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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Becoming Cory - part one


Two weeks ago we had a huge week. Cory transitioned at his high school from Anneke to Cory. To do this we met with the Vancouver Board of Education’s Diversity and Anti-Homophobia worker Maria, to map out a plan. (Yes we have such position in our school board, and I am deeply grateful for that.) She has been like our personal 100 pound purple haired pit-bull, clearly stating that Cory’s transition will proceed smoothly, or they will have to deal with her. I have only really met with Maria twice, but I guarantee I would not want to be on the wrong end of her in any way. Her office was a non-descript, stereotypical beaurocrats cubicle that she transformed into her own personal pride float – a huge Rainbow flag hanging above her desk tops it all off. From the first moment I spoke with her on the phone I knew we would be in good hands.

Next we met with Cory’s vice principle and school counsellor Dr. S and Ms. L. Ms. L is also the staff person for the school’s GSA (Gay Straight Alliance). Another thing I am hugely grateful for since I learned that some school boards are unsupportive of GSA’s in their schools. I had never met Dr. S. before our meeting but was amazed at his matter-of-fact, no bullshit way of approaching things.

The plan would be that Cory stay home from school for two days and a Dr. S. and Ms. L would go to each of his classes and explain that when s/he returned to school s/he would no longer be Anneke, he would be Cory. He would be using the male washrooms, using male pronouns and (most controversially) using the male change room in the Hockey Academy.

When we met Dr. S described the process of discussing Cory’s transition from female to male quite simply. He felt it would be a 5-8 minute conversation tops. With his thick South African accent and his non-nonsense attitude, he simply said, Cory is a young man in our school. We accept diversity; we accept Cory as a young man in our school and demand that everyone here at this school do the same. If they don’t like it they can leave. Period. Cory has told me, this is not a new speech for him and he frequently shows people the door or announces he has school transfer papers at the ready for any student who does not accept others and demonstrates respect and tolerance.

Wow. I was gobsmacked really. He made it sound so simple.

Cory nodded approvingly. Maria, Ms. L and I exchanged glances. Of course we all knew that it might not be so simple. Cory would be at risk of bullying, social isolation and/or physical violence. All of which have happened to other trans kids to varying degrees. I felt a bit like I was sending my kid into a lion’s den, and trusting virtual strangers to keep the lions at bay.
Luckily for us another brave boy forged the way in the Vancouver School board, and they had a template for what worked and what didn’t.
(You can read about Cormack here http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/08/12/when-boys-would -rather-not-be-boys\)

Well, last week Cory stayed home from school for two days and the classes were informed. A little primer was given on what it meant to be transgender, and then all of his classmates were informed that Anneke was transitioning and needed their support and understanding.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to know that my entire high school was talking about me. As a shy, self-conscious teenager, I know I would have rather crawled into a hole and died. The word ‘brave’ just doesn’t seem to cut it.
Cory said from the start of the process that he couldn’t think about the reaction too much. He is already prone to anxiety. It was a wise self-realization. It was something he was going to do no matter what. This was a part of becoming Cory - being himself. This was not a choice. It was part of the journey.

So I suppose, like pulling a Band-Aid off, or jumping in the pool, it was best to just do it. Transition done. No more roadblocks. No more cringing every time someone said she. The next day at school was a hockey day with ice time. Time for the boy’s dressing room in one of the most gendered sports ever known. Perhaps the down side of going stealth in Coquitlam would be he knows what a boy’s locker room is like when everyone is comfortable.

When I asked Cory what the worst reaction would be, he simply stated “It would be if they said nothing. If no one talks to me.” My heart sank. I knew it could happen. And it could happen not because people didn’t understand or didn’t want to be kind. It would be simply because people didn’t know what to say. Awkward silence. I didn’t want to elaborate on any of the bad reactions I had swirling around in my head. I just tried to be positive and supportive.

“It’s going to be fine” I said, “Remember, you haven’t changed really at all. You are the same person. Your friends will all know that.”

The next day Cory returned to school…...

Reaction to follow.

12 comments:

  1. Proud of you Cory.
    Your Dad

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  2. I have been reading the blog for a long time now, and was hoping you would begin to post again. I am glad that you are back, and am excited for Cory and his transition. I look forward to hearing more about how school went! I hope it went well, sounds like there is an amazing administration there at least.

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  3. Dear Cory,

    You rock. Big time.

    Wishing you huge, huge happiness.
    Andrea in Ottawa

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  4. Holding my breath. You are all amazing, as are the people at Cory's school. What a way to just make it happen. Feeling really proud to live in a school district that can start from this point of acceptance.

    Fiona

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  5. What a cliffhanger! Though I'm sure everything went (more than) fine :-D

    Those two days must've been really rough, but it must have been a relief to get it over with. I'm more like you, Cory's mom (or so it seems, according to how you describe yourself), so I never did a grand coming out at school; but I wish I had. For a couple of years, my friends at school called me "he" and my chosen name, while the rest of my classmates kept calling me "she" (except for the most perceptive ones). It was awkward and confusing! I think many kids would've understood if only I'd been brave enough to explain.

    Congratulations, Cory, on your courage! You seem like a really great kid (at least, that's what your mom says :P) and everyone around you is lucky to have you in their life.

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  6. Wow, amazing courage for Cory and your family. Our family is sending HUGE waves of strength and dignity your way. Transitioning as an adult is complicated enough, but it's nothing like this. So proud of all of you -- your great parenting, Cory's fearlessness and authenticity, and the support of the school system!

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  7. Wishing all the best for such a brave individual!
    Thanks for sharing this story.

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  8. This is a wonderful story. I am a transgender man and I am in the process of publishing Trans-Kin an anthology resource for friends and family of transgender persons. We have a publisher and it will be published in less than 6 months. We are in the final stages of editing and adding a few pieces that we find of exceptional quality. I was wondering if I could talk with about submitting a piece or publishing one of your wonderful blog posts? I can't seem to find contact information for you on this blog so I will give you my personal contact information. You can reach me on my cell phone at 720-883-7446 or at by email at cameron.whitley@gmail.com.

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  9. It's so nice to read that progress is being made for Cory, and that you have some powerful friends on his side. Brilliant.

    Best wishes to you all, and I hope 2012 is a great year for you.

    Anna

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  10. hey, could you please update?
    don't leave us hanging on such a cliffhanger! :D

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  11. I'm a fluid gendered student in my school- i was born female. I had every kid in my GSA read this, since we dont have alot of trans or fluid gendered students in my school- you rock Cory!

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