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.