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Teaching teachers to respect trans students

March 19, 2010

Last week, my dad and I went to talk to my school’s authorities about including my chosen name on the rosters. They decided not to let me, even after a long discussion where we presented evidence that my request was, in fact, legal. I’d found some legal documents in support of trans students; plus, I pointed out that some of my Asian classmates have chosen Spanish names which are listed alongside their legal names. Although their situation is different from mine, it proves that non-legal names are in fact routinely used.

As an aside, I think the system is rigged to let teachers stay in their ethnocentric, ciscentric comfort zone: it’s probably “easier” for the teachers to use traditional Spanish names, whereas it’s so hard to use the right pronouns when you know someone is trans! It’s a reminder that apparently different oppressions are rooted in similar attitudes.

Although I believe the decision was deeply unfair, and that I could have won the case if we had taken some sort of legal action, I’m lucky that the school’s head is surprisingly LGBTQ-friendly (unless, of course, she has to take a risky stand). She tried to find some other solution, and we finally agreed to have a meeting with my new professors before the beginning of the school year. My dad just got out of that meeting –I wasn’t invited– and called to say it went well. I’ll ask about the details when he gets home.

The idea of a whole meeting centered around me is really embarrassing, and I hope my professors aren’t annoyed that they had to attend. But I guess it’s better for them to hold a grudge against me than to be called by the wrong name for an entire school year, especially because –for the first time in five years– I’ll be having new classmates who won’t necessarily know that they shouldn’t use my legal name (during all of secondary school, I had the same 30-35 classmates in every single class because we all had to take the same subjects).

Besides, I’m trying not to feel too embarrassed about the meeting because it isn’t really about me — it’s about educating my teachers about how to treat a trans student, and why it matters (almost like “diversity training”). For instance, my dad was going to tell them that –even though I’m very engaged with my studies– I often avoided participating in class in fear that the teacher would ask my name, or to avoid hir from calling my name. Looking back, that was really hard because we often had awesome student teachers, the kind who get you really involved, and I did NOT want them to know my name — but I was bursting to join the discussion!

All in all, I’m glad that I got the principal’s support; whatever my professors’ attitudes, I won’t have to wait in dread –during the first week of school– until each new teacher pulls out their student list, and struggle to correct them –in a terrified voice– in front of 35 other people. School starts on Monday, and I’m really looking forward to it!

17 Comments leave one →
  1. March 19, 2010 4:50 pm

    All the best with your new school year, genderkid. It’s good that you at least have a queer-friendly principal, even if you can’t have your chosen name on the rosters. Also, it makes me very happy to see how supportive your parents are. I hope everything goes well for you. Cheers!

  2. morales permalink
    March 21, 2010 7:02 pm

    I really would like to see a picture of you. Not to sound weird or anything, it’s just I read about your life and I’ve never had a picture come to mind. ¿Por favor?

  3. morales permalink
    March 21, 2010 7:06 pm

    También, buena suerte en la universidad. Espero que el año van bien y se aprende mucho. :)

  4. March 21, 2010 9:44 pm

    Good luck with all that! It’s really silly that they couldn’t include your name in the roster. *sigh* I hope things work out with the professors. But it’s also ridiculous that you were excluded from that meeting : (

  5. March 24, 2010 8:08 am

    i hope your professors are more understanding and accepting than the policies at your university seem to be…seems frustrating. keep us updated on your progress with this! buena suerte mi amigo!

  6. March 27, 2010 12:37 pm

    This sounds like an issue I had when I came out during my senior year [of high school]. Principal actually told teachers not to call me Shaan and etc when none of the teachers even had a problem with it. Half of them just ignored the fool. That’s probably what your professors will do.

    http://villarealthetransition.blogspot.com/search/label/Worford

    If you read those three posts from the last to the first, that’s my whole ordeal. I don’t know how I’m going to handle college. The school I’m going to is pretty LGBT-friendly so it doesn’t seem like it’ll be a huge deal. Plus I’m working on having my name changed soon.

    Anywho – GOOD LUCK!

  7. Raven permalink
    March 31, 2010 2:28 am

    Much luck to you in the upcoming year! I’m really glad it’s worked out as well as it has. :3

  8. March 31, 2010 4:57 pm

    School systems seem inherently bad with trans stuff. The school system seems to spend a lot of time enforcing binary gendered systems, so it’s really scary for them when someone needs to transition through them. Sounds like you’re doing really well with it all though, and it’s great that your dad’s such an awesome support, and the principal is friendly.

  9. April 1, 2010 8:42 pm

    I just started school this week. Your blog entry helped me a lot in navigating the rosters and school staff. thank you!

  10. April 14, 2010 6:48 am

    Hey.. I’m wondering why you don’t just change your legal name. I live in Washington, and with $150 you can get it changed in less than a day. Wouldn’t it just be easier to have your ID match up with what you want to be called?

    • genderkid permalink*
      April 14, 2010 12:51 pm

      I’d love to legally change my name, but in Argentina it’s nigh impossible to get a cross-gender name change (even androgynous names aren’t allowed because of a 1966 law which forbids ambiguity). There are several trans-rights groups pressuring to change the law, but right now I simply can’t change my name.

      That said, I’m glad you live somewhere that allows ID changes. I hope, one day, having that right doesn’t depend on where one happens to be born.

  11. genderkid permalink*
    April 14, 2010 12:57 pm

    Thanks for the good wishes, everyone! Most of my teachers don’t really address us by our names/pronouns at all (I’m in several large classes), but among the ones that do, most respect my identity.

    I’m consistently surprised by how most teachers take it all in stride, as if they had transgender students in every class (maybe they have had a trans student before).

  12. ollda97 permalink
    May 10, 2010 9:57 pm

    I am glad that teachers respect your identity. Congratulations! The pronoun question, though, in Spanish at least, is one that continues to concern me.

  13. reen permalink
    June 1, 2010 12:11 am

    This is amazing, what you’re doing. I’ve only just found this blog and read a few of your posts, and it’s inspiring. Though it’s also a shame changing your name has to be such a struggle. When I switched schools, I simply wrote my “androgynous” name choice in the registration and that was that. The legal name change is a hassle (a 17-page application, about 400$, and an authority figure to sign as a legal guarantor -mind you, I haven’t been able to do it yet so I don’t know how likely they are to accept “transitioning” as a valid reason), but… I’m not sure how to word anything, haha.
    I think I’ll stick around, if you don’t mind another reader.
    Keep on keepin’ on.

  14. June 22, 2010 4:51 pm

    Wish you all the best and hoping your teachers will listen to the lesson standing in front of them… We all live and learn as we’re all students …

    I think you’re quite brave doing all of this and also fortunate to have such understanding parents. All the best wishes kiddo!

  15. February 3, 2011 8:52 pm

    Good for you, genderkid! I remember my difficulties as a genderqueer/genderfluid kid in middle school. Nobody would call me by my chosen name or by male pronouns. There were no gender-neutral bathrooms in school so I had to “hold it.” The other kids were confused and one boy even suggested to another kid that I should “prove” what gender I was — only later did I figure out what he was getting at — and the teachers were dismissive and mean. Now I go by a female name and female pronouns — for now, sometimes. :) So I feel your pain to some degree and am happy that you have at least some support at your school!

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