Monthly Archives: July 2013

What’s it like to be LGBT where you live?

New York, NY

So recently, I’ve been traveling a lot. I took a week long class trip to Texas, I went to a year of college in Oklahoma, I grew up in Colorado, and I am at a summer program in New York.

Let’s start with Colorado. Growing up, I didn’t know very many LGBT people. I’d heard that a couple of my friends had two moms and I’d briefly talked with one transguy, a gay guy and bi girl on separate occasions over the years. Mostly, people just didn’t talk about such things, unless they were referring to a select city as “Trannyville.” I grew up in a rather conservative city (aka not Boulder). Since CO as a state isn’t ultraconservative, there’s legislation to protect LGBT people. I got a lot of weird looks at school, the store.. wherever I went. (Though on second though that might have been because I was in a serious skinny jeans phase.) I also got a fair share of rude comments at school too.

Onto Oklahoma. Although LGBT people are not legally protected and the state (especially the rural areas) is conservative, the bigger cities aren’t so bad and my university is one of the most accepting places I’ve ever been. I definitely don’t get as many weird looks going around. This may be because I’m usually on campus. Or it might be because I wear 30×32 jeans instead of 1 long. It also might be because I’ve gained some confidence.

New York is completely different than either CO or OK. At first you might think “duh!” but it’s different in so many ways. Here, there are gender neutral bathrooms in a lot of places. I was even at the grocery store panicking about using one. I absolutely had to go though, and to my surprise I didn’t need to worry. People here even consider that you might have a preferred pronoun. The thought of asking someone their preferred pronoun never even crossed my mind before. There’s even gender neutral housing here.

I came out to a friend in the program and he was incredulous that I hadn’t told everyone my preferred pronoun at the beginning. And more people than I though considered the fact that I might be transgender before I told them. In Oklahoma and Colorado, most people seem to assume I’m gay just based on my appearances.

I’m okay with the dynamics in OK/CO though. I’m ready to be myself there, even if there aren’t many other transgender people (that I know of.) And I’m hopeful that things will change a bit there.

What’s it like where you live? If you’re LGBT what are the rights/protections like?  If you aren’t LGBT, how does your community treat those that you know?

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Kids Will Ask Anything

This happened back in the Spring last semester.

When I went to volunteer in an Intergenerational Computer Center with a group of elementary school kids, I expected to help with a couple computer functionality questions and maybe a couple “how do you spell ___?” inquiries.  Looking back, I probably should’ve anticipated the sheer number of questions kids have about everything. And they’re not afraid to ask any of them. A conversation I had with one of them as a result of the endless questions went something like this:

I had been helping a group of students writing poems. One girl was finished and turned around in her seat. Out of the blue she asked, “What’s wrong with your voice?”

At first I was a little confused. I didn’t think I was sick and even though I admittedly did need some water, I didn’t think it was anything noticeable. I replied, “What do you mean?”

I started to get an inkling of what she was talking about, so I tried to play it off as nothing. “Oh, this is how I always talk.”

“Wait. You’re a boy.. right?”

I froze for a second. I had trouble explaining myself to pretty much anyone, including people my age. How could I possibly explain myself to a 3rd grader? I million questions of my own went through my mind in that split second: Was anyone else listening? If the teachers were, what would they say? How would this kid react? Was it going to be a bigger deal than it really needed to be?

I did know one thing for sure – kids are incredibly perceptive. They know when their being lied to, or even if they aren’t being told the whole truth. I decided to just go for it, and hope I made some sort of sense.

“Well, I was born a girl, but inside I’m a boy, so this is how I express myself.”

“Oh, so you want to be a boy?”

“Yup, pretty much.”

She had a bit of a confused/incredulous expression on her face. “Why would you want to be a boy??

I resisted the urge to insist that I didn’t just want to be a guy – I was a guy, inside, and replied, “Why do you want to be a girl?”

