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Good and not-so-good advice about gender.

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oh speech class... [Feb. 25th, 2010|02:35 pm]
Good and not-so-good advice about gender.
hello everyone,
so, i am giving an informational speech in class next week and i decided that my topic is going to be gender (specifically transgender people- kinda like trans101). big question though is whether or not to "come out" to my class mates. This is a college class and I am 5 years on T but it's still the beginning of the semester and i'm kinda worried about alienating myself from these people. We do however, have to mention our "credibility" when giving the speech- which would be the main reason i disclose this information at all.
any advice?

[User Picture]From: aki_no_kaze
2010-02-25 07:49 pm (UTC)
my first question would be just how much ANY of them actually matter? Will you likely need their contact to help you get a job? Do you want their companionship if they wouldn't accept you if they knew? Does any of them have any ability to impact your grades? (group marking, etc).

If they don't really mater, then go with what YOU want to do and to hell with em :)
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[User Picture]From: 1_2_suckerpunch
2010-02-25 09:23 pm (UTC)
If you want to give a speech on gender, I think it is important to out yourself. If you are worried about outing yourself, choose a different topic.
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[User Picture]From: doctorrobotnik
2010-02-25 09:45 pm (UTC)
i disagree - i don't think it's disingenous to say that your "credibility" is that someone important in your life transitioned and you had to learn all the info as they went through it - i dont think the fact that you specifically went through it has much bearing on the validity of what you are presenting, unless people in the class are disagreeing with you and you need to mention you're speaking from your own experience,
or perhaps you could be vague and say that you are giving a speech on trans stuff because it's something that has affected your life and is important to you, without explicitly mentioning you've transitioned.
i think especially because you dont know these people, you dont know if they'd be cool with it or if it just would be gossip fodder for them, so personally, i wouldnt disclose
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[User Picture]From: anacas
2010-02-25 11:07 pm (UTC)
It's great that you had a positive experience with coming out at work, but "people probably won't care that much" is not generally applicable advice. At all. In most environments, many people will care a whole hell of a lot.

OP, I've seen people out themselves as trans while giving Trans 101-type presentations and have it work well, but I've also seen it shift the dynamic of the talk in a really gross way to "OMG I could totally tell/I couldn't tell/now that I know it's really obvious/I wonder what his junk looks like" type stuff. And you may find people suddenly have issues pronouning you correctly who never would have thought twice about it before. If you're comfortable being scrutinized in that way and/or able to use the audience reactions constructively, and you don't think it will negatively affect your experience in the class and ability to learn for the rest of the semester... go for it. If you're worried outing yourself will make the class uncomfortable for you (and it sounds like you are), don't feel obligated to out yourself just to demonstrate "credibility" on the subject. Saying someone close to you transitioned should be enough to lend credibility to the information, as well as make clear you're coming from a personal place (which might keep some of the worst, openly transphobic commentary at bay).
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[User Picture]From: anacas
2010-02-26 10:58 am (UTC)
And in my experience, if you don't make a big deal out of it, others won't react to it as if it were a big deal.

And in my experience, sometimes that's an overriding factor but often it's not. And I really dislike the way that rationale can be used to blame trans people for shitty reactions--sometimes all the nonchalance and positive attitude in the world don't make one whit of difference. Treating it as not a big deal is a good idea for when someone has chosen to disclose, but I don't think that's hugely relevant to making the decision of whether to disclose or not.

IMO it's more dangerous to say "nah, no big deal, it'll feel good!" without knowing much about the dynamics involved than it is to say "well, it can work well sometimes but here are some problems you might run into, and if you feel prepared to deal with that then go for it." Neither of us know much about the specifics, so I'd rather err on the side of caution. If the OP had sounded like he actually wanted to disclose I would have given different advice, but it sounded more like he felt obligated to disclose because of the subject matter and the class requirement to establish "credibility" and would be more comfortable not disclosing.

