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November 12, 2013 2:46 PM   Subscribe

Transition Game: America’s first publicly out transgender high school coach is opening minds in the conservative rural town of Glocester, R.I.
posted by yeoz (19 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is a great story, and one of those that, if it showed up as a movie or TV series, I would probably dismiss as unrealistic because I so cannot imagine going back to live in my own small town.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:20 PM on November 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is awesome, but maybe it's easier in Glocester because they never have school anyway because of snow.

(Salty Brine joke? No? No school Foster-Glocester? He used to be in Cardi's furniture ads? No? Okay, cool.)

Seriously, though, super great in many ways. I thought the part about Stephen seeing the name "Jen" and it have no meaning for him was really interesting, too, and I wonder if we will develop a protocol for addressing stuff like that.

Thanks for posting this!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 3:59 PM on November 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I liked the use of pronouns.
posted by ZaneJ. at 4:08 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, that managed to be a warm fuzzy article without being fake and melodramatic. And with unembarrassed pronouns. Nice.
posted by desuetude at 4:44 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes! "Unembarrassed" is exactly the right way to put it. And for me, the thing that really hit a nerve was the contrast between the author's tone and quotes like this one from his mother:
"One of the things [the psychiatrist] said was the brain is male and the body is female, and there is a disconnect," his mother Linda said. "We always knew Jen had some body dysphoria, very conscious of body parts. A concern was, how do we know our child, when going from female to male, would actually be happy. I know they're not happy the way they are now, but what guarantee is there that they'll be happy on the other side?"
I'm not sure if it jumps out at everyone the same way, but all these little linguistic flinches are way too familiar to me. Not "his brain" but "the brain." Not "he's feeling disconnected" but "there is a disconnect." "Our child," not "our son," and certainly not "he" or "Alexander." All those weird turns of phrase that people use on you when they're struggling hard to cope with your transition.

It's like she's not sure which would be worse — acknowledging her son by using the right name and pronouns, or offending him by using the wrong ones — and so she tries to skate along using the vaguest, most clinical, most impersonal possible language.

And then elsewhere in the article, there are quotes from her where she gets his name and pronouns exactly right.

And that's exactly what it's like. That's exactly how people talk about you when you're transitioning. So much fumbling and struggling and wavering, so much switching back and forth between different ways of talking — like they're testing out different linguistic strategies and crossing their fingers hoping one of them will pay off.

I'm not calling his mother out. She sounds like a wonderful, loving, supportive parent. The content of her words (and of her actions, for that matter) is exactly right. But the way she says it — shit, yeah, that's what it sounds like all right...
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 4:52 PM on November 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


More articles like this are showing up in the mainstream media. This is cause for celebration.
posted by arcticseal at 4:57 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


This gives me a shot of cosmic optimism.
posted by rtha at 5:37 PM on November 12, 2013


Wonderful story -- thanks so much for posting!
posted by scody at 5:46 PM on November 12, 2013


More articles like this are showing up in the mainstream media. This is cause for celebration.

Totally. Even better will be the day when they stop appearing because it won't be newsworthy, it'll just be "person does job, lives in hometown".

Really positive article, thanks for the post.
posted by billiebee at 5:53 PM on November 12, 2013


It's Rhode Island. All the towns are small, and they're all within walking distance of Providence and Boston. The towns are small, the metro area is not. Glocester is folksy and woodsy and everyone has a quaint accent and their kids have all gone on field trips to see first-run live musical theater and have eaten at world class restaurants on date night, as they're a fifteen minute drive away. Literally fifteen minutes to Federal Hill from there. They all voted for socially progressive yet business friendly politicians.

That said, it ain't Nu Yawk. They're not soaking in counter culture or diversity. This is very real progress... but maybe not of the same leaps and bounds the description of the community might imply. "Small Rural Town" in RI means something very, very different than "Small Rural Town" in Upstate New York, southwest Virginia or Indiana.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:59 PM on November 12, 2013


Being trans often disconnects you from your own history. There are large swaths of your life that you can't talk about for fear that people will reject you for it, or use it as a 'gotcha'. Or you can embrace your whole history -- but not everyone is brave enough or safe enough to do that.

It's weird for me -- one of the people in my weekly (RPG) gaming group knew me 'before'. He's been very cool about it, though, and it hasn't been an issue. But it's always there in the back of my head, that this goblin of history could jump out at me. It's part of why I've tried to make sure the group is (among other things) heavily clueful, so that if something nasty rears its head, I'll have other people to rely on. But still, there's that anxiety sitting on the edge of things. And I've had to leave other gaming groups because the anxiety boiled over into bigger problems.

And I've faced similar challenges in other aspects of my life. Lots of things I don't feel comfortable discussing here.

Not being able to embrace our full histories is a big part of why life is so tough for so many trans people. Eventually, hopefully, society in general will be clueful enough that we trans people will be able to talk about our entire lives.
posted by jiawen at 6:58 PM on November 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


This is a great story, and one of those that, if it showed up as a movie or TV series, I would probably dismiss as unrealistic because I so cannot imagine going back to live in my own small town.

I know. Day to day my feeling is: "I escaped!"

I can't overstate my respect for those who think: "I should go back and make it better."
posted by 256 at 8:13 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


My experiences with small-town Yankees has shown that sometimes just plain common sense rules the day, as in "okay this is new and different, but bottom line, he's a great coach and the kids like him. And that's really the important part." Thanks for posting.
posted by kinnakeet at 3:14 AM on November 13, 2013


That said, it ain't Nu Yawk. They're not soaking in counter culture or diversity. This is very real progress... but maybe not of the same leaps and bounds the description of the community might imply. "Small Rural Town" in RI means something very, very different than "Small Rural Town" in Upstate New York, southwest Virginia or Indiana.

This would have been very real progress if it had happened in New York City.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:56 AM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I attended Ponagansett middle and high until I transferred to a private school in 10th grade. I am a few years ahead of Alexander. I was a smart, arty, feminist, bi kid and I was miserable there. I chose Catholic school over another year at Ponagansett. I got out as soon as I could, so good on him for not only sticking it out but doing so on his own terms.

(Slap*Happy: when I first moved to Foster in the 80s people started making fun of my clothes. I thought I dressed like pretty much every other middle school girl. But I bought my clothes at the mall, which was like 25 minutes away, and my classmates all shopped at the nearby Ames. Not out of economic necessity, mind you, but because the mall was just too far away. So I got picked on for having brand name clothes. There was definitely a parochial mindset to the place when I was a kid. And there was definite attitude of "oh, do you think you're too good for us?" if you were interested in life beyond Foster-Glocester. It really was like living in another world.)
posted by Biblio at 6:44 PM on November 13, 2013


Meanwhile, in Middletown, RI, I was picked on in school for wearing clothes my mom bought me from Zales/Ames... until she and my dad got promotions in the same year. Then I was made fun of for wearing name brands like Dockers, back when Dockers were A Thing.

The 80's were a savage time pretty much anywhere for weirdos, no matter their circumstances.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:29 PM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


RI weirdos represent!
posted by Biblio at 4:22 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just saw Stephen on the local news. He comes across as such a happy, sincere guy. I bet he's a great coach.
posted by Biblio at 4:17 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I assume this is the video for that local news story: Only on 10: Transgender coach works at Ponagnaset High School
posted by yeoz at 3:57 PM on November 19, 2013


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