Category Archives: Transgender

Imagine

I’m a cisgender, straight woman. I grew up knowing I was female, inside and out. But what if my gender identity had been different.

Imagine.

Imagine a high school version of my adult self. Everything felt unstable — weight, hormones, emotions. I couldn’t rely on anything to stay the same — even my blonde hair was growing darker. I had achieved my height of 5’2” by age twelve, when I was considered a giant; now at fifteen, I was startled to be viewed as “petite.” My one constant, the core of my identity that held me steady: I was female.

One day, changing into my clothes after gym class, I realized my period had arrived early. I didn’t know what to do. A group of girls with nearby lockers saw me anxiously searching through my backpack, and they exchanged knowing glances. I barely knew them, but they immediately stepped in. One offered a tampon, and we all smiled, bonded in our femaleness.

Now imagine a different scenario. Think about how I might have felt if someone called my “gender identity” (my definition of myself as female) threatening, or dangerous, or sick, or a phase I’d grow out of. Suppose that instead of offering support, those girls had yelled at me, ordered me to use the boys’ bathroom.

Imagine what might have followed.

Suppose I entered the boys’ bathroom, probably with the same hesitancy you’d enter the “wrong” restroom. Maybe the boys would be hostile. Maybe they’d make comments about my body, put their hands on me, become violent. Maybe I’d be so upset that I’d promise myself I’d never again use the bathroom during school. But one day I’d really need to, so I’d duck into the girls’ bathroom, because this was where I belonged, because I was female. I’d pray I’d be safe. But the girls whispered, shot comments, pointed.

Somehow, I’d get through the day. I’d return home, needing to regroup, regain my sense of safety. Then I’d turn on the news, and the federal government would announce that I could be forced to use the “wrong” restroom. The way I was treated in the bathrooms by both girls and boys was perfectly fine. If I didn’t like it, then it was my fault for defining myself as female.

Take a moment, and imagine.

This is the message the transgender population has been given by the people who are supposed to be our most powerful protectors. I’ve written this post as if they were me. 

Now imagine that they were you.

___

Amy’s Novels:

Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable deals with homophobic bullying at school, and follows a girl’s journey after she comes out to her family. The story tracks a group of diverse high school friends as they confront homophobia in themselves and others, and find individual paths to becoming LGBT allies.

Tightwire follows a rookie psych intern through her first year of clinical training, treating a stormy and talented young man. This book tracks a strong friendship between two men, one gay and one straight. Two other important characters are a lesbian couple, raising two children, who become role model parents to the main character. This is a story of the importance of becoming your full self.

Visit Amy’s Author Page to check out Amy’s recent blog posts, read reviews, purchase her novels.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

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More Bathroom Bills

Folks, please, enough with the Bathroom Bills.

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of being transgender, please talk it through with people who identify as trans. It’s okay to ask questions, as long as you’re open to their answers. They won’t hurt you, and neither will their ideas.

If you don’t know what transgender means, please ask. Nobody knows everything, and people appreciate a willingness to learn. A general rule: the level of respect in the answer will match the level of respect in the question.

If you doubt that transgender is “real,” please allow someone who is trans to share her/his experience. People are different, sometimes extremely different. My own approach: if I don’t understand another’s experience, then it’s on me to ask, listen and learn. Dismissing another’s experience is unacceptable, as is making assumptions based on my lack of understanding. People can have a wide range of experiences regarding gender identity, all equally valid. You might be surprised to discover that along with your differences, you share some common ground.

If you’re worried about what a transgender person does in a public restroom, please ask. You’ll find they behave remarkably like you — nothing dangerous, nothing even interesting. To turn this into a grand political issue is worse than insulting; it’s an irresponsible drain of resources that are desperately needed elsewhere.

If you’re looking for something to occupy your time, please knit sweaters for the homeless, volunteer at a public library, plant a tree, take an art class. But please don’t waste any more time and money on this offensive and useless crusade.

