I am writing this to you tonight because I want to make you aware of a very real trans* struggle that is happening now. A transwoman has been suspended from her job after parents complained that a transgender individual was teaching their children. Laura Jane Klug said that she never talked about her gender identity with the students. It is believed that she was outed by a radical conservative parent. She is now at the mercy of a school board, who will decide whether or not she will keep her job as a substitute teacher in the school district.
The district met tonight in a public forum to hear on the debate (no word on it yet, but keeping my fingers crossed). If you read the article, you will hear a broad swath of opinions (many of which are very problematic). First off, I would remind the reader to always refer to people by the pronouns with which they use. If a transwoman uses “she” and “her,” use them. Don’t refer to a transwoman as “he” and “him.” Not only is it offensive and rude, it degrades the individual’s identity. It robs them of a power that they themselves have a right to control. Second, never use transvestite—just don’t do it. EVER. Third, these aren’t lifestyle choices; it’s who they are. Fourth, parents do not like having to explain to their children what trans* gender is. My question is, why? Why do we shy away from these topics? Why is it so damn hard to talk about trans* people in a way that doesn’t degrade them and doesn’t make them out to be monsters?
And then I got to thinking about my own personal struggle… it’s because we don’t know. We are afraid.
I am a cisgender male. Growing up in a conservative and religious world, I had never met an open trans* person until I came to college. Even then, when I did, I was very freaked out. The idea of transgender was so foreign to me. I didn’t know what being trans* meant. It was never talked about back home, and now coming here I suddenly found myself in a world that was radically different from my own. With ignorance comes darkness, with darkness, the unknown, with the unknown, fear, and with fear, hate.
Why do we shy away from talking about sex or gender so much? Not talking about it doesn’t make these things go away or never happen at all. Not talking about it just makes these things get out of hand. It leads to problems. Not teaching our children about sex means that they won’t understand its risks. Not teaching our children about sexual identity means they won’t understand the potential for humans to love. Not teaching our children about gender means that they won’t understand the capacity for individuals to be human.
I am a product of these things.
I grew up not being able to accept who I was. I never knew how or why I should protect myself when it came to having sex with others. I could not see a person as human because their mysterious trans* identity overshadowed everything else.
I was afraid.
I am fortunate that I have been able to come to a university where I have been able to learn about others and myself, but the battle is far from over. Even now, I still struggle from time to time with my old prejudices. There are times when I have to remind myself to look at the human in someone and not the identity. Because ultimately, we are all human, and we all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Imagine a world where we did not have to struggle with these things. It all begins with education. Self-education.
But the battle doesn’t end there.
We must be willing to talk about these things, to educate others and constantly educate ourselves. If we stop, the entire process dies. Why shy away from these issues and make them so much more difficult than they need to be? If people were willing to have an upfront conversation instead of beating around the bush, our society would be in a much better place, and there would be one less person afraid of losing their job.