My name is Kayla Spagna. I am an undergraduate student at Bridgewater State University. I am conducting research on Transgender Experiences in Massachusetts Colleges and Universities. This research examines the experiences of transgender students attending a four year college or university in Massachusetts. Transgender students face problems concerning access to equitable or culturally competent housing, health services, and campus policies. Safety is another concern for transgender students. To address these issues, I will pursue a series of qualitative interviews with transgender students and college staff. The purpose of these interviews is twofold: (1) to gain a deeper understanding of the resources available to transgender students and (2) to identify potential barriers to full integration on college campuses. The overall goal of this proposed research is to illuminate current experiences of and future avenues to more fully support transgender students.
I am currently extending my research and am looking for additional participants who consider themselves transgender and who attend 4year colleges or universities in Massachusetts. This research will be presented nationally in April, so the more participants the better! Interviews generally last 30min and can be done in person or by e-mail.
Blaming the Victim.
In my Women and Gender Studies class today we discussed rape and how society blames the victim rather than the attacker. She is a slut. She was asking for it. She shouldn’t have been out alone. She shouldn’t have been dressed like that. She was at fault. This conversation brought back memories of an incident that occurred my freshman year of college. Myself, my boyfriend, my roommate, and her friends attended a convention in Boston for a weekend and were all sharing a hotel room. All together there was about ten of us. The first night my boyfriend and I slept on the floor. The second night we got one of the two beds. A boy of the group, who had become friends with us during the day, joined us in the bed. Unplanned, I ended up in-between this boy and my boyfriend, although the bed was big enough to fit another person between this boy and I.
I don’t remember much. I remembering being kissed on my throat and an arm around my waist. The second time I drifted into consciousness, a hand was touching my stomach and fingertips ran beneath the lip of my pants. That is all I can recall. What I do remember is my boyfriend jerking out of the bed and storming out of the hotel room. Awakened by his sudden exit, I realized an arm was about my waist. Confused, I untangled myself and followed my boyfriend out into the hall. He was angry. He was angry at me. I argued with him in my confusion, asking him to tell me what was going on. “He was touching you. All night.” That is what he told me. He said he threw the boy’s hands off of me several times. Stunned, I could not understand why he did not wake me. Why hadn’t he said anything? His reply? “How could you not know?” But I hadn’t. And my excuse of, “I thought it was you.” Seemed stupid as soon as it left my mouth. How tired could I have been to not realize that the hand that was running across my skin was coming from the wrong side of the bed? How had I not realized that the soft biting on my neck was not coming from my boyfriend, who I had been cuddling into?
Eventually I was able to calm my boyfriend. We agreed not to mention the incident to the rest of the group when they woke. This boy was a friend to my roommate and the trip had been fun. This was the last morning, and we did not want to cause trouble. It would be nearly a year later until my now ex-boyfriend and I would talk about what happened. We had let society effect a situation that was wrong. I don’t blame him for blaming me for the situation because society had taught him that victimized females somehow “want it to happen”. I even wondered what I could have done to cause this to happen. Had I flirted? Had I dressed inappropriately? Surely, I must have given this boy some sign that his actions would be allowed. The truth is, I was victimized in my sleep and there was nothing I could have done to stop it. My ex-boyfriend, in retrospect, wishes that he had acted differently. I won’t describe the actions he wished he had taken. I think what bothers me the most is not that for nearly a year the subject was avoided, and almost utterly forgotten, neither of us wanted to remember it, or that we blamed ourselves. What bothers me the most is that I will never know what was done to me. Maybe it was just the touches on my stomach. Maybe it was more. I will never know what was done to my body and by blaming ourselves and by pretending it never happened, I lost my chance to find out.
You saying you're not trying to push your beliefs onto people, that people need to have the decency to at least respect someone else's lifestyle, really hit a chord. My second roommate in college was bisexual in a relationship with someone who was transgender. Her old roommate point-blank told her that her way of living was "wrong." And so she came to me. Now she's one of my best friends and even though I don't understand it I understand that I love her with all my heart. It's all about respect.
