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Being "out" at school

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Hi all,

On Saturday I had lunch with a friend from school - and then we hung out for a few hours. I know him well, we were at the same field placement during our first year and we share a love of Taco Bell :-)   A discussion we had along the way on Saturday was about being "out" in class. With me it's about my transgender identity, with him it's about being a military veteran. On the surface for both of us is a desire to not be "the ___ student" (me "the trans student"). For him that might really be it, for me I think it goes deeper, I think it's a real desire to maintain my identity as a woman and the fear that being open about being trans undermines that. Even deeper is that internally I still see being trans as somehow making me less of a woman.

The result of all this was that during my entire first year I had never said anything about my gender identity in class. I had said things about it individually to other students, but never during class - and it is a social work program, so there were many, many opportunities where I could have - and should have - said something. We both agreed that not sharing is both bad for us individually (it's hiding something) and we miss the opportunity to add something to the educational process for others (leaving out a major part of our life perspectives).

That changed on Tuesday. We did a quick in-class exercise where she gave us each a short scenario, something that was designed to generate a negative response (mine was that I had applied for an apartment, and although I was fully qualified and the only person who was applying for it, the landlord rejected me). My initial response was confusion and assuming that it was because of my gender identity. I had a minute or 2 to think of an alternative, but I didn't. So for the first time I openly acknowledged my gender identity in class :-)

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Hey Chrissy,

You're awesome, girl! I love Taco Bell too, BTW. two Taco Super Grande's and I'm happy. I'm sure the ingredients are all pretty creepy and I don't even want to know, but I love the taste and the crunchiness. 
And good for you for coming out to your entire class. It's scary but I think that in general, good people respect our being open, transparent, and vulnerable. I believe that most people are good, just trying like all of us to take care of themselves, their families, and to be happy. So they see that too in people like you.

As it turns out, today I came out in an email to about 30 people I worked with in a company that I joined 20 years ago this month. I told them that I had always had what I thought was such a shameful secret, and that secret is that I am trans. I also gave them a FAQ list so they became more educated about me and trans people in general, and links to several videos that I think are particularly good. Thus far I've heard from about half of them, all very supportive and yelling "Bravo!" I spent a fair amount of time writing the thing but I'll tell you, my finger hovered over the Send button for a few seconds. But I finally pushed it, and then sure, I was kinda concerned. It was easier for me than for you since I have moved away from the area and no longer work with these people. But we are all good friends, so I fretted that I may have shared too much. I think it's true to say that the universe rewards action. Like yours, and mine.



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I came across a quote today - it was the quote that Janet Mock got the name of her new book from:

"And at last you'll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking." Audre Lorde

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I actually had more for my original post - but I was writing it at school and some other people came along so I decided to be social and cut the post off there.

An observation I made later (after class) was that my initial thought ("I was rejected because I'm transgender") was paired with confusion. It seems like that's a move forward for me in that I think earlier it would have been hurt or anger that would have come up. And those would no doubt come up if this had really happened, but the initial response is confusion. I think that reflects that this has become a part of my identity that I'm more comfortable with, so my response when people reject it is to not understand why they would have a problem with it.

As a quick follow-up - the professor in that class during the next session gave me contact information for a friend of hers who is prominent in the area of social work with LGBT individuals, particular dealing with trans issues. She's in Albany, so it's a little limited in terms of networking, but it is still a connection, and one that I probably wouldn't have made without coming out (I doubt any professor would risk suggesting that contact if I wasn't open about my gender identity)

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