Education, Educating, and Being Trans

In the United States these days it is frightening to exist. It is frightening to know that you have the audacity to be alive, when so much of the cultural climate seems designed to encourage you not to. Designed to convince you that your existence is wrong. I’m speaking as a transgender woman born in 1995. A woman who lives in a red state. A woman who lacks the courage to explain to her MAGA mother that the first major thing her favorite president did was pass legislation directly stripping opportunities from trans people, and that it’s no wonder I’m terrified of the fact that she doesn’t see why that makes me so wary of her.

I also speak as someone who has been out as trans for five-ish years. Someone who didn’t even know that there was a word for the feelings she has felt since middle school. Someone who has lived much of her life feeling like an alien, and then found out that transgender people existed, and then suddenly realized I was human. Of course, there were some years between the discovery and the coming out in which I felt inclined to repress. Rhetoric and my right-leaning social circle (this seems unavoidable, in some cases, depending on where you live) made me horrified to embrace what I knew I needed to.

But now I speak as someone who, again, has been out for years. With experience of being myself openly, living in spite of the fear. And I speak as someone who is, for the first period of her life, happy.

There is magic in it: realizing that you’re not defined by the limitations of your body. Yet it’s so rejected, so misunderstood, so vilified by so many. The days when you meet someone new and they accept you feel like a blessing rather than the norm. Even if it were true that a majority of people are accepting, it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Hateful voices speak so much louder.

I work at my university as a graduate assistant. I learn. I teach. Learning is enjoyable. Challenging and rewarding. Teaching is what I’ve wanted to do my entire life, except for when I was five and wanted to be a firefighter. I’d like to do both, teach and learn, for the remainder of my life.

But I’d like to do it without fear.

Maybe there’s something ironic about being a trans woman wanting to teach in a generation where there is so much ignorance surrounding identity. It certainly complicates things when I just want to educate my students on English, but then I’m also expected to educate them on… my existence. And often their limited understanding includes the knowledge that my identity is so often weaponized against people like me, and how easy it would be to utilize that weapon to undermine me. And it has been utilized before. It will again.

But my goal for my whole life has been to teach. And I will, no matter how hard, but I’ll have to educate more than just my students. And I’ll have to educate my students on more than just English. I will teach people that I am not a threat. I am not a freak. I am not an anomaly. I will teach people that their own hate is baseless. I will teach them that their fears are unwarranted.

That I am not alien; I am human, like them.

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Michelle is a writer, editor, educator, and entertainment enthusiast who also enjoys alliteration.

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Michelle Green

Michelle is a writer, editor, educator, and entertainment enthusiast who also enjoys alliteration.