____

Amy’s Novels:

Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable

Caroline Black, 15 years old, leaves her wealthy prep school for her local high school, which opens her world. At Hollywood High, she finds a large immigrant population speaking over 40 native languages. Although frightened and intimidated as she navigates this new territory, Caroline thrives in the diversity of her new school.

Tightwire

Caroline Black, 10 years later, navigates her first year of training as a therapist. Chapters in her treatment of a talented but troubled young man are interspersed with chapters of her own personal history. This book explores how the individual and community mutually influence each other, and the importance of becoming your own whole person.

Visit Amy’s Author Page to check out reviews, read the first few chapters, purchase a book.                                                                              https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

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Filed under Bathroom Bill, Civil Rights, LGBT, Trans Ally, Transgender

Use Restroom, Wash Hands, Leave

I live in North Carolina, where Pat McCrory signed his name to legalize discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. Now several states have their own versions of HB2. The immediate target appears to be the transgender population and more specifically, public restrooms. It’s ridiculous, but amazingly, it’s also real. Sure, I’m outraged, incredulous, saddened. But I’m also puzzled. I just don’t get it.

Whenever I just don’t get it, whatever “it” happens to be, I go back to basics: my education. In college, I majored in psychology, preparing to become a therapist. I was fascinated by the progression of thinking in developmental psych, by the ways the mind can go off course in abnormal psych, by the dialogue between the individual and society in social psych. But I was equally drawn to the English Department for reasons I couldn’t articulate.

I began with a course on British poets: Chaucer, Milton, Wordsworth, Eliot. Then I moved on to a smorgasbord of seemingly unrelated topics — 19th Century American Writers, Medieval Plays, 20th Century American Poets, Greek Tragedies. I felt a strong internal pull, a compulsion to study literature. I was particularly drawn to the writings I found most incomprehensible.

I had fine professors who created classroom environments designed to build understanding from ignorance. Medieval plays made no sense whatsoever, until my teacher explained the lives of both the playwrights and the audience. Interpreting poetry felt awkward, even pretentious, until my professor invited us to react on a gut level – “Don’t overthink it; feel it.” Writing my assigned papers felt stilted, until I was advised that ideas were more important than perfect grammar and immaculate syntax; “Break the rules a little bit,” my professor smiled.

I began reading and writing differently – not only to understand material on an intellectual level, but also to experience learning on an emotional level. With each poem, each novel, each play, my learning and thinking changed. As I read Emily Dickinson’s poetry, I explored her inner world, vastly different from my own. I battled the sea, cold and hungry, clutching the sides of “The Open Boat,” as I wrote a paper on Stephen Crane. I forged my own pilgrimage into The Canterbury Tales, following Geoffrey Chaucer as his story wandered from beautiful, to bawdy, to funny, to arduous – mirroring the experience of The Middle Ages. To get it, I had to live it. Once I lived it, even for a moment, I understood it on a new level.

Years later, when I began working with psychotherapy patients, I discovered that my English courses were as useful as my psych courses. The psych theory helped structure my thinking; the English courses taught me to make sense of each patient’s unique voice. The words of every writer I studied, like the words of every client I treated, were the keys to their selves.

I wish Pat McCrory and his followers had shared my curriculum back in college. I wish they had felt my initial lack of empathy when I read Portrait of a Lady (Henry James); I was irritated by Isabel Archer’s self-destructive choices, until my professor spoke about her impossible dilemma, from a personal and societal perspective, and I found myself (to my adolescent horror) in tears in the middle of a lecture hall. I wish those  against transgender rights had experienced my professor of Greek tragedies whose lectures were so compelling I’m amazed I remembered to breathe; in one lecture which I’ll always carry with me, he transformed a Greek Chorus from contrived and ridiculous, into the collective mind of Ancient Greece.

