Friday, April 27, 2018

Branching Out

A receipt?  Yup, a receipt.  This receipt is kind of special to me.  The sort of thing that if I were fifteen years old again it would go into my keepsake box and be stored away for too many years.  It is a bit of a marker.  It is the only piece of tangible evidence of me starting a new endeavor, public speaking.

I recently connected with a popular international public speaker, Jessica Lynn.  She came to one of my group therapy sessions as a guest speaker and mentioned that she was always looking for people to join her in speaking to people about our transgender lives.  It is something that I have always been interested in, but have yet to actually pursue it.

The receipt above is alas not from my first public speaking gig, but it is from the first time that I met with a college professor to have a private discussion about meeting with her students.  Her name is Debra Hansen and she is a psychology professor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, California.  She is currently teaching a couple of courses that she frequently invites several transgender people to be a part of a panel.  Her students are then able to question the panel and the panel can answer the question if they feel like it.  

Yesterday when I met with her it was a bit of a vetting process.  While I had emailed with her a few times, and we had spoken on the phone, there is nothing like the connection that can be made in person.  You can really get a feel for a who a person is when you sit across from them in a small office and chat openly for about an hour.  

Can you suspect that I was super nervous?  Well I was.  Like usual.  A holdover from growing up with the ever present paranoia of someone finding out that I am actually transgender.  I wish I could just blink that away, but that just isn't reality now is it?  Nope.  To rid myself of the nervous jitters, I generally have to get out there and actually face me fears.  

And I was afraid.  I was literally shaking when I stopped into a restroom retreat just prior to meeting with her.  While sitting there I asked myself if I was this nervous in just meeting with a professor, what was going to happen when I would be presenting to an auditorium of humans?  Yikes!  

I used my unstoppable bravery and mustered up the courage to exit the restroom and find my way to her office.  And what happened upon that fateful meeting?  Uh, we hit it off just fabulously!  We chatted and chatted easily allowing more than an hour to go by.  Our conversation was so enjoyable we continued it down the hall and out the building as we walked together to my car, and to her auditorium.  Auditorium?  Yeah she was off to rehearsal for a play she is in.  Exciting, huh?  I think so, I so enjoyed being in plays when I was younger.  

It was yet another awesome experience that showed me, hey I can hold my own in a conversation, and I am generally a fairly personable human.  And as Jack Handy used to remark, gosh darn it, people like me!  

Another small step was taken.  Another small step that one day will lead me to stepping up and out and continuing to expand my ability to make connections.  For it is those small connections, that we all can make, that change the world.

Love you!

Love yourself!

Love connections with other humans!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Silly Work Outfit

Top - ?? - Similar @Amazon
Undershirt - Vetemin - @Amazon
Jeans - Levi Denizen - Modern Boot Cut - @Target
Shoes -  New Balance - Similar @Amazon
Beanie - FHeaven - Similar @Amazon
Belt -?? - Similar @Amazon

Well, I suppose it is time to come clean if I am going to be able to accurately describe the context of this outfit.  And besides, I don't really think it is going to affect my life one way or the other for the blog-o-sphere to know how I am employed.  So.... ready for it?  Here goes nothing - - I am a middle school math teacher! 

Crazy huh?  Well I think I am to have been working with this age group for over 20 years!  Yikes, am I really that old?  Why yes indeed I am! 

Okie dokie, so now that is officially out of the way, this past week we had spirit week for our upcoming standardized tests.  On Friday it happened to be "meme day."  I kept asking everyone, what exactly are you going to do for meme day and they kept explaining to me what a meme is.  Uh, sorry kiddos, I understand what a meme is, what I don't understand is how is someone supposed to dress as a meme??  Whatever, right? 

My wife and I each have a shirt with a funny little saying on it, so we decided to wear those for our meme spirit day.  My wife's shirt is a pig eating bacon, thinking to itself, "yummm."  Funny huh?  And you can obviously see what mine says.  If you don't know the meaning behind this saying, it is going against conforming to the norm.  I always think of it as the students are the penguins!  Ha! 

The day that I wore this outfit, it was about an hour or two into my work day when it occurred to me that I was dressed fully in female clothes!  Funny as it was the first time ever.  I normally wear pretty much exactly what is pictured, except for wearing a male work Polo shirt instead of the silly penguin shirt.  I thought it was also pretty darn interesting as I normally don't wear such a tight shirt to work.  You know, with the boobs and all, tight shirts are interesting!  Oh, but I was too lazy to shave on this morning, so I had a bit of a goatee! 

You may be wondering how exactly things go with dressing the way that I dress while teaching 7th and 8th grade students.  You know that lovely age from about 12 - 14!!  Ha!  Lovely!  That is funny!  Well I will let you know, if you don't already, typically middle school students are so super self conscious of themselves that they can barely focus on anything else.  Sometimes it is about half way through the school year before a student will loudly exclaim "wait, what, you paint your fingernails?!"  And then the whole class laughs, not at me, but at their fellow student! 

I once had a student directly ask why I dress the way that I do, and I told them that I do it to show them that it is okay to be different.  Many teachers tell them it is okay to be different, all while looking exactly the same as a typical teacher.  I tell them that even though at first I was terrified of being myself in front of them, that I do it because I am learning how to love myself for who I really am. 

Generally speaking after that conversation with my classes, they clap.  Yup, that is how awful the little buggers are!  Ha!  Seriously the students are awesome.  And yeah, I do work at a pretty rough school.  New teachers have been known to run scared from this place!  But as well, this is not the only school that I have worked at that I have been dressed in a mixed gender manner.  I think this is the 4th school.  And at no time have I received any negative feedback from my students.  They have questions for sure, but they accept my answers. 