It is small acts, simple acceptance, and people like you who will make this world a better and more loving place. Thank you for being a wonderful person. :)
This post is going to be about my family and how for the past month and a half I’ve felt extremely separate from them. This semester a friend and I received a $300 grant to conduct research on Transgender Youth. We were ecstatic. Immediately we bought five books, one of which is My Princess Boy which I have just posted about, and began to dig into the abundance of information. When My Princess Boy arrived in the mail I was so excited and even jumped around my house happily. I was so excited to show this book to my mother and two sisters, for my brother and father were not home, and immediately ran down to the bedroom where they were all gathered. My family had been very excited for me when they learned that I received a grant from my University; however, they had no idea what my research was on. “What’s transgender?” My mother asked. Transgender is not a term one can define. The definitions are endless and “Transgender” is an umbrella term that encompasses many other terms. However, I did my best. I was only half way through my explanation when I saw their interest fade. I could see the uncomfortable expressions on my mother’s face and my sister’s. (Later on this week I will be posting on coming out to my family as liking both girls and boys. I will only say this for now- my mother did not approve). At this moment, I tried desperately to transfer my excitement onto them. I held out the book My Princess Boy and told them about the wonderful story that surrounded it. I told them about the family who loved their little boy so much that they let him wear dresses so that they would be happy. I let my family read the book. My mother said nothing. One sister completely rejected it as being “weird” and the other sister said, “When I have a son he’s going to play sports and get all the girls.” What if he wants to wear a dress? “Nope. Never. My boy won’t be like that. He can wear pants like normal boys.” It broke my heart.
It was then that I realized how different I was from the rest of my family. Society had gotten to them. Differences were not okay. Straying from traditional gender roles was unacceptable. Somehow, I had become the only one in my family with an open and accepting mind. I had to leave my house so that they wouldn’t see me cry. I wouldn’t know how to explain it to them. GLBT issues are very important to me, but they will never know that. I have been a part of the GLBT minor for almost a year now and I still have not told them. I know they will not understand. They will probably think it is a waste of my education and money. My father would be accepting. Yet, as accepting as he is, I still fear that he will not understand. (My father was the one who told me he didn’t care if I loved a boy or a girl as long as I was happy. However, transgender issues are entirely different than GLB issues). And my brother is still very young. He hasn’t even begun to notice girls never mind GLBT issues. I can only hope that he might grow up more accepting than the rest of my family.
I know that not everyone can have an open mind. I have accepted that much. However… I just did my first presentation on Transgender Youth this morning. The project went over amazingly. I really feel like my partner and I educated the class and opened them up to a new community they might not have known much about. (Transgender issues are still a fairly new topic). Leaving that presentation I found myself overwhelmed with happiness. The next step is to apply for a highly competitive summer grant (which will pay me $4,000, give me a $300 grant, and will have me traveling during the entire summer). Not only will it be a big responsibility, but it will also open me up to present my research not only at school but also in other states. I have never felt so motivated and excited. But who am I to share this with? I want nothing more than to call my family right now and say, “Guess what I did today! Guess what I’m applying for! Guess where my life is heading!” I can’t. I just can’t be open with them. They think I want to be an English professor. I don’t. I want to advocate. I want to stand in rallies. I want to write articles for newspapers. I want to give speeches at high schools and universities. I want to make a difference. I have no idea how to start on that, but that is what I want to do. Yet, it kills me knowing that I cannot share this dream with my family. Honestly, my happiness at how well our presentation went completely faded away when I realized I could not share this happiness with my own family. Something I feel so passionately about I have to pretend doesn’t even exist for fear of making my family uncomfortable. It breaks my heart and even as I sit here typing this I find that I’m close to tears. I’ve never felt so distant from the people I love most and I have no idea what to do about it.
My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis
I decided that I wanted to do a review on this fantastic book because it has made such a difference in my life. It does not even matter that it is a children’s book, I believe this one book has the power to open minds and hearts. A mother wrote this book for her five year old son who loves to wear dresses. His parents struggled, as most parents would, and attempted to persuade their son into more masculine toys and clothing. However, they soon realized that it was they who had the problem, not their son. His happiness is what is important, not society’s. This book was a mother’s way of accepting her son and reaching out so that the world may accept him as well.
“My Princess Boy loves his dad. His dad tells my Princess Boy how pretty he looks in a dress. His dad holds his hand and tells him to twirl! My Princess Boy smiles and hugs his dad.” This was the first line in the book that really stood out to me. Dad’s especially hope for their sons to grow up to be “big and strong” and so for a father to see his son in a dress would be hard to accept. However, this father saw past society’s expectations and realized that he wanted nothing more than to have his son enjoy his life: “He’s just like any other kid: he plays checkers, he plays in the trees, he just likes to do it in a dress- big deal.” Dean Kilodavis.
“And when he buys girls things, they laugh at him, and then they laugh at me. It hurts us both.” For me this is the point in the story where it began to become “real”. Up until this point the book described the love and support that his family and friends gave to him. Now the book begins to address society and the ignorant and oppressive people who are un-accepting of differences. “My Princess Boy asked, “Why did she laugh at me?” I told him some people don’t think boys should wear dresses.” I cannot imagine the pain that this little boy must feel. Surely with all the pressure and hateful remarks he has had to endure he would have been pushed back into the “masculine role” society believes he should take. Yet this little boy, this five year old boy, refused to be pushed into something he is not. He likes sparkles and he likes dresses, why can’t he enjoy these as girls do? What possible harm could his happiness bring?
