Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Being a Transgender Teacher


People often ask me what it is like to be a transgender middle school math teacher, this is what it is like.  Not enough of an explanation?  Okay..... I'll give you a bit more info on the card above.  This was a card that some of my students gave me about two weeks ago, on my birthday.  

The card was special in and of itself, but it is even more special when one understands the back story.  So, the back story..... last year I had a student who told me that they considered themselves to be transgender, but that was about it.  They were a seventh grader last year.  Luckily, I got the same student again this year.  They happen to be a very enjoyable student, however, I do have a soft spot for anyone who indicates they are transgender, especially when they are a middle school student.  

This year I was so proud and impressed with this student.  They approached me at the start of the year, and told me they are transgender, and that they are male, and that they would prefer to be called Leo!  I was so excited for them!  Wow!  How cool to understand such an awesome thing at such a young age.  

Fast forward a couple of months into the school year and we get to a couple of weeks ago and my birthday.  Leo and some of friends got together, they created this card, signed it, and then gave it to me.  Wow!  I was floored!  This was most likely the best birthday card I have ever received.  It was one of those rare special gifts that will be with me until I die.  Pretty frickin cool!

The photo of me is from a recent school event.  I was helping another teacher with a Saturday field trip to CSU Fresno.  There was an engineering event taking place there and we took a group of students there for the day.  How did the day go for me, a transgender teacher?  Great!  Not a hint of an issue from any student from any school, and they pull kids from all over the Central Valley.  That is also quite cool!

Okay, love you!

Love yourselves!

Seriously, love yourselves so that other can rain down love onto you!

Friday, September 20, 2019

My Outfit - Yoga Dress Pants

Top - White House Black Market - Similar @Amazon, @WHBM
Pants - Tribal - Similar @Amazon, @Zappos
Shoes - Unisa - Similar @Amazon, @DSW

Wow, the last time I put up an outfit post was back in July.  That is a bit unusual.  I am still wearing post worthy outfits, it's just that I'm too pooped upon arriving home to haul out the camera and grab a few shots.  Oh and as well, when the temperatures are as ridiculous as they are in the Central Valley, it is far too hot to look even half way decent in any sort of photo.

This outfit though needed to have photos taken, so much so, that today when I got home, I took off the outfit that I actually wore and put this one back on.  This was yesterday's outfit.  When I got home today the opportunity was there to take some shots, so I had to change.  Why?  Well, it is the pants and the short top.  It may not seem like much to you, but to me, they are an entire new way of being able to dress.

You may remember that I was hoping that my recent surgery would allow for some different configuring of certain bits.  I am happy to report, that yes indeed, things are improved and I am able to place things in a far better position for certain clothes.  As far back as I have been dressing as myself, I have worked hard to find clothes that I could comfortably wear without tucking.  Camouflage was my main weapon in this endeavor.  Thus most of my tops are tunic length to simply cover that area.  It has worked very well, but it has limited my clothing choices, especially for work.  Pencil skirts, most dresses, and waist length tops have all been off limits for work.  I could wear those items, but for work, running around for nine to ten hours a day, I was never comfortable. 

Now that I am comfortable in being able to effectively hide the bits I don't appreciate having, my work wardrobe has greatly expanded.  This prompted me to change my shopping style.  Generally, as many of you long time readers know, my shopping has consisted of spending days at outlet malls, hitting up just about every store I could.  Now though, I made a deal with myself, I would stop outlet shopping, if I signed up for Stitch Fix.  I went for it, and I'm super glad I did!

I wrote to my stylist that my main goal was to stay with my current style, but to have someone gently push those boundaries by picking out some things I wouldn't.  So far, I love the results!  Two of the items that I would have never even tried are a pair of jeggings, and these lovely yoga dress pants.  I really like these pants.  They are so super comfortable that they are comparable to wearing my most comfy LuLaRoe leggings.  Which if you know LLR, that says a lot about these pants.  If you have not tried pants like these yet, I highly recommend them.

