Special Transgender 101 Tear-out Section Introduction

Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #101, Spring 2003.

Introduction to the Transgender Education Section of this Special issue of Transgender Tapestry

The transgender community?s educational nonprofits have always had a difficult time finding the money necessary to do education on the scale they would like. A number of reasons have been cited for this: our community is too small to support national organizations; many of us are in the closet; many of us transition and abandon the community; many of us purge and abaondon the community; community members give disproportionately to the jazzier political groups; the internet has changed everything; and, my favorite (just kidding)?transgendered people are basically selfish and would rather buy another pair of shoes or attend another conference than donate to a nonprofit. Whatever the reasons, nonprofits like FTM International, Gender Education & Advocacy, IFGE, and Renaissance are and have been chronically underfunded, and this situation is unlikely to change.
And yet education is important. It changes hearts and minds. Every time one of us?whether a male crossdesser or a MTF transsexual or a transman or a helping professional?speaks before a civic or church group or work group or college class, one or two or five or thirty listeners leave with a new level of understanding and respect for the speaker. Those who attend will be more likely to respond positively in the future when the transgender issue is raised. Many of the newly educated will in turn educate others, creating a ripple effect that amplifies the time, energy, and money expended in the original education effort. I can?t tell you how many times I?ve come across third or fourth generation copies of educational materials I or someone else originally distributed. Material from transgender educational flyers winds up in newsletters, is duplicated or paraphrased in the handouts of others, is quoted by the press, and appears in books.

Our nonprofits continue to limp along, but there are many of us doing educational work, each in our way, with our own materials or with materials of others which we?ve appropriated. It doesn?t take much imagination to see that the efforts of 10,000 gender educators has enormous potential for change. With education at the grassroots level, we can win over the leaders of other movements, who will then proceed to educate their members. With education at the grassroots we can influence scholars, who will then write books that treat us favorably. Before long, we build a critical mass of allies that lessens resistance to political change, or even makes it inevitable.

And yet educators at the grassroots level often have no support. They must make do with whatever materials they can find, or, if none are available, they must develop their own. They must fly by the seat of their pants, developing effective education strategies. They must train their co-presenters. They must find their audiences. And finally, they must go forth and educate.

Jessica Xavier believes there is a role for the national transgender organizations in grassroots gender education. Several years ago she developed a model by which national organizations would empower grassroots gender educators in a twofold manner: by providing them with educational materials and by training them to be more effective educators. Jessica calls this model Distributed Gender Education.

In this issue of Transgender Tapestry, we put DGE into action. On the pages following, you will find gender educational material?flyers and tri-folds developed by a variety of individuals and organizations. Feel free to rip them out and use in your individual gender education efforts, or in the educational endeavors of your social or support group. You may duplicate them to your heart?s content, free of charge. Please remember, however, that the material is copyrighted. You may add your name and contact information to the material, but the names and contact information of the authors must remain intact. If you wish to modify the materials, please contact the authors.

Page limitations have made it impossible to give you a full armamentarium of educational materials. Please consider the following representative only. We have tried to address some of the more important topics. In many cases, we have given you a choice of materials addressing the same issue; feel free to use the version that best suits your needs.

We would very much like to see any educational materials you, our readers, have developed. Please send them via e-mail to editor@ifge.org or mail them to Tapestry, P.O. Box 540229, Waltham MA 02454-0229.