… and I used this opportunity about 10 years ago to email a bunch of my closest friends and let them know what I had recently figured out about myself: I’m genderqueer, I lack a gender identity.
(In the spirit of the tools of Courageous Conversations, I am attempting to speak my truth, to acknowledge that this conversation may cause discomfort for you and/or me, to expect and accept non-closure, and to commit to keeping myself engaged.)
If you already know what lacking a gender identity means, feel free to skip this paragraph. While I was at night school at Hamline to get my teaching license, they had a guest speaker come in to teach us about the difference between 1) man/woman biology (what parts you have, most people are either-or, but some may have biological ways of being both / in between), 2) sexual orientation (heterosexual, homosexual, somewhere in between is really pretty normal - the Kinsey scale is one way people have thought about it), and 3) gender identity: what your head tells you and how that compares to the biology between your legs. Cis-gender is when your head and your biology agree. Transgender is when they disagree. I always knew that I did NOT feel like a man trapped in a woman’s body; I’m not transgender. I asked the speaker if gender identity was fairly binary or if it had more of a spectrum (like the Kinsey scale); after some thought she said she thought it was a spectrum. And after 35 years the light bulb went on for me: I don’t have one. I finally understood how I was different from the other straight women in my life that I admired. The social world made a lot more sense to me than it had.
Why am I bringing this up here, today? In the spirit of keeping it local, personal, and immediate, something’s been nagging at me. Why don’t I know anyone out at work?
This is my 6th year working at 287. I don’t know a single co-worker that is out to me. I know a lot of heteronormative stuff about a lot of my coworkers; I hear talk about husbands, wives, kids, dating, pets, vacations,… I interact with people that it occurs to me might be part of the LBGTQ community, but around me they have talked with the straight people about those people’s straight lives without ever bringing in information about their own relationships / status. I am aware that I don’t know if they have a significant other in their lives.
I have always done an “Interview the Teacher” activity near the beginning of the school year and almost all the time, I end up being “out” to the students that are present; I usually get some kind of question(s) like why is your hair so short, why don’t you wear make up, are you gay,… Over the past couple of year’s I have been more deliberately “out” with staff. After an advisory activity about it, I keep a “Genderbread” person scale filled out about me hanging in my room. I talk about going to PRIDE in Golden Valley (and NYC this last summer!), and I’m comfortable.
After Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade’s back-to-school key note, I’ve been thinking on the way he talked about how it doesn’t matter what kind of oppression people are facing; whatever it is has an impact. So I’m not trying to tell anyone they should be out at work. And I really want to respect the fact that at times as a district we are trying to isolate race to work specifically on that (especially as that is explicitly part of our 5-year plan while this is not). On top of that, while I consider myself Q in LGBTQ, I still live a pretty traditional white-hetero-middle-class-suburban life; married (to a man) with 2 kids. I would not pretend to be able to speak for the L,G,B, or T parts of the community.
But in the spirit of breaking out of what may be systematic and invisible to us, I am using this day as my prompt to ask: Why might people choose not to be out with their coworkers at 287?