So what's "outreach?"
In my case, it is an attempt to educate and enlighten non-transgender people about what it means to be transgender. In the Human Sexuality class, we accomplish this by giving a brief biography of our transgender lives and then answering questions from the students to clarify and expand upon what the students may already know or upon what we stated in our biographies.
I am not alone doing outreach. Usually, other trans individuals join me. On Tuesday, in addition to me there was a post-op transman and two transwomen, one post-op, the other not.
After we give our biographies in a nutshell, I am paired with the non-op transwoman and do Q&A with half the class, while the post-ops do Q&A with the other half of the class. Half way through the class period, we switch with the post-ops and do Q&A with the other half of the class.
Here are some of the more memorable questions I have answered doing outreach.
Q: Are you married?
Q: ...to a woman?
Q: Do you have any children?
A: I have a 30-something daughter, who is very supportive.
Q: Where do you go out when you go out as a woman?
A: The mall, restaurants, museums, shows, etc.
Q: Do you crossdress when you have sex with your wife?
Q: Why do you have your nails done only to go out once or twice a month?
A: I wear pre-glued, stick-on nails that take about 5 minutes to apply.
Q: How did you pick your female name? (This is probably the most asked question.)
A: It is a female version of my male name.
Q: What do you do when someone stares at you or reacts negatively to you?
A: I try to disarm them with a smile.
Q: What do you do when you are at a bar and a guy hits on you?
A: I say I am not interested and point to my wedding ring.
Q: Which bathroom do you use?
A: I always use the ladies' room.
Q: Did you have a hard time learning to walk in heels?
A: No, I took to heels like a duck takes to water.
Q: Don't you worry that your voice gives you away when you are out in public?
A: Usually my voice is not an issue. (By the way, my voice is not deep and I am soft-spoken even in male mode. In female mode, I just crank the softness up a few notches. However, I am always working harder to improve my feminine voice.)
(I turned the question around and asked the class, "If you did not know I was a male, do you think my voice would give me away?" Three or four students answered and they said, "No.")
Q: How do you hide your genitalia
A: I wear a panty girdle or Spanx panty to keep my genitalia in check. At one time, I tried a gaff, but discovered that it was very uncomfortable and that my male parts would escape frequently and required regaffing. The panty does a much better job keeping those parts in place and is much more comfortable.
Q: Do you do hormones or have you had surgery?
A: No. (My answer often surprises the students.)
Q: The way you move your hands and gesture is very feminine. Are you doing that intentionally?
A: It is not intentional. (I noticed that I gestured while answering the question and suddenly became aware that my hand gestures were indeed feminine, which gave me pause.)
Q: Do you buy your clothes in a "big" women's store?
A: Not necessarily. I am a size 16 or 18 above the waist and a size 14 or 16 below the waist, so sometimes I find clothes that fit in the "Misses" section and sometimes in the "Women's" section.
Q: What is your sexual orientation.
Q: What would you do if you could do it over again?
A: I would live 24/7 as a woman without hormones and surgery, but I would have electrolysis.
Q: Do you ever feel that you are really a female?
Q: Do you ever think about living full-time as a woman?
A: I think about it every day.
I don't go fishing for compliments when I do outreach, but some come my way nonetheless.
A female student loved my hairdo and thought that my wig was my real hair. A pretty student said my makeup looked "fabulous." Another commented that I should teach the females in the class how to apply makeup.
One female student thought I looked good enough to do female impersonation.
Another female student commented how good I looked for my age. Immediately, another female jumped in and said how well I was put together. After that comment, nearly all the females started talking at once, commenting about how nice I looked. I blushed with embarrassment and thanked them for their compliments.
One student commented that my outfit was "cute." That made my day until another student stopped by to say, "You are so pretty!" She was very pretty herself and I was stunned by her compliment.
My most memorable outreach experience occurred four years ago.
After the class, a female student approached me. She said that when I entered the class, she thought I was a woman, not a trans woman, but a born woman.
Thank you, I thought to myself, but then she added that besides thinking I was a born woman, I was also the most beautiful older adult woman that she had ever seen in person!
I thanked her profusely aloud as she examined my presentation up close. She thought I was about 45 years old and she was very surprised when I revealed that I was 60.
Then she told me something very personal that I will not repeat here. I thought I detected her eyes beginning to well up.
The encounter became so emotional for me that I cannot remember if I gave her hug or not. (If I didn't, I should have.)
Those few minutes with her were priceless to me and I will remember her forever.
|Actor Lee Ingleby in British television's Fairy Tales (2008).|