Spreading the (Queer) Gospel by Stephanie Rauda, LYRIC Queer Educator (2011-2012)

A couple of days into school my college professor had us pair up and get to know one of our classmates, whom we would later introduce to the entire class. The class was called LGBT Studies/ English 1A which was essentially an English class with queer-focused themes and reading material. I spoke with my partner, a straight, cisgendered boy. As I listened to everyone introduce each other I found out that a majority of them where straight. In fact, a good chunk of them shared that they had no idea this was a queer English course. They just registered into the class because all the other classes were full or they preferred to come into school at this particular hour. What the hell? I was expecting this class to be full of queers. I sunk into my chair, feeling oddly embarrassed and out of place.

As my partner prepared to introduce me I could already predict what was going to come out of his mouth. “So, this is Stephanie and she….” Of course. The dreaded “she.” I considered my situation. If I was going to make a fresh start from high school I was not going to do that in the closet. I politely cut him off. “Actually, I use ‘they’ as a pronoun when I refer to myself.” Everyone stared at me confused and whispering amongst each other. “Yeah, so my name is Steph or Stephanie and I use gender-neutral pronouns when I refer to myself. If you have any questions feel free to ask.” Surprisingly no one had any questions. My classmates seemed to take this information about me in stride. They clapped and we moved on to the next person.

A few days later, a classmate approached me after class. I was expecting her to ask me what a preferred gender pronoun was but instead she asked me if I had any thoughts about her essay topic. Our first essay prompt was to discuss any form of body modification. A couple of times I had participated in class discussions, mentioning chest binders and sexual reassignment surgeries, or as I prefer to call them, gender affirming surgeries. This particular classmate wanted to write about top surgery but seemed to be confused as to where she should start.

I wasn’t sure how to respond to this person. This was the same classmate who wrote in her notebook, “Uses ‘they’ as pronoun” when she wrote my name down as one of her classmate contacts. I silently smiled to myself when I saw that.

It was clear that she saw me as someone who held a level of knowledge regarding trans issues. In that instant, I put my LYRIC hat on. I thought about the Trans 101 I co-facilitated in Transmagic and the list of books we had compiled at the end of it. I mentioned a few of those books to her and also told her that if she had any other questions she could always drop by LYRIC or send me an email. We had a brief discussion about gender identities and said our goodbyes.

I have been a Queer Educator with the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center (LYRIC) for about a year but have been an employee of LYRIC for about a year and a half. In that time I have organized a dance, thrown glitter, prepared agendas, snapped my fingers, attended trainings, asked for Preferred Gender Pronouns (PGPs), facilitated community building groups and baked gender variant cookie people. Working at LYRIC has provided me with so many newfound skills and talents that I never thought could be implemented outside of this organization. The knowledge I have gained at LYRIC will forever stay with me as I begin educating in places I never would have predicted.

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