The classroom lights have been turned off. My classmates have already left the building. Sex ed ended about half an hour ago. After going to get some food, I have slipped back into the building and headed for the computer lab. I feel a need to capture the energy of my experience and to share it before I go home to a dirty house, a dog begging to be walked, and the final exam that I need to complete and email to the teacher. This has been a week of transformation, not just for myself, but also for most of my classmates. We had 13 people in the class (two dropped early due to conflicts in their schedules). A local sex therapist was the instructor. She's everything I want in a teacher. Mature, on target, gentle, challenging, and ready for anything.
Let me back up just a moment and explain where I am coming from. After four marriages, three divorces and one committing suicide, I am in a committed relationship of six years with Cameron. I made a decision when I began this grad program to be openly gay and to use my presence to discomfort and challenge the heterosexual future therapists. I try hard not to offend, but I do not remain in the closet. There are a few therapists in the program, however, that make me uncomfortable enough not to have taken this class last summer when they would be there. That means I took the class with people I barely know.
My classmates ranged from twenty-something and just finished the undergrad to sixty-two and getting a new career. I was the oldest woman. I thought I was the only lesbian. The class really heightened my anxiety. Hearing about heterosexuality over and over again as we discuss erection disfunction, heterosexual couples issues, etc sometimes felt overbearing (it was, in fact balanced for the needs of our clients). We covered such topics as fetishes, BDSM, polyamoury, transgender, gay and lesbian issues. We read, we discussed, we watched videos. The instructor brought sexual aids, lube, and handouts. We role played, challenged, questioned.
Yesterday Cameron was invited to discuss what it's like to be caught in the middle of the gender continium. She made herself vulnerable to share with my class her challenges. She challenged their heteronormative assumptions. In the end, the class did a lot of soul searching and thinking. Then today SammieJoe came to talk to us. She's MTF. She's not flamboyant, or obvious, nor does she wear short skirts or too much makeup. She's also beautiful, feminine, and comfortable in her skin. She also arrived on her motorcycle wearing her pink helmet! And again my classmates rose to the challenge, asking questions, seeking to understand.
SammieJoe scared me to death. For a few hours I had to process the reality of Cameron's conundrum. I admitted to my future therapist friends in the breakroom the scariness of the something that can roll over a loved one's life, demanding transition, regardless of everything else. Today Cameron says she doesn't need to transition. But I know from listening to others that beneath the surface, the thinking can process and eventually come up with a different conclusion. And I know that no matter how much Cameron and I love each other, transition is ultimately her decision. Indeed, it has to be her decision. And while she would of course weigh the value of our relationship, she cannot ever choose me over something so profound. Nor would I want her to.
Once I named my fear today, I felt much better. And I realized how deeply my classmates lives have been touched by Cameron and SammieJoe. Several didn't even know what it means to be transgendered before this week. Others had simply never put a face to it. Our 62 year old future therapist said that he was doing a lot of soul searching because, despite what his baptist church might say, he believes in looking after his client' wellfare, and cannot see how SammieJoe could be wrong. I sit here in awe of the growth I saw in the class. The instructor praised us, saying we were one of the best classes she's ever taught. I don't doubt it. And I'm privileged to have been some small part.
Oh, I almost forgot the best part. We had to do the book report (see previous gripe about Barnes and Noble). A young woman stood up after me and said "When I went looking in my part of the store at Barnes and Noble, I couldn't find my books either." I looked up, suprised. Then she said, "I'm gay. I was going to talk about Lebian Couples, too. But since you've already done my book, let me tell ya'll about another." This beautiful, brave lesbian stood up in class to say she was gay. I am in awe. What tremendous courage -- she'll be in classes with everyone for the next two years. And she found the courage to claim her identity today.