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A gender oasis

November 1, 2009

For months, I’ve been attending a journalism course where all my classmates think –or thought– I was a cisgender boy. I’ve known the teacher for a couple of years –he used to teach at my school– so he knows I’m trans, but no one else figured it out. I used to think they might, but since then I’ve learned that most people in my context will see me as a guy. I could say that I “pass” well, but I know that in other places I might be perceived differently; so I won’t take any credit.

That class was my safe haven; the one place where I was treated unconditionally as a boy. Until very recently, only my closest friends managed to use my preferred name and pronouns, and on my insecure days I doubt that they really see me as a guy (well, I know they can’t, but it only matters on insecure days). With my journalism mates, I knew that my masculinity wouldn’t be constantly in question. If I didn’t bind too tightly, no one would think “ah, her –his– breasts are showing”; they wouldn’t even be aware of my chest. If I didn’t act super-macho, they wouldn’t attribute it to my female past. Having that space to look forward to, every week, helped keep me sane.

I might say that I was/am “stealth” there, but I didn’t feel like I was lying. Although I always got along well with my classmates, we’ve never spoken much about our personal lives. I didn’t have any reasons to come out as trans, and I did have a very good reason not to: my maleness would begin to be questioned, and I didn’t know if it would hold up to their scrutiny. Some people, after learning I’m trans, suddenly start using all the wrong pronouns; after all, for a heteronormative mind, it’s very easy to see me as a female/girl. I did not want to lose my gender oasis.

This last class, the teacher invited a gay activist for us to interview (gotta love this teacher). The activist was really trans-positive, so afterwards, when we were walking together to the bus stop –him, a classmate, and I– I mentioned I was trans. My classmate was surprised and said I didn’t have to “hide” who I was — uh, sorry, I was being myself when I introduced myself as a guy. But all in all, she was cool about it. Also, she wasn’t sure whether I was a trans boy or a trans girl — I love it when I confuse people that way. (I might miss my androgyny a bit if I take T, although it’s worth it.)

Knowing this person, she’s probably going to tell some of our other classmates, which is fine. We only have a few lessons left before summer break, so I don’t have much to lose, and it’s a good chance to teach the other students a couple of things about trans people. First, that we aren’t always visible. Second, that we can be kinda nice people. A couple of kids made transphobic jokes at one point, so I hope I make them reconsider their view of trans folk — or at least, make them think twice before telling those jokes among people they think are cis. I’m not going to change the world, but I think tiny actions like this do help a little. I hope that, someday, I feel strong enough to do more.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Mandy Merck permalink
    November 1, 2009 6:06 pm

    Dear GenderKid — I really like your stencil of the figure running away from the ‘men’ door. I’m looking for something similar for the cover of my next book, ‘Further Adventures of the Dialectic of Sex’. Have you done anything similar with multiple figures? Maybe a whole line of figures departing from the dualist gender imperative?


    Mandy Merck

    • genderkid permalink*
      November 1, 2009 9:15 pm

      I love that image, too, but I didn’t design it — I just took a picture of a graffiti which was made during the Pride March. This year’s march is coming up soon, so if I see someone painting this again, I’ll try to get you in touch with hir. That’s certainly someone worth meeting :)

  2. November 2, 2009 1:52 am

    hey, this post is just lovely. thank you for sharing it.

    and good luck with with whatever “teachable moments” come your way. i think they help a lot. just remember to look after yourself too. :)


  3. Malcolm permalink
    November 4, 2009 5:26 pm

    That’s awesome! I think it is hard for people (trans people included) to get that being “out” is different as FTM/MTF than it is as gay or lesbian.

    And yes, what a great thing to have an “oasis” like that. I hope it can remain one for you, even with your classmates’ newfound knowledge.

  4. November 4, 2009 11:28 pm

    Good on ya!

  5. November 5, 2009 9:32 am

    i was talking to someone recently about being stealth and being out…when to tell, who to tell, what to tell…etc. and we got on to talking about how “straight” people don’t have to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity or who their partner is – how, as my friend worded it, “coming out… (is the last) burden”. and then the conversation moved to censorship and we spoke about not censoring ourselves and leaving the other people wondering “is that person trans” and not necessarily worrying about whether or not we have to come out to them…

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