“Um.. so I can grow up and be pretty!!”

I laughed and jokingly flexed my arm. “Well, I want to grow up and be really strong.”

It seemed to make sense to her and the one or two others who were listening in, but that didn’t mean their questions were over. After a brief interrogation about my short haircut and whether or not I’d changed my name they seemed to just accept it and move on. If only the rest of the world could do that too…

I sort of forgot about the conversation until one of the teachers came up to me as the kids were leaving and said, “I just wanted to thank you for answering their questions earlier. I definitely didn’t anticipate them asking them.. and I though you handled it well, very well.. so thank you.”

I have to say, the teacher coming up to me and saying that meant a great deal, probably more than she would know. From my experience, I can ascertain that kids can understand a whole lot more than we give them credit for.

Have you had any experiences with kids asking questions that adults, out of tact or politeness would not ask? Do you think kids should be discouraged from asking such questions or encouraged?

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Navigating Airport TSA as a trans* person

Airport Security (Wikimedia Commons)

Okay, so I’m lucky in that I pass pretty well to strangers. As long as people don’t look too closely at me and I don’t open my mouth, most people in passing assume I’m male. (Pun intended.) A couple months ago I was travelling to NY for the summer. I got up at three ridiculous thirty in the morning after staying up late to pack.

My family, thank goodness, loves me enough to drive me to the airport that early in the morning. If that’s not love, I dunno what is. We got there at about 5am and parted ways. I tried to act all “yeah, I know what I’m doing I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me,” but as soon as they left, I was all “oh mah goodness where do I go for my boarding pass and security and flight and argghh!”

Somehow, I manged to make it to the security check-point with my pass in hand. There, they checked to make sure my ID and pass match. My ID didn’t look much like me.. it was about three years old. I had long hair and regrettably a hot pink shirt. I tried to remind myself that this is the only time in my life I’ll see Miss Official ID Checker, but any trans* person’ll know that showing someone an old ID is rather uncomfortable. She looked at me, and my ID, and back at me. I guess my face must’ve been similar enough or she hadn’t had coffee yet because she stamped it and sent me on my merry way.

The next part flustered me a bit. I had read the TSA’s policies for transgender travelers, but by the time I was ready to go through the scanner and had already almost forgotten to put my laptop outside of the bag, take my shoes off, and check my pockets I wasn’t really thinking about being transgender. (Over time, it’s become so comfortable to be out in male clothes that I think less and less about it.) At the time, I didn’t know that they had switched out the nude body scanners for less revealing millimeter wave scanners. With the new system, the officials are required to punch a pink or blue button (how cliche) to tell the machine what “stuff” to ignore.

The scanner-checker must’ve  pressed the blue button since I appear male. Obviously, as a pre-t pre-surgery guy I have a lack of certain stuff and an unfortunate overabundance of other stuff. When I went through the machine a TSA guy held me up.

“Please stop right here, sir.” He said a quick few words to the person behind the computer screen and turned back to me.  “It’s flagging a region on your chest, I’m going to give you a pat down.” Before could react and say that I’m biologically female, he was doing so. Okay, for any cisfemale I’d imagine having a middle aged guy patting down your chest would probably be at the least awkward and at most grounds for a sexual harassment complaint. But I’m not a woman and I don’t identify with my chest. It didn’t feel awkward to me, besides the fact that a stranger was invading my personal space. He was just doing his job. In a few seconds he was finished: “Thank you, sir, you can go ahead.”

Even though he referred to me as male after the pat down, I have a small chest, but not that small, so I find it hard to believe he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. But it definitely didn’t faze him either. I’d like to imagine he did figure it out and decided to be respectful about it. I guess on the way back I might just opt for a pat down since I’m probably going to get one anyway.

Have you (cis or trans) had any experiences with the TSA, good/bad/otherwise? Can you think of anything the TSA could do to seamlessly accommodate people across the gender spectrum?

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