01 May 2012

A Surprise In One Of My Classes

In one of my classes, students have been reading various essays and articles about gender and sexuality.  I've assigned them a paper based on those readings.  

Last year, I had a self-imposed moratorium on such readings and assignments.  I wanted to teach things that had nothing to do with those topics.  I started this year with the same moratorium but I found that, ironically, my students led me back to them.  They wanted to express their thoughts about gender identity and sexuality. Some of those thoughts included were about the inseparability of gender and sexuality from many other topics, including some that I hadn't anticipated, such as science.

Anyway, in the class in question, one student whom I thought to be a cocky teenager, expressed the opinion that "everyone has rights."  At first I was skeptical; I thought he was saying what he thought I wanted to hear.  However, as I read on, I realized that he had been thinking a lot about the issues in the reading.  He said, in essence, that he'd be disappointed if he had a son who expressed interest in "changing" genders.  However, he said, he would support that son's right to do so if he made that choice as an adult.

But what came after that assertion was, perhaps, the most interesting and gratifying part of all.  He wrote about one of his school-mates, with whom he had been friends since both were five years old. This friend had a brother who was several years older, and whom my student saw almost as often as he saw the friend.  This friend's older brother, according to my student, was sullen and testy (Those were his exact words.) and had a few incidents with cops and authority figures.

However, my student noticed a change in him.  This friend's brother began to "mellow" out, and even volunteered his time.  My student, of course, had no idea of what brought about the change--that is, until one day, when he noticed other changes.  "His face looked different.  His body was starting to look different."  What my student was describing, of course, were the effects of taking hormones.  

This friend's sibling has since had gender reassignment surgery.  My student says he can't imagine such a thing for himself, and he hopes that any son he may have wouldn't want to do the same thing.  However, he says, "it just might be necessary.  And that is why I would support his right to do it."

I wonder if his buddies in the class--who seem like even cockier teenagers than I thought him to be--saw that paper.  Actually, I hope they did, and that he's talked about it with them.   

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