Transgender Explained: For Those Who Are Not (Herman)

I have a memory that, like memories often do, makes me wince. I was sitting with a high school friend and talking about the prospect of pursuing our love for theatre in college and beyond. And I said – it’s hard to even type this: “I’m not always comfortable around gay people.”

I know I didn’t know then. I’m not sure he did. But he is very definitely out on social media and we are that kind of ‘friends.’

It’s only recently that I’ve learned about confronting my own biases in order to be what? I’d like to think “a better person.” I definitely think doing so has made me a better teacher. (I didn’t go into theatre after all – for other reasons – mostly because I don’t have a great deal of talent.)

I wish I could remember the name of the conference I attended in Minneapolis. I was only able to attend for one day and if I learned a lot in the sessions I attended, I think I learned still more in between sessions and in the public spaces of the hotel that hosted it. There were some people, no, less people than, it wasn’t even behavior, okay, I think it was clothing that made me uncomfortable. But I stayed at the table. And when I learned of comments made by people at the hotel not attending the conference to those who were attending it, my discomfort paled in the face of my fury – an emotion I have to work on controlling. Fortunately, there were people there at the conference much more experienced and much more equipped to respond.

When news of Bruce Jenner’s transition became impossible to ignore, my main reaction was that I just didn’t care. Talk of taking away his (then) / her (now) medals was stupid and luckily short-lived. I don’t care to pay attention to anything that it is at all tangentially related to the Kardashian family. I haven’t seen Transamerica ( and this book made me curious about it.

Oh yeah, the book. I’m grateful for it. It helped me understand issues both systemic (why does gender matter so much?) and day-to-day (example: I have the privilege of not having to think about issues of gender on a daily basis. I’m not even sure that I interact with anyone who does. But this book definitely taught me that I need to pay more attention and what I need to pay attention to. For example, what does my employee handbook say about workplace discrimination?

My one quibble with the book is one that Herman doesn’t hide. Her chapters were originally articles for, so there’s some overlap. So when she revises this for the next edition, I hope some of them can be removed. I also hope to hear her comments on Bruce / Kaitlyn Jenner.

Use the bathroom or locker room that you want to use. Dress however you want. I would say that it’s none of my business and in a way that’s true. But it is my business. I want to live in a world where such things can be taken for granted by everyone.


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