Breaking the Binary

This post is part of my 2019 Pride Month series “Proudly Reaffirming Identity, Diversity, and Equity,” exploring present-day issues facing the LGBTQ+ and allied communities.

“Male or female?” The form is generic–it could be anything–but the question is as particular as it could get. Just two options. No room for black or white or grey. Just male or female. Or. The “either” is implied; the “both” is inconceivable.

For me, it doesn’t matter. I check the first box (because, after all, the male box always goes first) and carry on with my day without giving it a second thought. That’s because the sex I was assigned at birth is the sex I identify with. It’s a privilege often taken for granted, that when the doctor overseeing my birth wrote “male” on my birth certificate, it ended up describing me pretty well. Just like how the magazine printed on cheap newspaper in the checkout aisle looked at my birth date, said I’m a Gemini, and then stuck me in a box forever. Thankfully, that descriptor ended up pretty on point, too.

But all that means is I’m just one of the lucky ones.

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Identity Politics

This last week in class we covered sequences and series. This is a strange unit: It looks little like anything else students have seen, yet mathematically it resonates not only with many things we’ve learned, but with many things we could only dream of ever teaching in a high school class bounded by deadlines and curricular standards.

If you’ve ever counted or made a to-do list or put things in order, you know innately what a sequence is: it is merely a list of numbers, with a specific order: 1 2 3 is a different sequence than 1 3 2. Some sequences seem patternless (sunshine Monday, snowstorm Wednesday, downpours Thursday, a blizzard today) while others are so set in stone we hardly take notice: Sunday always precedes Monday, and April follows March.

Now suppose you look at that to-do list you made and count all the things you’ve got to do (that infinite list that seems to always grow two more items when you knock off the first–how hydraen life tends to be!) then you know, too, how a series differs from a sequence: simply take all the things and add them together. No more complex than that.

But what does any of this have to do with identity or politics?

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The “Add” in Adversity

I love it when I get to use puns in my titles–it’s not quite clickbait, but it’s almost just as good. Anyways, stress. We often feel defeated by stress. We think stress is a sign of failure and inadequacy (and then we get stressed out for failing and being inadequate), but according to Kelly McGonigal, that perspective on stress is incorrect.

Instead, she says, stress makes us stronger.

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You Mean What?

The year 2016 is my big Year of Re-creation, and the magnanimity of this statement only grows with the realization that I won’t be recreating myself as a husband, but as a single man again. And that’s okay. Perhaps painful at the outset, but all change can be.

In any case, it’s been a while since my last shot of stress, when I took that first step from Kelly McGonigal’s book The Upside of Stress to finally make stress my friend.

It should be obvious–as a three-year relationship ends and I set out to begin my summer teaching training–that stress is paramount right now. So it’s time to go on.

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A Shot of Stress

As part of my Year of Re-creation, I’m embarking on a journey to reclaim stress and change how I respond to it at a physiological level. This sounds like a daunting task–I mean, seriously, changing physiology?–but it’s actually an application of the age-old adage “mind over matter”: By adopting a new stress mindset, my body will learn to react to stress in a new, more empowering manner.

So if this isn’t alchemy, I don’t know what is.

But magic or not, the first step begins now.

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Goodbye Goals

New Year’s approaches and with it comes the end of another year–and the final verdict on the New Year’s resolutions we all made twelve months ago. Was this year a success, or will it be enshrined in failure forever?

I’ve written a lot about New Year’s resolutions and goal-setting in the six years I’ve been blogging, but this year, I’m telling my goals goodbye–and here’s why.

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500

I’d like to say I’ve been thinking all day about what I would share with you. But I didn’t.

Instead I pulled myself out of bed at sunrise, walked a mile to class, and was promptly told it was cancelled. I went to my second class, finished some computer work, went to my next class (in which we discussed the sameness of donuts and coffee cups), had lunch and studied with a friend, went to a work meeting, had dinner, and went to my last class.

Then, when I got home, I balanced my check book.

It was a thoroughly typical day, but this is not a typical post.

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Lies My English Teachers Taught Me

For the past week I’ve been in Mexico with my fiance Harel. It’s been delightful spending time with him, but also stressful since money issues always tend to creep up on us (making it even more important that we reach our GoFundMe goals).

Today I’m not talking about money, though, but rather language.

Part of our financial strains are due to Harel’s recently transitioning from one job to another. He’s completed his TKT English certification course, and while he takes the certification test on August 8, in his new job he’ll be teaching English to business professionals. So on Tuesday, I was able to join Harel in a workshop his new job provided on the proper place for a native language when teaching a second language. While I’m not a teacher of language, I am a student of Spanish, and listening to a dozen teachers discuss differences between Spanish and English, my mind tried to take these challenges and generalize them.

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The Race is On

It’s easy, being white, to assume that racism doesn’t affect me.

(If this is too particular for you, allow me to generalize: It’s easy, being [insert dominant class here], to assume [the associated discrimination] doesn’t affect me.)

In fact, for many, it’s remarkably easy to assume racism doesn’t exist at all.

But the truth is, if we’re really honest with ourselves, it affects us like nothing else.

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Ask Rachel

I don’t watch the news–the news is depressing. It’s one bad story after another, and the points of importance are pushed aside for the next sensational headline.

Instead I follow stories. I try to understand the exposition, the unwritten prologue, the implications of chapter three, the critical reviews of the page-turning epilogue. And lately, I’ve been reading from a new library–rather than merely perusing the shelves of LGBT identity, Jewish / American intersectionality, and the occasional op-ed on immigration, redistricting, and presidential campaigns, lately I’ve been reading about race.

Here I’ve found more stories, maybe, than I bargained for (and as I write this, I’m reminded of some good advice to beware of the danger of a single story): there are tragedies with names like Travon Martin, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice; settings as varied as McKinney and Ferguson and Baltimore; and narratives simple and complex, like Black Lives Matter.

But the story today that’s swimming through my newsfeed is none of these.

The setting is Spokane, and Rachel is her name.

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