Thursday, May 16, 2013

Reflections on Giving a Talk on Transgender Identity to Teens

Yesterday I traveled up to my alma mater, Phillips Exeter, to give a talk to a group of students about transgender identity.  It was a sort of "Transgender 101," using my life story as a way to introduce them to concepts around gender.  I have to say that I love giving these talks -- I feel that it really makes a difference in creating understanding and tolerance.  Also, I love the questions that I get and how thought-provoking they can be.

There were many great questions yesterday, but the one that I've been thinking about since then is one that I get most times that I give a talk (whatever the composition of the audience) and that is: do you consider yourself straight?  

I usually give the same answer I give to "which sex box (M or F) do you check?"  which is: given the options,  I go for straight (or M).  But... I wish it were a fill in the blank sort of question.  And in that case, I'd go for Queer.  The students last night pressed me on this (and I'm glad they did).  

To start with, I gave them my premise that sexual orientation (gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, etc.) depends upon gender identity.  That is, you can't be a lesbian (a woman attracted to women) without first knowing you are a woman.  So, in my case, with a gender identity of transgender (again, given the fill in the blank option), no sexual orientation fits easily.  It looks straight, but it's really bent.  

I'm not sure that I convinced my audience (or explained it as well as I ought to have), so I find myself still pondering over how to tackle this question the next time it comes up.  And also wondering if there are other (better?) words out there than queer.  I'll keep searching...

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