This show is the first in a new series on the experiences of LGBTQ teens in Maine. This episode features a conversation with high school junior AJ, who identifies as gender-neutral. AJ discusses the challenges of not identifying as either a girl or a boy, and the value of finding allies within a new school.
An interview with Jean Vermette about her experience of recognizing that she was female, and taking the risk to share it with the people she loved. She ultimately chose to undergo sexual reassignment surgery and wrote a book, Je Me Souviens (I will remember) about her experience of MtF genital surgery. Jean spoke movingly about how her need to feel whole was so strong that she was willing to risk the loss of sexual responsiveness. Jean described the process as an example of the universal spiritual story of death and rebirth, and the sense of loss of her male self that was a necessary part of embracing her female identity.
An interview with doctor of clinical social work, Frank Brooks about gender role non-conformity. Frank described his own experiences of feeling different and facing prejudice as he grew up. He then went on to study the powerful link between gender role non-conformity in boys and the risk of suicide. He works now with families with gender role non-conforming kids to help them protect their kids from bullying, threats, and shunning. Frank uses the term Gender role instead of gender to highlight that these roles are social constructions and are changing. He sees hope for transgender and gender role non-conforming kids as social awareness and acceptance grows.
An interview with sexuality educator and mother, Sandy Lovell about parenting a trans son. Sandy shared the story of learning that her daughter was becoming a man. She described her son’s childhood and the very early ways he was drawn to play with more stereotypically masculine toys, and said he felt “in the middle” between being a boy and a girl. As a feminist mother she celebrated his gender non-conformism, although 23 years ago it had not occurred to her that he might be trans. Sandy named parental concerns for her child’s safety, his ability to find love, her grief over losing the daughter, and her struggle to accept that the transition was really necessary. Sandy also spoke movingly about how her son’s courage to be himself has inspired her to live her most authentic self, and that in many ways his transformation has been a gift to their family.
An interview with social worker Liam Bechen about being a genderfluid trans man. Liam describes his story of realizing that he was not a woman, not a man, but occupying the gray area in between. He describes the daily challenge of coping with people’s responses to his visible inbetween-ness. He describes moments of fear of violence, but also of his determination to live without shame, and to celebrate the many manifestations of gender that he can explore. He experiences gender as a social construct that we take to be reality, and that can be oppressive when we feel compelled to live by the conventions and expectations that accompany gender roles. Liam describes his decision to use male pronouns, and to take testosterone, while keeping a visible chest, not as a rejection of the feminine but as a celebration of living outside of binary gender conventions.