Okay peeps, I gotta run. 

Love you!

Love yourselves!

Love yourself enough to wear comfortable clothing.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Friends, Mis-Gendering, and Warm Fuzzies

My friend has an amazing filter on her camera, it removed about 20 years!!
I had a fascinating set of interactions with some friends recently.  One of them was with three different teachers I worked with for a few years, the second one was with a college professor who I work with in helping to teach teachers, and the third was one of my employers. 

While they will certainly recognize themselves in this post, I will change their names.  My employer, let's call her Emily, I met about ten years ago, obviously when I was presenting male.  The college professor, umm..... Matt, I met at the same time as Emily, though at that time he was teaching me how to better teach math.  The three teachers, Shelly, Mable, and Tom, I met about five years ago, I was their math coach, employed by Emily, and assisted by Matt.  Okay, so if you followed that, you know the players.

I worked with the teachers for about two to three years, all while presenting male, though I did share this blog with several of them.  Anywho, the job ended, life moved on, I stayed in touch with Shelly through Facebook, and I happened to transition during this time period.  Uh, yeah, that happened.  Earlier this year, I thought it would be fun to meet up with them for lunch.  We made plans, and all arrived at the selected destination.  Tom was clearly unaware that I had transitioned.  In fact that moment was the first that he discovered anything about my gender variance. 

I naively assumed that Shelly would inform everybody about my transition.  Her version of events is that it was not her business to share. Wow, so cool!  That is not what the expected norm is that most trans people dread.  However, when Shelly shared further that she also had not updated my name in her phone, I was acutely aware that I had not done my due diligence.  Here were three friends that I clearly neglected to have the conversation about my transition with.  And now they were in the dark and just barely catching up, and I am left feeling uncomfortable about my lack of communication.  The lunch went very well, and it was enjoyable.  We did catch up.  Many mis-genderings occurred, and a few mis-namings, but effort was made, and we had a good time.

A few weeks later, I met up with Emily and Matt again.  Emily is employing me again to continue trying to teach other teachers, and Matt is doing his math-guru thing, teaching teachers, teaching coaches, teaching the world.  Matt is actually very familiar with the teachers I met up with, and Shelly in particular.  I mentioned to him that I saw them for lunch.  He was happy and we reminisced.  Later that day, Matt said he would call me to meet up in the evening for a drink of wine.  I joked with him about whether he still had my phone number and if he had been like Shelly and had not yet updated me in his contacts.  He informed me that he already did update it and told me he would give me a call. 

We never did get a chance to meet up that evening, however, the next, Matt made a point to come up to me.  He said I want you to know that, even though I met you ten years ago, and you were clearly presenting male, it feels as though I have always known you as a woman.  As soon as you told me your real name, I immediately updated it in my contacts, and that is the only person I ever think of you as. 

Ummmm..... WOW!   Wow, Matt, you hit that one out of the park baby!  That was one hell of a home run statement!  When I re-told that story to my therapist, she got goose bumps.  For me, I have had warm fuzzies every since. 

Okay, so later that day, after speaking with Matt, I found myself chatting with Emily.  She was letting me know how bad she has felt for all of the mis-genderings she has done.  She has done quite a few, but she is working on it, and getting better.  The other thing is, she often calls herself on it, which is nice.  She said to me, that she is sorry, but that she is also super thankful about how kind, polite, and forgiving I am towards those who may make a mistake.  I told her, well, but of course, it is understandable that it can be difficult for some.  She thanked me again, and mentioned that many trans people she has known have not been nearly as gracious as I have been.  I told her that I appreciated her speaking to me.  And I really did appreciate it, especially when later that afternoon she did properly gender me. 

