery (not only sex affirmation surgery but also facial feminization, trachea shaves, and other “enhancements”) or she will never truly be female. i don’t fit in with these women. i do not believe every trans woman must receive surgery or she is not a woman and there were women in the group who were offended that i would not reveal if i had undergone affirmation surgery or (if i had not) if i planned on having it or any other “corrective” procedures. Though i live most of my life stealth, i reveal my history to intimate acquaintances who either should be given or would benefit from this knowledge. i walk an unusual middle ground that the others were not comfortable with; i am, ironically, too subversive for this group.

There does not seem to be a space for people like me in the community. i have not meet others who are like me and, in the end, who i am leads others to feel disappointment, discomfort, or disgust. For a community that stands outside the definitions of society, we create some very narrow definitions for our members to conform to. Not all of us can do that. Where does that leave us?

 

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When We Become Weavers: queer female poets on the Midwestern experience

17 July, 2012

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Here is the cover to the anthology I am being published in (as: Jennifer-River). You can find more information on the anthology here: http://www.squaresandrebels.com/2012/07/finally-when-we-become-weavers-among.html?m=1