“If you see a Princess Boy… Will you laugh at him? Will you call him a name? Will you play with him? Will you like him for who he is?” Read these questions. Over and over, read and think on them. Why do we laugh at boys who dress “femininely”? Why do we turn away from girls who are “butch”? Where was it ever written that males must be assertive and dominant and that girls must be quiet and obedient? Why should outward appearances effect how we see others? Will a sparkly pink dress make that little boy a bad person? Will he not go on to have dreams and ideas- just like any other person? How can an article of clothing so negatively affect the rest of the world? It is ignorance, not the dress, that will threaten society. I applaud this family and their beautiful child for standing up against society. I wish them the best of luck and hope that someday all people will learn to be so accepting.
Pansexual means gender-blind.
It means I don’t care what is under your shirt or between your legs. Give me a heart that is beautiful and I will be happy.
This is absolutely beautiful. Sexist and gender socialization negatively effects men as well as women. Gender socialization tells women that they are not powerful, capable of being independent, and must fit into the “caring and nurturing” role. It tells men that they must be tough, they must be strong and assertive, and that they cannot express themselves unless they want to be called a “fag”, a “sissy”, or “weak”. This leads to low self-esteem in women and higher violence in men.
On a side note: Women who are too assertive, independent, or strong are labeled as “lesbians” and men who are too gentle, caring, or emotional are labeled as “gay”. Homophobia makes this an insult.
Liberty and Justice for All
I was sitting in a presentation and part of the discussion led to the Pledge of Allegiance. Specifically, the speaker discussed the last lines: “Liberty and justice for all.” For all. Not just the rich, not just the white, not just the straight, etc. For all. We were asked what we have done to liberate ourselves. Then we were asked how we were liberating others. I decided to stand and talk about my younger sister. I sat her down one day last year, when she was a freshman in high school, and introduced her to the subject of the GLBT community, because I knew it wasn’t a topic that was going to be discussed in my home. I told her that her older sister (myself) was attracted to women as well as men. I educated her, to the best of my ability, about the GLBT community in hopes to bring awareness into her life. She came up to me once, soon after, to tell me about a boy in her grade who was gay and how many people made fun of him. I asked her if she was one of those people. She not only said no, but she also told her friends to stop teasing him and that this boy was actually a nice person. My sister is unlike myself, you must understand, and how I was in high school. She, luckily enough, is one of the popular girls. Therefore, when she told her friends to stop teasing this boy, they listened. She has within her a power to make a difference and, to be honest, I am not even sure if she realizes it. Later on during a break in the presentation, a social work professor, who was also one of the speakers, came up to me to shake my hand. She wanted to thank me for what I did not liberate my sister. I was completely stunned and, without thinking, told her that she didn’t have to thank me.
This was one of those moments that happen so quickly that it is hard to grasp exactly what had happened. This is what I would have said and why I did not want any thanks: I wasn’t trying to get my sister to become an advocator. I was only trying to make her aware of what society did not want her to know. I wanted her, more than anything, to be okay with her big sister if I ever fell in love with a woman. I wanted her to understand the GLBT community in hopes that someday she could accept it and maybe even stand up for it. It gladdens my heart and gives me hope that perhaps, even if it is just with her friends, she will bring awareness into the lives of others.
Think to yourself: how have you liberated yourself? How have you liberated others? What can we all do to progress forward?
I read your post about the racist old lady you encountered at work. I just wanted to say that I think we've all been there... failing as an ally and being ashamed of it, but I appreciate you posting about it because maybe it will spur other people to act if they are in the same situation. A tip: have specific responses in mind for such situations so you don't end up at a loss for words in the heat of the moment. Even something simple like "That is prejudiced, and I find it offensive."
It comforts me to know that I am not alone. However, I think it would be better if I were alone in this. To know that others have encountered this, that racism happens everyday- it is simply terrible. I would not want anyone to experience what I did. Yet, the racist remarks were not even about me! I cannot even imagine what this situation might have been like if I were the target.
Thank you so much for the encouragement. I have learned a lot from this awful experience and I know now how to act if ever confronted with this again. I do not have to deal with a person that is so closed minded and I do not need to stick around to listen to things that offend me or those whom I love.
You give me hope that there is a shred of decency and truth left to our race. And by race, I mean the human race as a whole.
Thank you :)
The truth is, I’m not really trying to push people into acting or thinking a certain way. It is just my hope that if I express how I feel, maybe others will feel more open to express how they feel. It does not matter if we all agree or disagree- we, the entire human race, need to learn how to accept and respect one another. It’s okay to not understand and it’s okay to stick by your beliefs. There is just a difference between respect and tolerance. No one should ever have to be “tolerated”. I believe that once the world figures out this difference, we will all live much happier lives.