So there ya go.  That is a nice summation of what it has been like since coming out to one of my employers.  In short, it has gone fabulously!  And did you notice what I did there with the three teachers?  I blamed myself, not them.  Sure I could blame them, but what would I be proving?  That I can be petty and bitchy?  I didn't go there, and I'm not going to go there.  That's just not me.  It does indeed hurt being mis-gendered, and mis-named, but I believe in being kind, and being optimistic about the future. 

Sure it would be great if everybody thought the way that Matt does, it's actually quite impressive, but that is just not reality.  Reality is, if I want to continue meeting these teachers for lunch, every now and then, and to have them properly name and gender me, I choose to be nice now when they are taking the time to learn.  I'm a teacher.  I'm very forgiving in the face of those attempting to learn.  In fact, I'm going to be, helpful, kind, and nice. 

Love you!

Love yourselves!

Love learning and growing!


Sunday, August 11, 2019

In the Closet and In a Wedding??




You may remember that recently my friend Dana and I began a podcast.  We have been having lots of fun recording it, and sharing out bit of weirdness with the world.  We recently received a great question from a listener.  I was emailing her back today and thought, hey, maybe I should share this with a larger community to try and get more opinions.  So I'd encourage you to reach out and give me your thoughts.

Hello!

My name is J, and I'm a hetero cis woman who absolutely loves you two. Your podcast is wonderful and I truly enjoy listening to your conversations. 

A little background on why I'm asking this question, I live in a very conservative area of the Midwest and there is not a lot of exposure for the trans community here. My former roommate and current best friend is a trans woman but due to our environment and personal struggles, she has not been able to openly present herself as a woman to society. I'm the only girl friend that she really is herself with and since we're so close, we both really want her to be involved in my wedding this fall as a bridesmaid. So here's my question: what advice would you have for us to help make her feel more comfortable being in front of a large group of my friends and family in a dress when she struggles with her body dysmorphia and fear of being vulnerable in public? 

Thank you so much for sharing your friendship and closeness with your listeners, I hope to hear back from you!
J

Thanks so much for writing to Dana and I, and for listening to our podcast.  You are super kind and sweet with your compliments towards us, so thanks for that.  In regards to your friend, wow, you are super sweet for wanting her in your wedding!  That is so nice of you to put yourself out there to help her! So cool!  

Dana and I will be recording again late this next week and we will for sure discuss this.  Dana has lots of experience in speaking with many trans individuals and I'm sure she has her own thoughts on this matter.  Being as it may be at least a couple of weeks for our discussion to make it live on our podcast I wanted to try and write to you personally now and attempt an answer to your question.  

To that end - in general, in order to become more comfortable being in front of people dressed as oneself, your friend would need to begin doing it now.  Over time, comfort, joy, and relaxation can come about.  I personally began by going to the movies, museums, and other locations where no one knew me.  I was also super fortunate to have my wife by my side most of the time.  I would encourage you and your friend to get out together and begin exploring if the realities of doing such a thing is what both of you actually want.

For me, when I was fully in the closet, the idea of being a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding would have been amazing!  It still is actually! But when I was closeted, actually being that bridesmaid was a minefield of terrifying unknowns.  How would I actually look in a woman's dress?  Would it work with my body?  Would anyone who saw me ever really take me for a woman? What if someone I knew saw me?  What if my family found out?  What if my work found out?  What if people got mad at me?  What if people tried to hurt me?  Would dressing as a woman at my friend's wedding take away somehow from her day?  

The reality is, I would have never felt comfortable in actually being in that wedding until I had transitioned, or at least had come out to my circle of humans.  There would have been a terrific desire to do it, and an extreme sadness if I didn't, but I would never have felt comfortable doing that while I was closeted.

There may have been some things that have helped me to feel more comfortable though.  As you stated in regards to your friend, she has two main issues, 1 - body image concerns, and 2 - social concerns.

