The Questions You Are Allowed to Ask Me

So you read my blog and have maybe read my books (you should totally read my books because they are quite possibly the best works yet written and may be the best of all time except I am writing more which may in fact prove better…just saying) or you have been a student of mine or are a student of mine or you work with me in some capacity…or you just see me in Starbucks.

And you have questions.

Questions about what I want to drink or what I think of the weather. Those are totally allowed.

Questions about where I got my stuff, whatever stuff it may be. I’ll answer those.

Questions about my kids will always be rewarded with answers about the sheer awesomeness of those kids, perhaps the only higher praise given than those answers about my books, which are pretty stellar, but not quite so much as my children.

Questions about my relationships or sexuality are fair and I’ll answer those appropriately based on the situation. After all, there is a time and a place for everything.

Oh, you’re curious about my transiosity. The body stuff? The bathroom stuff? You’ve got questions because you saw some story somewhere or you think you know something or you don’t know anything…or you’re trans yourself.

And you just want to know and maybe I can tell you.

So ask. I’ll answer. I may even smile while I do. I may be snarky a little. But I will answer because I want you to know what you need to know and I don’t care much if you know I have a vagina. As a matter of fact, I paid a lot of money for it and given that I don’t have a chance to show it off much, I sometimes like to talk about it. It’s pretty cool, you know?

So yeah, ask me any old thing.

(you can even use the comments below to ask!)

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Being Openly Open

As I am coming to the end of my second year back in L.A. as a teacher and my first year back in high school, I have noticed a change in my attitude about my public identity (how out I am, as it were). At my job in Arizona, I didn’t have much of a choice about who knew I was trans. I transitioned on the job. The only people who didn’t know were the freshmen who came in the following year and it didn’t take them too long to find out. When I taught middle school last spring, I didn’t see the advantage in sharing my story in that environment. The students were hard enough to deal with as it was and while I would have liked to expand their minds as to what it meant to know a trans person, I wasn’t in a good head space for it.

This year has been different. When I came into the school I am working at now, I did not have a plan for being out or openly trans. I just figured I would play it by ear, or that people just know. I always assume people just know, but I’m often wrong. Case and point, my spouse was getting some work done by a tattoo artist we have both had work done by. Marni was talking to her about my self-perception, to which the artist said:

“She doesn’t know, does she?”

Apparently, people generally don’t just know that I am trans. I’ve spoken with a number of folks who have shared the same with me. More and more I am thinking that most people simply do not have enough experience with trans people to come to the conclusion that they are in our company. All for good, I know. I am happy to be accepted for me as I am and seen for me as I am, but I am also always slightly en garde (like a Canadian anthem singer I am) against those who know and think I am trying to fool them and don’t like it. Mostly when I am with my daughter in the locker room at the pool where she swims. I have that niggling worry that the pod people will point at me…

So if people don’t know I’m trans, do I want them to? I am open about it with my friends, the folks at the theatre I work at, and with any of my students who ask. I’m the GSA advisor and I’m not even sure if all the kids get that I am trans. I know they think I am a lesbian because I am married to a woman. But I haven’t ever come out and talked about it in a meaningful way. There are times when I want to and it’s silly, I know. But it just isn’t something that comes up in casual conversation or as part of a lesson. Even in a GSA meeting, I haven’t really felt it germaine or organic.

It’s a strange time to be trans to even be entertaining these thoughts…I’m glad I can be openly open and I think as time goes on, I’ll find the more organic and comfortable way to be so.

Teaching Trans – How I Kept My Job

(I originally wrote this for “Frock” Magazine, but felt I needed to pull it at the time due to district issues which are no longer applicable…so here it is)

I did not expect to be able to keep my job as a public high school Theatre Arts teacher.

When I started planning my transition, I made the very reasonable assumption that my days as a classroom teacher were coming to an end. After all, the majority of trans people lose their positions. This is what I discovered both anecdotal and statistically. Most trans people simply do not fare well and the majority experience some level of loss and that usually begins with their employment. I even went so far as to create an anonymous email account and send a note to my Human Resources person. Her response was a cut and paste of the school district’s Non-Discrimination policy that said the district did not discriminate against someone in regards to their sex, but had no direct language about gender identity. I wrote back for clarification and received none. Which, of course, led to reasonable assumptions to the negative on my part.

I did not expect to be able to keep my job as a public high school Theatre Arts teacher.

My school is in an area that is a combination of urban, suburban and rural and generally religious and conservative.  While not the most conservative part of the area, it is enough that my boss reminds me to be highly mindful that the materials I choose for our main stage shows are appropriate for our community standards.

I did not expect to be able to keep my job as a public high school Theatre Arts teacher.

More to the point, I imagined that should I attempt to transition on the job and should my district and school be progressive enough to allow me to do so, there would be people in the area who would be at the font of the school with tar and feathers and rails and pitchforks and, worse, news cameras. And they would have ugly signs and ugly chants and my presence would hurt my students’ ability to learn and participate in school plays or even take a Theatre Arts course. If that were the case, I would have walked away. My needs are not as important as theirs. I am here on their behalf and controversy would have killed the already endangered theatre program at my school.

I did not expect to be able to keep my job as a public high school Theatre Arts teacher.

That was scary. I had been a professional teacher at that point for five years and it was my career and I did not want to lose it. Life is about more than gender. I have ambitions and interests and goals. I have this career that I felt a calling to do that was about to be lost because of my need to transition and that should tell you how strong my need to transition was, that I was willing to sacrifice not just my employment, but my career to heal myself. And it was scary because I had to think about what I was going to do next to support my family. I started preparing to find work teaching online because, to be fair, I felt that I could do that without much controversy. But, truly, I was not sure what I would do next and feared that I would have very few, if any, options. Statistics are scary in this regard and they frightened me through many a sleepless night.

I did not expect to be able to keep my job as a public high school Theatre Arts teacher.

I had to transition, though. So I planned my exit from my job at the end of the 2011-2012 school year. In the meantime, I planned my first RLE (Real Life Experience…we are expected to live full time, for a time, before having surgery to be sure that this is really for us) for my summer break in 2011. I would have two months to live in the world as a woman before going back to the double life I had been living for the year prior. Just about all of my friends, especially those in the trans community, were deeply concerned that I would not be able to go back without the worst depression and while I agreed with them, I had to go through with it. As June turned to July, their concerns became my reality and I cried a lot of tears at the thought of having to play the male role again. I didn’t know if I could do it and I certainly did not want to and I had no choice but to do so.

At least I thought I didn’t because I certainly did not expect to be able to keep my job as a public high school Theatre Arts teacher.

But the Fates guided my Internet wanderings (and the Fates have found the Internet their simplest means to guide the lives of mortals) and I discovered an article about the legal protections for trans employees that already existed in the U.S. and while it did not explicitly say that public sector employees where I work were protected, there was an implication. I contacted the author of the article who kindly spoke to me for an hour and directed me to find legal assistance. I found some very helpful people at the national level who guided me to a pair of incredibly wonderful local attorneys, one of whom knew a member of my district’s Board of Governors. A day after my meeting with them, I received a call from one of the lawyers saying he spoke with the board member and that my district had policies in place in regards to employees transitioning and that I had nothing to worry about, that I should simply come out to my principal and he would help me work out a transition plan and that if there were any problems, I should contact her and she would assist me.

And so even though I had spent the last two years expecting the worst, I was able to transition and keep my job as a public high school Theatre Arts teacher.