I don't believe in a "gender cache." I know personally the way I perceive someone's gender can shift completely. Not to mention the number of times I've seen people who are always gendered correctly suddenly get fucked up pronouns from someone who found out they were trans and was enough of an asshole to think that made their gender less "real" or valid. The whole "gender cache" thing also seems an awful lot like a way to let people off the hook for imposing their incorrect gender assumptions on others. It's certainly easier in our cis-centric society for people to gender you correctly if you conform to their preconceptions, but in my experience it's not particularly hard to shift how you gender someone if you care enough to do so.

But the good thing about it being a class is there isn't any likeliness of a major issue like being disowned, or losing ones job. Worst case appears to be some social awkwardness and lets face it, that's just part of transition anyways.

Unless someone in that class knows someone he works with, or decides to harass the OP, or the professor is a transphobe, or a million other things. Information like that doesn't tend to stay particularly contained--if I had a dollar for every time someone told me private information that someone disclosed in one of their classes with the expectation of (even a specific demand for) privacy, I wouldn't be rich but I might be able to fill my gas tank off of it. That includes a whole bunch of times people have outed other trans people to me--a friend once told her classmates in a small intro gender studies class that she was trans in an attempt to educate them about it, and explicitly asked everyone there not to spread the information outside the class. Without realizing she was a friend of mine, THREE separate people mentioned her trans status in front of me later that semester. God only knows how many other people they told if I heard it coincidentally that many times. I'm not trying to be the voice of doom and gloom predicting catastrophe, and it's altogether possible none of those things will happen. Maybe everything will be great and everyone will be wonderful and the whole class will be inspired to fight transphobia and ciscentrism in all walks of life right after singing kumbaya together. Maybe not. I think people choosing to be open about being trans can be a wonderful and satisfying thing under the right circumstances, and if the OP wants to, fantastic and I wish him the best of luck! But no one should feel obligated to.

You know, people aren't going to understand the "I'm trans and thats okay" attitude if we cannot embrace it ourselves.

You know, I've totally "embraced" the idea that being trans is just fine, fabulous even, but I don't buy your premise that self-acceptance and willingness to disclose are connected.
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[User Picture]From: gymx
2010-02-26 12:53 pm (UTC)
You know, I've totally "embraced" the idea that being trans is just fine, fabulous even, but I don't buy your premise that self-acceptance and willingness to disclose are connected.

Fucking thank you.
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[User Picture]From: anacas
2010-02-27 06:34 am (UTC)
I didn't say your experiences were incorrect. Your experiences are true for you and that's great, but they're not universal and I don't think they're similar to the OP's situation or particularly applicable to the questions the OP is asking--saying "here's what worked for me in a different situation" would have been very different than what you actually said, "I don't think its really that big of a deal to out yourself." Oh, and implying that people who disagree with you must be doing so because their transitions weren't as 'successful' as yours is really classy, and not irrelevant at all! Nice one.

If you're going to comment, why not actually respond to the points I made?
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[User Picture]From: genderqueerjoe
2010-02-26 06:15 am (UTC)
I came out in speech class because we had to do a speech on something that changed our lives. Other than that class, no one knew I was trans in other classes. I was so nervous but people treated me the same after they knew.
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[User Picture]From: laura_seabrook
2010-02-26 06:18 am (UTC)

Comin Out

"Coming Out" isn't a one off thing, even if you do so to a group. You will find that some didn't get it, others misunderstood, and some will approach you afterwards. Also, come out to the class and you may be coming out indirectly to the whole school. Is this a High School, Technical College or University? The response will be different depending. The point I'm making here is that it won't just be that one class, it'll be everyone they talk to.

Are you prepared for that, and the aftermath where you may be abused by some, approached in public places and asked the most personal of questions, and so on? Coming out can be a really good experience, however the usual reason for doing so is that a) the people you come out to used to know you under a different name, b) to belay an adverse reaction based on expectations (e.g. at some point when dating); and c) to make a point (however, I've just seen MILK where it was suggested as a political action).

You can always talk about gender without the trans angle.
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[User Picture]From: laura_seabrook
2010-02-26 06:22 am (UTC)


Ah - missed the "College Class" on the first reading. Theoretically if a person is in college/university they ought to be "enlightened" to a certain degree. that isn't always the case, but generally you will have a better reaction, than you would at High School or a Technical College (I've studied at all three over a long period of time).
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