For issue number one, body image, that can be combated in a few different ways.  The first way that I dealt with my own body insecurities was learning how to dress it.  Clothes come in many different cuts, fabrics, styles, etc.  By trying on vast amounts of different clothes one can eventually find something that actually looks good.  I have found this to be true, regardless of one's personal body "type."  Thus for a wedding, the right bridesmaid dress can make all of the difference.  Many AMAB (assigned male at birth) humans have wider shoulders, thus a dress that shows more shoulders is often not flattering on their bodies, for example.

Another helpful tactic is realizing the vast variations that exist in bodies.  Not every AFAB (assigned female at birth) human has shoulders and hips at the same width.  Not every AFAB has greats breasts that show their decolletage.  Not every AFAB looks undeniably like an AFAB.  Variations happen, and are totally natural and expected.  Not everyone looks like that standard female image that media tosses in our face on a regular basis.

My personal body image issues have also been helped by working with my therapist for the past two years and bugging her constantly about the evil voices in my head that try and convince me that I will never be seen as anything but an AMAB desperately trying to pass as an AFAB.  In addition to talking to her about my own body image issues, I have tried to talk to many other people about it.  I have spoken to college classes about it, my wife extensively, my sister, my coworkers, my friends, and total strangers!  I believe that insecurities are wounded by being brought into the open, and that they thrive in the darkness of our minds.

Another small, but powerful, thing I have done to help with my body image issues is to take a large number of pictures of myself.  This may seem counter-intuitive as humans with body image issues tend to not like their images at all.  But, over time, with lots of practice, and learning about the medium of photography, I have been able to see myself in a totally different way.

Lastly, the largest thing I have done to help with my body image issues, is to have changed my hormones.  That has helped the most as that has actually changed my body to be better aligned with what my brain thinks my body should look like.  Thus I am beginning to feel like me, and not like I am playing a version of me.

 Okay, so, for issue number two - social concerns, I have a harder time in coming up with more options.  The first, and by far the easiest, is to dress in one's preferred presentation and go to locations where it is all but assured that you won't see anyone who knows you.  That limits the potential side effects of your entire world discovering your secret.  But it also allows one to begin to interact with other human beings while dressed in a manner one is not familiar with.

Another option to transgender people is to come out of the closet.  It does not mean one has to transition.  People can open up about their gender variance even when they are not sure what it may mean.  I came out to my sister as a transvestite about fifteen years ago.  A few years after that, I came out to some friends and described myself as a cross dresser.  After that, I came out to some other friends as gender non-conforming and non-binary.  It was not until a few years later that I began telling people I am a transgender woman.  Anywho..... when you begin to open up, and come out of the closet, it helps to ease the social pressures.

Coming out is not an easily undertaken event.  It takes large amounts of bravery, and support.  It can lead to horrible rejection and large amounts of ignorance.  But, it can also lead to freedom.  The freedom to actually be able to be oneself, in front of anybody, and everybody.  It can lead to a deep sense of closeness and belonging within a community that most transgender people have never felt.

In short, I don't know of anything that can guarantee your friend will be able to be in your wedding and be totally comfortable, however, there are lots of things they could begin to do that would allow them to be in your wedding and feel more comfortable about it.

I hope that in some small way my words will help you and your friend.  You truly are an awesome human being and a fantastic friend.  Thank you so much for being so kind and caring to others.  Your friend is very fortunate to have you in their lives.

Thank you!!!

Love you!

Love yourselves!

Love others!












Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Writing is on the Wall


Well, no, not actually.  Really the writing is on the label on the lid. 

A year and half ago or so I realized that I was going to legally transition and most likely end up fully transitioning.  It was sometime around then that I realized it was time to start working on my handwriting again. 

It's interesting to see what transgender people end up not liking about themselves.  For many of us it is obviously body parts that we don't like.  That is probably not something that even really needs to be mentioned.  Gender confirmation surgery kind of confirms that many trans people have a very hard time existing with bits that they don't identify with.  But, sometimes there are other things besides body parts that bring about grief. 

