It’s “Captain” America, NOT “Miss” America…
Just before the Winter Break, one of my three transgender students gave me a Holiday Gift. It was a Captain America watch…that is to say, the watch face was in the design of Cap’s well recognized second shield. It’s a pretty meaningful gift, especially because the student is clever as all hell, and actually meant it as a metaphor. Almost by accident, I became a kind of “go to” person for the small population of trans students at our school site, and that particular student was making a point about Cap’s shield with the gift.
As I said, a very clever young person.
Today, I have to go in and straighten out a situation on campus, in defense of one of the trans students in my class. The student came to me with the problem, of being constantly harassed and threatened by another student on campus, for no other reason than their trans identity. This kind of persecution is apparently pretty common, and as sickening as you might imagine. The tough part, though, is getting school officials to deal with it in a way that is both appropriate and effective. It’s not that school officials don’t want to help…in an important intellectual fashion, they definitely do.
However, refusing to refer to the trans student by their chosen name, or using the pronoun of record rather than the pronouns that the students identify with…these things are constant. I brought up the bulletin from the district in fact, that clearly states that these actions are NOT to be done, and count as Title Nine violations of conduct, and on the first pass, that got sort of a polite but dismissive hand wave. Thankfully, I was able to draw an analogy that made the matter clearer, but I got the impressions that it was an understanding that lasted for about the amount of time I could be seen in the room.
The fact is, though, the school board ruled that there needs to be equity in treatment for the trans community in our schools, and that equity is a matter of policy and law. Still, the humans in the system possibly need to “catch up” psychologically to the realities of the world we are in, and thus, properly enact those protections. It’s problematic when the Dean of Discipline, for instance, can’t see fit to identify you as the gender you want to be perceived as. That renders the students less likely to go to such an individual, and as a result, much more likely to endure day to day persecution by some of the more ignorant, less tolerant students.
I guess that’s where I come in. It’s well understood that I am viciously anti-bullying in stance, and will stand up for students to pretty much anyone. If it has to be “standing up” in the sense of making the system work the way it should, and advocating for the student with officials, I’m there. That’s where I will have to come in today, advocating that the matter be taken seriously, and dealt with seriously, regardless of the entrenched ideas that might be held by out of classroom personnel.
I’m not just wearing the watch. The student that gave it to me was going for heavy handed symbolism (which I am KNOWN to love), so I felt that I should run with that thesis. I dug out my “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” uniform hoodie, and a Captain America t-shirt, to wear with the watch. I figure if I’m the metaphorical shield for the group, I should dress the metaphorical part.
Obviously, that’s pretty much what the art is about for today. Captain America is about as Old School as a superhero can get. That’s not a bad thing, as such. Still, I wanted to draw a Captain America that was “genderbent”, since my own trans students chose that superhero as their means of expressing the depth of our teacher-student relationship. I wanted to draw a Captain America that might be questioning our ideas of what a superhero that represents America might look like, or who they might be. I also wanted her to be friendly looking, approachable, and fun instead of preachy.
What we got is the art above. I hope by the end of the day, Captain America and I will have had a successful team up, and at least one student can feel more secure in who they are. The amount of courage that my trans students display every damn day is mind boggling…they more or less define the word. It’s the least I can do to draw an image that might get people to read the post about them, to better understand the kind of day to day challenges. It should be even less of a thing for a teacher to stand up for them against harassment, hazing, and bullying.
In reality, very few teachers respond to harassment, hazing, and bullying at all. Even fewer step in to help students struggling socially, because they are in the LGBT community.
Today’s goal…bring a little more peace into one bright young student’s life. Bring a little dignity, a little respect back. A fine mission for ANY Captain America, I think.