Saturday, June 8, 2013

Thought Bubbles Might be Helpful

As I walked around Town Lake in a black tank tee and cargo shorts I was curious how people were reading me.  I often get the "head nod" from the men I pass.  I have learned to quickly give the "head nod" back.  

Then I get curious that if someone reads me as a man -- what do they think my sexual orientation is?  Do I read as straight/gay/bi/queer?  My assumption (ever a danger) is that if I'm read as a woman that they read my sexual orientation as lesbian/dyke/queer.

Then I think about those people who aren't sure about my gender.  Do they think of me as "it," "freak," and then what would my sexual orientation be?  Maybe they think of me as someone no one would be interested in.  Maybe they don't think of me as a sexual being.

So - what would it be like if people had thought bubble so I could tell what they were thinking?

I usually am friendly.  I smile at people.  Sometimes I say hello.  I want them to know that even though they may not be able to read my gender that I am a real person.

So you might wonder -- why does Shane care?  In many ways I don't care as long as people treat me well.

AND I am curious about what people see and how they gender me.   

Friday, June 7, 2013

I Don't Think So!

The joys of bathrooms labeled "Men" and "Women."  Tonight while I was out and about I had some options on where I used the bathroom.

Important piece of information:  I was wearing dress men's pants, fitted collared shirt and bow tie.

Choice one --  Multi-stall, gendered bathrooms in a park by a ground fountain where a bunch of little kids are playing.
 -- Fear:  little kids most often ask why I am in the bathroom, if I am a boy or a girl or just stare/point/laugh/scream.

Choice two -- In the venue where the concert I'm going to attend is.  A lot of the people who are attending are older than me.
 -- Fear:  older women tend to be uncertain of my gender and either give me a questioning to evil look or might tell me I'm in the wrong place.

So I know that either choice was most likely not going to be a joyous experience.

I decided that I might be a little overdressed for the bathroom in the park and that bathroom is often a bit of the mess because the children come in after playing in the fountain.

So I went into the Women's bathroom in the Palmer Event Center.  I got in without anyone taking notice (at least I didn't get any looks or comments).  

I quickly washed my hands, trying to be invisible.  It would be a handy superpower for me in bathrooms.  And all-in-all so far so good.

I opened the door to leave right as "a lady" opened the door to come in.  She stopped, half turned to leave, looked at the sign on the door, then gave me the LOOK OF DEATH.  I gave her my most charming smile and said, "It is ok, you are in the right place," and walked out.

Just another day navigating the world with as much grace as possible.

Son? Daughter? What?!?!?!?!

One of the joys of being genderqueer in a binary society is being the topic of a conversation where one person is referring to me as one male and the other person is referring to me as female and I'm chiming in with gender neutral language.  Here is what happened tonight:

I went to the Austin Symphony Pops concert with the Mariachi Los Camperos.  At the Pops concerts you sit at large tables.  I went alone and had gotten the last seat at a great table (meaning fairly close and on the aisle).  The other folks at my table were older (60+) and all knew each other.  I felt a bit like a golden, glittery unicorn.  They were very polite -- we all introduced ourselves to each other.

I had a lovely conversation with the woman sitting next to me.  She told me the story of how she and her husband of 50 years met, moved to Austin, jobs, kids, retirement, etc.  

Fast forward to intermission...  I ran into someone I worked with at the Austin Lyric Opera 13 years ago and haven't seen in more than 7 years.  She knew several people at the table.  My former colleague said, "Oh so Shane is your love daughter?"  The person from my table says, "No, Shane is our love son."  I intervened and said "Love child."  Then there was some conversation where one person used "he" and the other "she" and then I think I said "person."  

You could tell that the two of them were confused.  The person who hadn't seen me in a while I'm sure wondered if I had transitioned and she didn't know.  The woman who had just met me assumed that I was a man (I was wearing men's pants, a fitted shirt and bow tie -- looking very dapper if I do say so myself).

I was just giggling inside, trying to use language that wasn't clarifying anything else and was authentic to my experience.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lav Grad -- AIR Award Acceptance Speech

AIR Acceptance Speech – May 16, 2012

I am very honored to receive this award.  I have the privilege of getting to earn my living working with wonderful students and having important conversations about social justice issues on this campus.

I would like to thank Ixchel for her leadership and guidance and her trust in me.

My work at the GSC is my dream job and 11 years ago I didn’t think it was possible that I would be standing here today.  I would like to take a little time to let you know how I got here and hopefully this story will inspire those of you who don’t trust that you too can find your dream joy (although it may not be your first job).

In 1982, yes 30 years ago, I moved from Indiana to Boston to work for the international headquarters of my church.  At that time I didn’t realize that I was attracted to women or that I didn’t have to follow all the rules in the gender rulebook that I was given at birth.  Two years later I met a new co-worker and quickly feel in love.  The complication was that she was a woman and I knew that my church was against that and that we could be fired if found out.  So I lived in a very small and uniformed closet for 2 years.