Maybe surprisingly, my handwriting is something that I have always hated due to my perception that it has always been extremely male.  Male handwriting you ask?  Yes, male handwriting.  I understand that it may appear to be weird to think of handwriting as exuding a gender, but it does.  Well, maybe it itself does not, but we as a society interpret handwriting as having gendered characteristics.  Do many men place little hearts as dots above letters such as i?  No, most do not.

My personal issues with my handwriting began very early in my life.  My mother would describe my handwriting as chicken-scratch.  Which is apparently a very common way to criticize handwriting.  Anywho, possibly more damaging were various teachers who would examine my handwriting and then calmly explain that it was clearly not something I could do, because I was born as a male.  Having been born with a male identified body, meant that while I had good gross motor skills, my body lacked the appropriate muscles to perform fine motor skill tasks well.  Thus when I went home, I was not really motivated to practice my handwriting. 

My issues with my handwriting began before I was ever told that it was something I would never be able to do well.  It was simple, I never actually practiced.  Yup, that simple.  Handwriting is an art form that I never cared about.  I was lost, confused, and alone.  My household was a classic 80s dysfunctional mess.  Practicing my handwriting was not high on my priority list.  Hell it wasn't on my list at all. 

When I began teaching and seeing massive amounts of other human beings handwriting that I began to finally understand that people's gender was irrelevant to the quality of their handwriting.  Actually what I noticed was that people who practiced more had better handwriting.  So practice was the key.  And occasionally I did practice.  But they were all really half-hearted attempts.

It wasn't until I chose to transition that I began to attack this problem in earnest.  The first thing I had to learn was a new signature.  That was weird, but cool. I super enjoyed creating a new signature.  What has been harder is learning the intricacies of this art form, such as letter spacing, letter size, slant, staying on the line, and going from line to line.  All those little lovely pieces of things that combine together to create good looking handwriting. 

I'm not done.  I think I am somewhere in the middle.  I have improved, but I have improvements that can still come about.  With time, effort, practice, determination, and persistence, I know that I can get it to be what I want it to be. 

Sometimes to change all that is needed is practice.  Not a medication, not cognitive behavioral therapy, not hours of pondering, not being born in the "right" body, just simple practice. 

I'm going to go continue practicing.  I know I can do this.  I know this is possible.  I believe in my ability to learn and change and grow. 

What do you believe in?

Love you!

Love yourselves!

I hope you believe in yourself.  I really do.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

To Shade or Not To Shade


Apparently that is the question.  Confused?  Possibly.  Well, the other day on Insta I received the following message:

When you pose in a car, may I ask a favor? Please shed the sunglasses for the time to take a selfie. As a lesbian, I want to see your whole face.

I went back through my Insta feed and noticed that there are probably about 35 or so pictures with me with sunglasses on and about the same with them off.  So.... it is about even.  But this issue of sunglasses or no sunglasses and the public's reaction to me with them or without them has also been an issue with this blog.  A few comments that I have received over the years:

Love your cleavage and really like the picture without your sunglasses. You do have pretty eyes and a pretty face. 

I know you're reluctant to take your pictures outdoors without sunglasses, but these photos are proof positive that you certainly don't need them in the shade. They are a lovely testament to the woman within.

Its so nice to see your eyes.

I appreciate the support, I really do..... at one point I was terrified to post any photos of me on the net as I was sure that someone would be able to recognize me.  My sunglasses were my wonder woman mask that kept me safe from harm.  Eventually they became a security blanket and I became afraid to be seen without them.  Thus it was an unusual sight to see me without them, especially in photos.  I mean at one point I wouldn't even show my face here!  Yikes!

That is so craze-balls that I wouldn't even include my head in my photos.  I went back right now and checked to see when I started showing my face but I got too annoyed trying to find it, but I want to say that it took me years to show my face.  So yeah, at one point I think I needed to encouragement to show my face without my sunglasses. 

