Trans in the Red States
November 13, 2008 7:11 PM   Subscribe

"In Loveland, Colorado -- population 61,000, 92 percent white and heavily evangelical Christian -- Michelle didn't know what to expect when she began to work with the school to facilitate her daughter's transition from a boy to a girl. At first, it was difficult. The school 'freaked out when I told them,' Michelle says. 'When we started with M.J.'s transition, I was envisioning riots.' And so Michelle became an advocate for transgender people -- those who identify as a gender different from the one assigned at birth. Michelle organized trainings for the faculty and staff and prepared 'cheat sheets' in case any of their students asked prying questions. But on the first day of school, nothing happened." - Trans in the Red States by Jeremy Bearer-Friend and Daniel Redman. [via Obsidian Wings]
posted by Kattullus (21 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm reminded of the following factoid: the country with the most transsexuals per capita?

posted by grobstein at 7:33 PM on November 13, 2008

(Partial corroboration; in addition, the surgery is state-funded.)
posted by grobstein at 7:35 PM on November 13, 2008

Larimer County was blue in last week's election, so Loveland isn't exactly in 'the politically red heart of the country'. Still, it's great that M.J. was welcomed.
posted by lukemeister at 7:35 PM on November 13, 2008

Grobstein, I'm pretty sure you're correct, and I wager it has a lot to do with state funded sex reassignment and mass public executions of homosexuals. Even if you don't identify as a woman, if you like men, and getting the fuck out of Iran isn't an option, the free sex change might not look so bad.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 7:38 PM on November 13, 2008

Loveland is a pretty awesome place, I loved stopping there for coffee between Ft. Collins and Boulder.
posted by boo_radley at 8:01 PM on November 13, 2008

Loveland, Colorado -- population 61,000, 92 percent white and heavily evangelical Christian

Why does it matter that Loveland is 92% white? That quotation seems to imply that the racial make-up of the city, along with the large evangelical Christian population, was another challenge facing MJ, and that the prospect of living as a transgendered youth might have been less daunting if she'd lived in a predominately non-white community. I can't imagine it would be any better (or worse) if the city's racial demographics had been any different.

I'm not trying to claim reverse racism or anything, I'm just saying that it seems like a curiously irrelevant fact. You might as well mention the average height of the residents or something.
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:19 PM on November 13, 2008

Loveland's a good town with good people. Some of the nicest people I've met have been from Loveland, so I'd expect nothing less from this story. Glad it's getting some good press.
posted by lilac girl at 8:42 PM on November 13, 2008

Check out the Benson Sculpture Garden if you're ever in Loveland.

I wouldn't have expected this thread to turn into an informercial for Loveland.
posted by lukemeister at 9:01 PM on November 13, 2008

All mixed up is an interesting read on the subject.
posted by tellurian at 9:52 PM on November 13, 2008

Ninety-two percent white implies a certain degree of cultural homogeneity, which people probably assume equates to xenophobia. I know from the few people I've known who are from small town environments where race and religion were both fairly homogenous, that small differences can make one stand out dramatically.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:36 PM on November 13, 2008

Loveland is nestled between Boulder and Ft. Collins, just out of Denver.

Not exactly Colo. Springs territory on the political scale.
posted by Balisong at 11:08 PM on November 13, 2008

Their post office makes a killing routing mail through there near Valentines day.
posted by Balisong at 11:11 PM on November 13, 2008

Ninety-two percent white implies a certain degree of cultural homogeneity, which people probably assume equates to xenophobia.

Ninety-two percent white describes the population of pretty much any European country.
posted by rhymer at 2:07 AM on November 14, 2008

It would be nice to see an article about queer politics in my neck of the woods that didn't treat it as if it were a foreign country.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:59 AM on November 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you have to cite things that are inaccurate (red state) and irrelevant (% white) to make your point, you should probably just make a different point. Hewlett-Packard is probably the largest employer in Loveland, so why not compare it to a mini-Silicon Valley, or "Silicon Front Range" as it were? Because that doesn't fit the narrative the authors wanted to write? Why not just make up the entire thing?
posted by snofoam at 6:38 AM on November 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ooh, I'll have to send this to a friend who's transitioning.
posted by Pronoiac at 9:49 AM on November 14, 2008

Many advocates believe that fundamental change can only come when more trans people are willing -- like M.J. and Jansen -- to be "out" and tell their stories in their communities. Parallel polls have shown that, in the case of gay rights, as more and more people came to know gay people as friends, co-workers, and family members, support for gay rights grew as well. There is reason to think that similar progress can be made as more trans people feel safe enough to be "visible" -- out and open in their communities.

True story.

I've lived my whole life surrounded by the LGBT community and it's kind of odd when I run into people who claim that they've just "never known" any queer folk. The amount of head-spinning that then occurs when I announce that I myself am queer is pretty impressive, often leading to a great amount of backpedaling to try and take back whatever uninformed statement preceded my revelation.

That's cool with me though. If anyone's insightful enough to realize that their comments aren't acceptable to ACTUAL queers, it gives me hope that seeing enough open/out queer people in daily life will help a lot of people get beyond the kind of homophobia that has nothing to do with actual intolerance and everything to do with total unfamiliarity due to the way the LGBT community has effectively been "other"-ized in society.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:32 AM on November 14, 2008

People don't give us in the middle of the country credit. Houston has a openly transgender police officer. This sort of thing is remarkable, but it's not any more remarkable than having a transgender mayor in Oregon.
posted by Robert Angelo at 3:46 PM on November 14, 2008

This article has no idea about Loveland.

Ah, I remember fondly driving there for their 12-plex movie theater.
posted by sondrialiac at 5:17 PM on November 14, 2008

This is really heartening, particularly in light of this article.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 6:53 PM on November 14, 2008

Yes, some news is good news!

At my urban Colorado school, the choice of a girl to become a boy was no big deal.

The suburban schoolkids, if I may display some well-informed prejudice, are a little bit more inclined to display social disapproval in these kinds of situations.
posted by kozad at 8:56 PM on November 14, 2008

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