As Pat McCrory and too many others sign away the civil rights of their fellow citizens, I wonder if they ever made the effort to learn about the experience of being transgender. I don’t mean memorizing a definition in a dictionary, or engaging in a mutual admiration society with others who are equally uncomfortable with the transgender population. I mean talking to someone who identifies as transgender – asking questions, sharing concerns, open to learning. If Pat McCrory is truly worried about what a transgender person does in a bathroom, then just ask. I’m quite confident that the answer would be something like: “Use restroom; wash hands; leave.” If people are frightened of how the transgender population behaves in public restrooms, then they need the guidance of a teacher.

I was in graduate school before I realized that during college, the specific subjects I studied were a means to an end. While I loved my courses, the heart of my education wasn’t English or psychology. At core, I was learning to learn, learning to think, and I still am.

How I wish Pat McCrory and his supporters would join me.


Amy Kaufman Burk is an author and blogger. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay teens bullied in high school, and follows a family’s journey after the daughter comes out. Amy’s second novel, Tightwire, includes a strong friendship between two men, one gay and one straight, as well as a lesbian couple (raising a son and daughter) who become role model parents to the main character. Amy’s blog has several posts in strong support of LGBTQ+. To learn more about Amy, visit her website and find links to her blog and to her novels on Amazon.

http://amykaufmanburk.com

 

 

 

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LGBTQ+ Posts

Dear Reader,

Before I decided to write fiction, I was a psychologist for 25 years. I’ve always been drawn to the process of self-discovery and personal transformation – first as a therapist, and now as a writer. Our culture often makes this process extremely difficult for people on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, and I hope my writing can help.

As I write each post for my blog, I’m drawn to the same underlying themes. My blog includes a body of work on LGBTQ issues, which focus on different aspects of self-discovery, personal transformation and ally support.

Below is a “hit list” of these posts.

Thanks for reading!

Amy

 

“Imagine”

Written in support of trans students, and to try to help people understand why bathroom issues are so harmful.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2017/02/23/imagine/

 

“More Bathroom Bills”

A trans ally is fed up with bathroom bills.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2017/02/18/more-bathroom-bills/

 

“GLSEN 100 Days Of Kindness”

In high school, a friend stopped a bullying incident with one simple question.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/glsen-100-days-of-kindness/

 

“Amy vs. Chapter 37 — GLSEN No Name Calling Week”

Writing as a form of healing from words used as weapons.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/amy-vs-chapter-37-glsen-no-name-calling-week/

 

“GLSEN Ally Week — Let’s Open The Conversation”

A 91-year-old woman’s path to becoming an LGBT ally.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/glsen-ally-week-lets-open-the-conversation/

 

“Use Restroom, Wash Hands, Leave”

Written in response to HB2, signed by North Carolina’s Governor Pat McCrory.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2016/04/07/use-restroom-wash-hands-leave/

 

“Confused Children (Or Not…)”

In support of same-sex parents.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2015/10/24/confused-children-or-not/

 

“Rainbow Cake”

A celebration of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold same-sex marriage.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/rainbow-cake/

 

“LGBT Pride Month: Yale Has Come A Long Way”

An experience in college that taught me how to be a better ally.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/lgbt-pride-month-yale-has-come-a-long-way/

 

“LGBT Pride Month: I Wish He Had Told Me”

About a boy I knew when I was in high school, who didn’t feel safe coming out.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/lgbt-pride-month-i-wish-he-had-told-me/

 

“Huge Mistake”

Written in response to the homophobic Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/huge-mistake/

 

“Same-Sex Parents”

In support of gay dads and lesbian moms — addresses some common concerns and misconceptions.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/same-sex-parents/

 

“If My Child Came Out As Trans”

To help families handle this situation with togetherness and support.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/if-my-child-came-out-as-trans/

 

“Heartbeat of AIDS”

About being a psych trainee, in San Francisco, in the early 1980s, trying to figure out why healthy young men were inexplicably dying.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/heartbeat-of-aids/

 

“Spectrum Of Normal”

A perspective on the LGBTQIA spectrum.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/spectrum-of-normal/

 

“Everyone Can Be An Ally”

The bullying incident in high school that motivated me to write my first novel.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/everyone-can-be-an-ally/

 

“Two Weddings And A Novel”

How my first novel was influenced by Gavin Newsom’s legalizing same-sex marriage in San Francisco.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/two-weddings-and-a-novel-2/

 

“All Love Is Created Equal”

A a child, realizing that gay and straight couples were viewed differently.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/all-love-is-created-equal/

 

“They Came Out And Gay Fills The Room”

Support for families when a daughter or son comes out, and suddenly all the parents can see is GAY.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/they-came-out-and-gay-fills-the-room/

 

“When Your Daughter Or Son Comes Out”

Support for families, a model of togetherness.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/when-your-daughter-or-son-comes-out/

 

“Speak Gay With Pride”

About the homophobic expression “It’s so gay”, and how parents can handle it.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/speak-gay-with-pride/

 

“Reading Guides for Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable and Tightwire”

Both of my novels have LGBTQ themes central to the plots. Without the gay and lesbian characters, the stories could not exist. As I wrote the reading guides, I included several questions inviting readers to share their experiences. Understanding diverse perspectives creates a path to acceptance and support. Let’s open the conversation.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/reading-guides-for-hollywood-high-achieve-the-honorable-and-tightwire/

____

Amy Kaufman Burk is an author and blogger. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school, and follows one family’s journey after their daughter comes out. Her second novel, Tightwire, includes a strong friendship between a gay man and a straight man, as well as two women, a couple raising 2 children, who become role model parents to the main character. 

Amy’s Author Page On Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

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Filed under AIDS awareness, bullying, coming out, Equality, family, gay and lesbian parents, LGBT, parenting, Transgender

If My Child Came Out As Trans

I wonder how I’d react if my child came out as Transgender.

I don’t have experience with this, either in my own family or with close friends, and I won’t pretend to be an expert. But recently the world lost Leelah Alcorn, a trans girl who felt too unsupported, too misunderstood, too tormented to go forward. Leelah died of homophobia, specifically transphobia, and bluntly: that’s wrong on more levels than I can count. Sure, I feel judgmental toward her parents for their lack of support for their daughter. But it’s relatively easy to feel judgmental, and much harder to figure out how to help. I want to try to help. So I’m imagining one possible scenario, step by step. To avoid a confusing array of pronouns, I’ve chosen to write about a young person with the body of a boy, whose gender identity is female. However, I think the issues will hold true for a transgender boy or girl, female or male, and for his or her family.

I’m imagining the conversation:

“Mom, can we talk?”

“Sure.” (Uh oh. Torpedoed a test? Drugs or alcohol? Speeding ticket?)

“I don’t know how to say this.”

“Okay, whatever it is, I’ll help you through.”

“I know I look like a boy, but I feel like a girl.”

Thud of silence.

In that instant, we’d be launched on a new trajectory, a hairpin turn, a lightning-bolt surprise journey. I imagine my first reaction would be shock that my most basic assumption about my child was wrong, and always had been.

My boy is a girl?

In an instant, my confidence in my parenting would be shaken to the core.

What else have I missed?

The guilt would hit, with anger on its heels. I’d feel guilty that my child had carried this alone for so long, and at the same time angry that she had kept something so huge from me for so long. I’d feel guilty for missing something so fundamental, and furious at her for slamming me with this magnum-force news bulletin.

Breathe. Just breathe.

I’d try to steady myself, because even though something huge would have changed, much would not have changed at all. She would still be my child – the same values of decency, the same wicked sense of humor, the same love for chocolate, the same conviction that okra and garden snails and Vaseline are biologically related and equally unfit for human consumption. She’d complete physics assignments with the same ease, continue her struggle reading music, and remain strikingly unable to complete a sentence without saying “like” or “y’know”. My child would still be my child.

Then the doubts would hit again.

This can’t be happening.

I’d remember my son, actually my daughter, as a newborn. Our first relationship to our children is through their bodies. We hold them, feed them, change them. We feel their foreheads for fever, and rock them to sleep in our arms. We develop a powerful bond with the body of our child, a physical and emotional connection, bone-deep. The foundation of our entire relationship stems from our child’s body.

That foundation misled me, betrayed me.

Then I hope I’d put on the brakes. My daughter did not mislead or betray me, and neither did her body. My own assumptions about her body did. I’d remind myself not to take it out on my child, and in turn, I’d ask her not to blame me for giving her a body that doesn’t match her identity.

We can get through this.

I’d feel a moment of calm, a quiet confidence. Then my emotions would surge, and run rampant. I’d be mortified to find myself up to my eyeballs in “wrong” feelings — politically incorrect, insensitive, hurtful, bigoted.

Did I do something wrong, make a terrible mistake that caused this?

Feelings don’t always make sense, or follow the rules of rationality. I’d try to be patient with my own “wrong” reactions. Does that mean I’d accept these wrong feelings, welcome them? No. But I’d allow myself the time I needed to process this new situation, to blaze an emotional trail. And as I struggled, I’d be surprised to realize that in some ways, my world had become a lot easier.

So much makes sense that I didn’t understand before.

I imagine that part of my reaction would be relief. I’d remember things my son did and said, which puzzled me at the time. I’d now realize that was not my son, but actually my daughter acting and speaking, and her behavior and words would make sense. I’d feel guilty that I didn’t follow up at the time, and possibly save my daughter years of pain and confusion. I’d wonder if I could ever forgive myself.

I never thought I’d be dealing with this.

At that point, I hope I’d pause, and begin to regain perspective, because that sentiment is felt by every parent, many times, in raising children. Kids are full of surprises, and the one sure-bet for parents is the unexpected. I hope my sense of humor would kick back in, to steady me, and I’d be able to smile at my emotional clumsiness. I’d feel the beginnings of a stronger bond with my child, a bond of truth and authenticity.

I love her so much, but I need support, and so does she.

I’d reach out. I’d talk to friends. I’d also find a new community of people who shared my experience. I’d encourage my daughter to do the same. No secrets, no shame. I would certainly encounter ignorance and bigotry. Worse, my child would be hurt at times by misguided people who’d feel a push to lash out. I’d be unable to protect her from being hurt, but I’d make sure our home remained a safe haven.

I hope that if my child ever came out as Transgender, we’d stand side by side. If I needed to cry, that would be okay, as long as I left room for her tears. I would try to accept my full reaction, and support my daughter through her full reaction, not allowing my emotions to eclipse hers.

I’d mess up, sometimes badly. If needed, I’d apologize. I’d ask questions. I’d learn. I’d encourage my daughter to do the same. I’d fall so many times I’d leave skid marks. But whether on our feet or on our asses, even shaken to the core, we’d love each other. We’d go forward as a family, a newly configured family – with a daughter instead of a son. Sometimes we’d walk tall; sometimes we’d stumble. We’d hold out our hands, helping each other regain balance. We’d talk. We’d eat our favorite foods, and enjoy our favorite activities. We’d have fun. Like always. Because we’d still be the same people, only we’d understand each other with a new clarity.

We’d figure it out.

Together.

Rest In Peace, Leelah Alcorn.

____

Amy Kaufman Burk is an author, blogger and mother of three grown children. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school, and follows one family’s journey after their daughter comes out. Her second novel, Tightwire, includes a strong friendship between a gay man and a straight man, as well as two women, a couple raising 2 children, who become role model parents to the main character. Amy’s blog has several posts written in ally support of LGBTQ+. 

Amy’s Author Page On Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

 

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Filed under family, Leelah Alcorn, LGBT, parenting, Transgender