However..... have you seen my Insta feed?  As I said, there is about half and half, sunglasses and no sunglasses.  Personally, I think the internet has now seen plenty of my photos without sunglasses.  Even here, where most of my photos are with sunglasses, I try and post up one non-sunglasses photo with every outfit post.  Occasionally you will even get a close-up of my face, like when I got my lashes done. 

But even if you are a lesbian, it is not going to sway me much to post up more non-sunglasses pictures.  Why?  Well for one, I'm a lesbian also, so I am immune to other lesbian's super powers.  And for another, who am I now trying hard to dress for?  Me. 

I have spent too many of my years on this planet wearing or not wearing items due to what other people thought I should or shouldn't be wearing.  I'm kind of over that.  Wait, back up, I'm not kind of over that, I'm totally over that!  At one point I needed support to show all of who I am, but now, not so much.  Thus I am going to wear or not wear my sunglasses, depending on if I feel like wearing them.  If I think I look cute in a photo with or without sunglasses, I will share it. 

I think the difference is at one point I wore my sunglasses to hide, now, if I have them on, it's probably because it is super frickin bright, or I'm taking photos in my dirt covered driveway and I don't feel like setting my glasses down in the dirt. 

So, um, yeah!

There ya go!

Love you!

Love yourself!

Love sunglasses!!!


Thursday, July 18, 2019

My Outfit - Cool Dress

Dress - Max Studio @ Amazon
Scarf - no idea - Similar @ Amazon
Shoes - Born O Concept. Schirra - Similar @ Amazon@ DSW

I wore this outfit about a week ago when my wife and I were able to go to a local college, COS, and give a talk on gender.  I am so super thrilled to be able to go to colleges and try and help educate about the transgender community.  The classroom that we went to this time was for one of my favorite teachers, Debra Hansen.  It was about two years ago now that I first contacted her and inquired about speaking in her room.  I was not able to speak for her class at that time as it was just a quick inquiry.  We connected though and the next semester there was an opportunity so I jumped at it.

Super terrifying was the way I might describe how I felt the very first time I spoke, and it was only a panel discussion.  A panel talk is when several transgender people are there, the students ask questions, and if you feel like offering up some information, then you can speak.  If you don't want to say anything, then you don't need to.  It is a super easy and relaxed way to speak with college students.

This last time though, it was a bit different, it was only my wife and I.  Wow!  Exciting.  I have done a few speeches since that first talk I gave in Debra's class, but that was with my powerpoint showing my life.  This talk was no powerpoint, no reference materials, just my wife and I, and some time.  I was a bit nervous about doing this talk as I only found out what was happening upon walking into the classroom that morning.  But, I'm an educator at heart, along with my wife, and so we totally just rolled with it.

We each gave a brief overview of who we are and why we were there to speak to the students.  After that, the students got to ask any question they wanted to.  I love answering their question, but honestly they are a bit tame.  I keep expecting some sordid taboo subjects to pop up, like how does a cis woman and a trans woman have sex!  That would be a wild question that I'm not sure I would even attempt an answer.  Alas, no student has yet to ask me anything that I have been unwilling to at least attempt an answer.

They question came, and my wife, Debra, and myself tried our best to provide good answers for the students.  We had a good time, the students seemed to respond well, and Debra super appreciated us being there to speak with her students.  What did I appreciate?  Being able to be there with my wife.  She and I compliment each other very well.  I really think that she and I should do most of the transgender presentations I coordinate. Hopefully in the future we will get that opportunity.

Oh, right, this is supposedly an outfit post! Crap! I totally got sidetracked! I just love my wife, presenting, and educating!  Okay, well, anywho..... I love this dress!  It is super light and flowy, a perfect dress for these hot Central Cal summers.  What else?  Well the sandals I have on are some of my faves.  I have two pairs of them.  A dark brown pair, and a black pair.  I think they are still available and have provided some links for them.  I highly recommend them.  They are super cute, comfy, and I have gotten many compliments on them. 

Okie dokie, that's about it!

Love you!

Love yourselves! 

Love, love, love!