Fast forward to 1994 when I met Leslie Feinberg, who had just written “Stone Butch Blues (if you haven’t read it – I recommend it).  Ze showed me that all that I had been taught about about how I should be in the world was false.  Though that experience I vowed that I wanted to be someone who could give people room to explore who they were and not who they thought they had to be.  This is when I started talking about gender and sexuality to anyone who would listen.

This brings me to 2001 when I was accepted into the Masters of Social Work program at UT.  I applied there because I heard they had a Diversity Institute and the program had a focus on social justice.  When I started in the program people asked me what I wanted to do when I graduated.  I told them that I wanted to talk about social justice with an emphasis on LGBTQ issues and that I wanted to get paid for it. (this was my dream – and at that point I didn’t think it could really happen)  To my surprise people were excited that that was my goal.

When I graduated my current job didn’t exist so I was a therapist in the LGBTQ community and also had the good fortune to teach an LGBT course at the SSW and then the Foundations of Social Justice course.  It felt like my dream was starting to happen.

In 2007 I was hired as the Education Coordinator for the GSC – WOW – the job I dreamed of now existed and I got it!!!

For the last five years I have had the privilege to get up every day and work with amazing students!!  I get to talk about things I have a passion for.  I facilitate workshops on topics most of us were taught are taboo and often get to see “lightbulbs” come on in the minds of people in the workshops I facilitate.

I have the honor of teaching and coordinating the Peers for Pride program.  I get to follow my students as they go to law school, med school, find jobs that bring them joy and watch them found creative ways to change the world we live in.

So why the long story?!?  If you have a dream or a passion – go for it.  Don’t give up.  If it means doing the work you love as a volunteer – do it!   If you told me 10 years ago I would ever say this and believe it I would have called you a liar – and here it goes – Dream big and it can happen!

Many of you have probably heard Gandi’s quote – “To be the Change you want to see in the world!”  Yes, please do that! – and know that you don’t always get to see the change in real time – and the change is happening. 

Thank you again for this award.  It inspires me to continue doing the work I do with more passion and energy!  I wish you all well as you go out to find the work you love!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Assumptions - Ever a Danger

This morning I called the women's clinic to clarify some information.  At the end of the conversation the person asked if I was calling for my wife.  I let her know that I was not - that I was calling for myself.  That I was a woman.  Awkward silence followed by awkward giggling.  I said that my voice is low and she said that my name was masculine.  She then apologized.  We complete our business and hung up.

I wonder if I had said yes to the husband question if I would have received kudos for being a kind and caring husband?

Instead I received silence, giggles and an apology. 

What a world.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Back to the Gym

I decided to make this summer "The Summer of Shane."  That has meant trying to get back into shape.

As someone who is gender queer, changing rooms are not my favorite place, which can make going to the gym difficult.  This year I decided I didn't care and I joined a gym not too far from home.

Surprise Number 1 --  The gym has a "Family Locker-room."  A private, locking room to change and shower in -- heaven!!!  Might have joined sooner had I known.

Surprise Number 2 -- I decided in order to jump start my process I would purchase some sessions with a person trainer.  At our first meeting she said that she had heard that I was excited about the Family Locker-room and wondered if it was ok to ask what pronouns I use.  I thanked her for asking and told her they were complicated.  In response she said, "Oh, ze and hir."  I little stunned -- I said yes.

So I have found a fairly safe space to workout in!!!  I had to check some of my own stereotypes!  I had some healing encounters.

Now I just have to go to the gym, workout and sweat!!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

a little background

My coming out story comes in sections. Here is a short version:

I had a series of “identity realizations.” I first came out as a lesbian in the mid-80’s. That didn’t go very well with my parents. We worked together over time and they came to understand more about me and my sexual orientation. At that time I was somewhat feminine — especially when I was “dressing up.”

In about 1994 I met Leslie Feinberg who wrote “Stone Butch Blues.” The book is a novel about a lesbian in the 1950’s who questions her gender and lives her life as a “man.” Leslie came to Cornell, where I was working, and gave a lecture about the book. She was wearing a double-breasted, gray pin-strip suit, wing-tip shoes and her hair was in a flat-top. She blew my mind. She looked the way I wanted to look and was told that I wouldn’t be successful if I did.

She gave me a model for who I wanted to be. The internet was pretty new, there weren’t many books and I didn’t know much about transgender folks. I started wearing men’s cloths full-time and gave my dresses away and starting wearing my hair in a flat-top. My parents came for a visit and weren’t very happy about it. I was pretty sure that my journey would not include transitioning to male. I used to call where I lived “the gender gray.” Now I identify as gender queer. My parents came to appreciate how comfortable I am in my skin and that I became an advocate and educator around the issues.