When I took this job, it was not without a certain amount of trepidation. After all, I knew that I’d be moving almost 3000 miles away from everything I knew, and all my friends and family. I was also worried by the fact that I knew next to nothing about the LGBT community in Alaska, especially in the area I was headed. Not only that, but the non-discrimination policy of my district doesn’t even cover sexual orientation, let alone gender identity or gender expression. Because of this, I made the decision that, for the foreseeable future, I would have to go stealth once more.
If you’re not familiar with the term, “going stealth” is a practice where a transgender individual lives life as if they have always been cisgender. For example, for me, this means living as if I was born and raised a boy. I’ve done it before, notably when I taught middle school, but this is the first time that I’ve ever had to go stealth in all aspects of my life. To say that I hate it is a gross understatement. I hate feeling constantly on guard, watching what I say and do. I hate the constant self-editing of stories. I hate over-thinking everything I want to say or actions I want to take. Most of all, I hate the constant worry about what will happen if and when someone finds out that I am trans.
Since education is a notoriously conservative field, I have made a practice of taking steps to keep my personal life and professional lives separate, with some degree of success. Almost from the beginning, I have kept my privacy settings on Facebook at the highest possible level. For a long time, I also had a self-imposed policy against accepting friend requests from coworkers; in fact, I often wouldn’t mention that I even had a Facebook profile. Part of my reason for this was that my Facebook profile is where I can be authentically me. Because I know that the only people who can see things are actual friends who know and accept me as I am, I can post stories, photos, and statuses about anything.
Up here, that separation of work and home is a little harder to achieve. Recently, I temporarily changed my privacy settings on Facebook so that some family members who had just set up accounts could friend me. In the process, two of my fellow teachers and newest friends, Lucas and Andy, sent me friend requests as well. I will admit, I panicked. I let the requests sit there for two days while I dithered and worried over what would happen if I accepted and something went wrong. What if Lucas and Andy decided I couldn’t be their friend anymore? What if they told other teachers about me? What if someone decided I was unfit to be around children? What if? What if? What if?
Fortunately, in the midst of this I had a Facetime conversation with my sister, L. I told her what was going on and articulated my fears to her, how terrified I was that I could be found out and rejected based on who and what I am. L, being the awesome sister that she is, listened attentively until I wound down. She then proceeded to talk some sense in to me, reminding me that a) I am a pretty cool guy, b) I have a decent “radar” for who I can and can’t trust, and c) if after getting to know me over the last month, these people suddenly can’t accept me over this one thing, then maybe I should rethink my friendship with them.
As and after we talked, my mind continued to churn over the idea. Finally, I came to a decision: I’m done. I’m done hiding. I’m done living in fear. I’m done letting other people’s views dictate how I live my life. I’m done avoiding public restrooms for fear of people calling me out as being in the “wrong place”. I’m done hiding my body. Does this mean I’m going to start running around telling everyone I know in the village that I’m trans? No. But it does mean that I accepted those friend requests. (Lucas and Andy haven’t said anything to me yet, so I don’t know if they’ve figured things out.) It means that when I’m living in a dorm room this week during district-wide in-service, sharing the space with three other guys and sharing the bathroom with too many other guys to count, I’m not hiding the fact that I apply hormone medication every morning. It means that, while I’m still nervous about the idea, I’m thinking about how to have conversations with the people I now live and work with, if and when such talks become necessary.
And I do have hope. I’ve discovered, through conversation with my roommate and observation during the meetings over the last few days, I know that there are people that fall in the LGBT community. So maybe, someday, I can be open. Regardless, I will continue to live in a way that allows me to be authentically me.