So, um, yeah, there ya go!

Love you!

Love yourselves!

Seriously, give it a whirl!  Who knows, maybe you'll like it and start treating yourself better!


Friday, April 6, 2018

A Human Narrative

What do you picture when you hear the phrase "gang member?"  How about the phrase "founding member of a gang?"  How about hearing someone explain to you, in person, standing not five feet away, that they have possibly taken the lives of human beings in the commission of crimes?  And yes it was left open as to the exact number.  I got the feeling that possibly not even he knew the exact count. 

So?  How about it?  Thoughts on who this human being is?  A pleasant one?  One that makes you think, hey you know what, this is the perfect person to come out to and explain that yeah, I am transgender.  

Whatcha think?  Sound like a good idea?  Does that sound like someone that you would picture as being tolerant?  What about warm and touching?  Well, without much fanfare, I will let you know that was exactly the conversation I had a while back.  I'm not so sure of when exactly it was, except it wasn't super recent.  Maybe a few months ago.  Maybe. 

I do know that back in February I did mention to you that I have been having some odd conversations as of late.  This particular one came about through the fact that I want people to know someone who is transgender.  I read somewhere that something like 80% of the American population does not personally know someone who is transgender.  That is a crime.  Those of us who are transgender seriously need to stop hiding.  It is easy to discriminate against a group of people that you personally have no connection to.  I want the people in my life to have a connection to the transgender world.  It is a small but vital thing those of us who are transgender can do to help out the entire world.  We need to put a face to this whole transgender thing.  We need cisgender people to feel some sort of personal connection to a word.

Moving on.....  So yeah, this guy I chose to speak to that day was pretty high on the list of people I assumed I would never speak to about transgender issues, let alone my own personal ones!  Eeek!  And the things I had heard about him certainly did not help me to feel comfortable about him either.  How about when one of my supervisors told me that we had one of the top three founding gang members working for us?  Yeah!  Not the first person you would chose to have the whole TG talk with right? 

Funny, as because in reality, yes he is all of those things, a gang member, an original founding member of the top gang in our area, a possible murderer, and a felon.  Yet he is also, a husband, a father, a son, a brother, an artist, a hard worker, and one hell of a nice human being.  But if you can't get past the lack of formal education, the time he has spent in prison, the actions he has taken, the obvious gang tattoos covering most of his body, you'd never get the opportunity to learn who this human being is.  

Isn't it more than a bit ironic that is what most of us who are transgender are actually looking for?  For people to see who were are on the inside and stop judging us by our outside shells?  Hmmm..... Yeah.  

Of course I had the conversation with him.  We see each other almost every day at work.  Not for long, but for long enough for us to have a few moments to converse.  One day, kind of out of the blue in my recollection, I told him that I am transgender and that I am taking estrogen. 

He had super thoughtful comments.  One of them was explaining to me how he had a friend in prison who transitioned while in prison.  I was floored by that and asked how in the world a person gets those types of meds in prison.  He explained that you can get almost anything you want while in prison if you are able to pay for it.  I explained that I thought it was sad that this TG human had to exist as a female in a male prison.  Damn. 

He also shocked me when he confided that one of his cousins is transgender.  It turns out that he is super sad because his cousin disappeared for a long time and nobody knew why.  Eventually he got a hold of his cousin and that was when his cousin explained that he was transgender and was transitioning.  He told his cousin that he better come by and begin reconnecting with everybody.  The cousin came over, and everybody was super supportive of her.  Did I explain, besides the whole gang member thing, that we are talking about one of those huge, extended, Hispanic, Catholic families?  Well yeah, there's that as well!  

It was again just one incident in what is becoming a vast number of them that made me shake my head at myself for ever being so foolish to think that I can't be honest with my fellow human beings.  One of the huge things for me was another conversation with this gentleman where he explained how freaked out he was about people finding out about him, his past, and who he once was -- I swear I thought he was going to explain he was transgender!!  If you know transgender humans, that is like our narrative!

Or so I thought.  Apparently, it is not a transgender narrative, it is a human narrative.  We as humans are typically so in need of human contact, and so fearful of being shunned by the herd, that we are terrified to tell anybody who we really are.  It's a sad existence.  I know not everybody suffers this way, but a vast number of us do for sure!  And this coworker of mine, he has apparently been terrified of people finding out that he was a gang member, and had been to prison.  He was afraid that if anybody knew the truth they wouldn't want to have anything to do with him.

Regardless of his past, of who he used to be, he is trying to be someone different.  He has made a vow to his wife, that with his first two kids he spent too much time in prison and missed much of their lives.  So when she had two more children about ten years back, he said he was done, and would never go back to prison again.  And he did it the right way.  He cleaned up his act.  He was able to barely find employment, but he did it, and he has kept his word.  Eventually a judge ordered his record be expunged and he was eventually able to find decent employment, which is how he and I eventually were able to have this seemingly odd meet up and conversation.  

In reality that conversation was exactly the one that needed to be had for we were two people who were both suffering in the exact same way.  It was such a mind blowing moment for me to realize that two humans who have had such vastly different paths in life were able to share the exact same insecurities.  

Shocking.  Seriously.  Shocking.  Well, for me at least. 

It was yet another incident that is slowly but completely changing my opinion of just who exactly my fellow human beings are.  

Love you!

Love yourselves!

Only then can you love each other!

Oh and by the way - the art pictured at the top of the post was a gift to my wife and I from the gentleman I had this conversation with.

Photo Credits: