Welcome back to Roar: The Podcast! In this episode, sophomore Rickie Thayer and freshman Karleigh Osenbaugh speak about gender identity. They discuss their own journeys to their current gender identities, how cisgender allies can do a better job of supporting their trans friends, how their identities have been accepted at SCHS, and more.
This is part one of this podcast. Part two will be released next week.
Find this episode where you stream podcasts: https://anchor.fm/schstheroar
Rickie Thayer, sophomore at Santa Clara High School
Karleigh Osenbaugh, freshman at Santa Clara High School
Edited by Melina Kritikopoulos
Rickie: Hello, everyone and welcome to Santa Clara High School’s Roar: The Podcast. I’m Rickie. I’m a sophomore at SCHS and my pronouns are he/him.
Karleigh: Hi, I’m Karleigh. I’m a freshman at SCHS and my pronouns are she/her and they/them.
Rickie: Though I said, my pronouns are he/him, I am not actually really male. I mean, of course I was – you can probably tell from my voice – I was assigned female at birth. Even though I use he/him, my gender isn’t exactly male. I want to be perceived as male, and that gives me gender euphoria, which is a feeling of affirmation to one’s gender, given by, I guess you’d say, outside stimulus, like someone using the correct pronouns or correct name or dressing in a way that makes you feel masculine or feminine or androgynous. I actually don’t see myself exactly as a gender at all. I suppose you could say in a non-binary way, but not particularly. Gender is kind of a secondary thing in my mind, but even with that, I feel more affirmed – or just affirmed in general – when people see me and refer to me as male, rather than when people see me and refer to me as non-binary.
Karleigh: I totally get that. For me, I was born as a female at birth. I was assigned female at birth, and people when they see me, they’re like, that is a woman and I’m just like, “Yeah, that’s what I look like.” But sometimes, I just don’t feel like a woman, and it kind of frustrates me sometimes. I know that I look like a woman and that people will perceive me as one, and when they know that my pronouns are she/her and they/them, they won’t use they/them because it makes them uncomfortable. They’re confused by it, and it’s kind of frustrating because it’s like I’m kind of here. I’m just like, “Oh, well, sucks to not be as comfortable as I wish I was” because I know that I’m non-binary even though I don’t look like it. I know that because gender, like you said, it’s like a secondary thing for me as well. It’s kind of there, but I don’t really associate myself with it. I’m kind of just more a person than girl or boy, you know, like the binary.
Rickie: Yeah, you said you use they/them pronouns, and I think the people listening to this probably already are aware of what they/them pronouns are. In English, it’s just the gender neutral pronouns that everyone uses for other people, but they don’t realize it. I think the example that a lot of people use is, “Oh, someone lost their umbrella. We should go find them and give it to them.” Even without thinking, you use they/them every day. Probably every day.
Karleigh: Whhen you explain it to people, they’re like, “But they/them is plural.” It can be used as singular. It’s like I use “you” as singular but also as a general term as well.
Rickie: Yeah. So what are you, multiple people?
Both: Yes. Three dogs in a trench coat.
Rickie: As I said, we are both assigned female at birth, and that is what AFAB stands for. AMAB is assigned male at birth. Then there are some people who are intersex and they are not assigned either at birth, and that plays interestingly into the concept of being cisgender because cisgender is identifying with the gender you were assigned at birth. For example, female gender and female parts, but those people can’t. Can they be cisgender? I’m actually not sure. I haven’t knowingly met any.
Karleigh: That reminds me. It’s like you are who you are and who you want to be as long as you’re not hurting anyone, obviously, but it’s a label and it’s a social construct, gender. It is 100% because if you took away gender, it really plays no significant part except for kind of separating men and women.
Rickie: Except for capitalism.
Karleigh: Yeah, for sure, yeah.
Rickie: One of the things about it being a social construct, like money or time – well time is just more of a general construct not a social construct – is that a lot of people like me who are neurodivergent, which means autism, ADHD, ADD, which are any of those, not all of them at once, constructs tend to mean less to us or break down more. And I think that probably plays a big part into a person, why I don’t see myself with any sort of gender. Since I do live – we live in a society – I still feel the need to get gender affirmation.
Karleigh: Yeah, for sure, and that’s totally valid. Expression, it’s really hard sometimes because people will judge you based off what you look like, and understanding that what you look like isn’t always who you are, obviously. Trying to fit in is one of the most common examples of not looking to what you are, except it’s just a more general term. If you take gender away from it, because, think about it, there’s a person and they want to fit in with the general population – they want to look like the general population – so they’re dressing up to be someone they’re not. Whereas I am a female assigned at birth, but I’m non-binary, and I wish I looked more androgynous because I feel like I would think of myself as that. It’s so confusing. It frustrates me so much. But it’s kind of hard to put it into words when you really try to talk about it.
Rickie: A big thing about presentation is it’s different from gender. Many days I present quite literally as a clown. If this was in-person school, then a lot more people will be familiar with… they probably would have seen me around campus. But there are other ways. I’ve been experimenting more with face contouring, and I haven’t quite come down when contouring below the nose. I’ve already got a bit of the forehead thing down, but I know a lot of other people struggle with that, especially in high school, presentation is high school.
Karleigh: Oh, yeah. It’s so important to other people – not to you or (me), specifically, but to people.
Rickie: Then there’s also outside of just presenting like your physical body, gender affirmation surgery and hormones. While I am by no means an expert on all transgender affirmation surgeries, hormone placement treatments… they are very personal things, and it annoys me when people start asking.
Karleigh: Oh, yeah.
Rickie: I remember my PE teacher.
Karleigh: Oh, no.
Rickie: Actually, this is a funny story about people assuming that everyone is cis, which actually works out pretty well in some cases because if they guess your gender correctly, they get really affirmed. I remember it was the swimming unit, and I was like, “Hey, can I sit out? I’ve got a health problem,” or I’ve got a whatever it was… “a physiological reason I cannot go in the water right now.” The teacher was like, “Well, do you have a note from the doctor?” I was like, “This isn’t something you go to the doctor for.” He’s like, “Okay, can you get a note from your parents?” The next day, I handed the note saying… well, you could probably guess what it was saying. The look on his face. He looked at the paper, he looked back at me.
Karleigh: Oh, no.
Rickie: The man was so embarrassed, but then he started asking questions. He’s like, “Well, are you on hormones?” I feel like asking about hormones isn’t as invasive, but, painfully, no one’s ever asked me if I’ve had the surgery, which is such a funny thing that cis people will say, as if there’s just one surgery.
Karleigh: A lot of trans allies, they want to be the best ally they can be. They get curious and they want to know, but it’s not really their place to know.
Rickie: It’s been a very important lesson for me. Growing up, exiting middle school and moving onto high school, sometimes things just aren’t your business. That is another thing about cis people who are trying to be good allies, but sometimes they don’t quite get there. I assume that they have some sort of guilt about that, that they don’t know how to deal with, especially when someone will use the wrong pronouns. They will bend over backwards to apologize. They’re like, “Oh, my God, just like hit me with a bat each time I do it.” I’m like, “Whoa, there, buddy. You just need to correct yourself and go on with the conversation.”
Karleigh: I think to show their support, they kind of overcompensate.
Rickie: Yeah. Actually, my grandpa, who I’m very lucky to have… hippie grandparents who are more open-minded. My grandpa, he just wants me to carry around a squirt bottle, which actually, didn’t work, but it was kind of entertaining for a few days.
Karleigh: I’ve been taught… I talked to some people, and they’ll call me she/her something like that, and they’ll be like, “Oh, my God, I’m the worst person ever. How can you ever forgive me? Like, Oh, my God, just? What can I do with myself?” I’m just like, forget about it.
Rickie: Correct yourself and move on. We are having a different conversation.
Karleigh: It’s not the biggest thing in the world.
Rickie: That’s another interesting part of trans etiquette, especially if you’ve known a person pre-social transition. Some base things – feel free to add on – is don’t ask their dead name, or say like, “Oh, do I get grandfathered in,” or don’t ask for any sort of special treatment. If you didn’t know them, just don’t ask their dead name. It’s not important.
Karleigh: It really doesn’t have any significance to your kind of relation to them.
Rickie: I’ve had random kids in my class who I’ve not even been friends with have been like, “So what’s your…” They’ve used different variations of “real name” or “girl name?” or that stuff. They’re not malicious, but it’s a lot of curiosity. I think that stems from the fact that trans people are kind of viewed as rare – if that makes sense – but they’re really not. Actually, a lot of our peers are, and a lot of kids our age struggle with that. There’s definitely a lot of trans people at SCHS. Obviously, I’m not gonna call them out, but that is an interesting thing. I know that if I was at basically any other school, I feel like I couldn’t be myself. This is not an advertisement for the school, but I genuinely feel really appreciated here.
Karleigh: That’s really good, though. That’s rare for some people.
Rickie: There was this one time I went from gender dysphoria to gender euphoria so fast. It was like May of last year. We had just gotten into virtual learning, and there was this kid who was harassing my other trans friend and calling him by his dead name. He’s not really out to people, and he was just saying really mean stuff in the chat and the teacher wasn’t really checking. She was a new teacher. She didn’t know how to do too much to keep bullying in check, especially in a virtual classroom. I said, “Hey, dude, stop harassing them.” He said, “Shut the F up.” Except he didn’t say F. “Dead name, your hair is a different color each week.” That was the best he could come up with. At first, I was like, “Oh,” and it made me feel bad. Then the whole rest of the class was like, “Dude, what the heck? Don’t do that. What are you? Have some basic common sense. Have some human decency?” I thought that that was really great, that there’s such acceptance and respect for people like us.
Karleigh: Yeah, trans students. Yeah, definitely. I think that so many people are up to stand up for you other than sit back or join in is really… we’re fortunate for that. Obviously, it’s the bare minimum, but we’re really fortunate to have that because I know in some states and some schools, it’s not as common and it’s not accepted as it is here.
Rickie: I have some friends who are long distance and I know that they’re definitely not out at their schools because they’ve heard slurs, and it’s very clearly not a place where they feel safe, which makes me feel better here.
Karleigh: Exactly. Yeah, for sure. I haven’t been at SCHS for long – I’m a freshman (and) my entire experience has been online – but I’ve never really had issues with people. I think that’s just… Obviously, I’m not super duper out yet, I am not uncomfortable. If you ask me, I’ll tell you about it, which is not my job, obviously, but I’m happy to do so. It’s just, overall, people are like, “Oh, cool. You’re one of those people,” and I’m like, “Yeah, totally!”
Rickie: It’s not that important. I mean, it is important… that doesn’t mean to downplay the seriousness. I would say I remember, but trauma blocked it out. Questioning my gender is one of the worst mental pains of my life because it feels like the rug is just ripped out from under you and a base part of your identity. It’s a really interesting feeling that realization that, “Wait, it isn’t actually as base as I thought it was.” It’s not the cornerstone that people build it up to be. Also, you said you haven’t been out for very long. It’s really easy to get all this stuff changed in the system (at SCHS). There’s just a form; you have to have it signed by – I forget if it’s one or two parents – and it’s like, current name in the system, actual name or preferred name, which is not the correct terminology to use. Never use preferred name or preferred pronouns. So the locker room, there’s also a gender change marker. The locker rooms – having been in both the men’s and women’s locker room – they’re different. There’s a different thick scent: one is body odor, and the other one is like, perfume. It’s a lot worse than the men’s locker room, but at the same time, it feels a lot better for me because no one cares. People are so ignorant to trans people’s existence in the not harmful way. They see me in a binder and just… I don’t even know what they assume it is.
Karleigh: Obviously, not every trans person is going to be openly out yet, depending on how safe it is for them, but I think (at) SCHS, there is such a prominent existence there, I still feel like not everyone is educated. People know there’s trans people – you transition; that’s what trans kind of stands for: transgender, trans, all that – that they exist, but I don’t think they really know the down and dirty and the elbow grease that goes into it, the hurdles and everything.
Rickie: It’s also not any individual trans person’s job to educate a cis person on that. For the first year or so after I came out, I would dress as traditionally masculine as possible. I was like, it’s okay for trans guys to be feminine but not me because I’m the only trans person people know. I need to set a good example. I was always (had) my little imaginary encyclopedia out, ready to be like,” Okay, well, this is this. This is the difference between gender and sex and identity” and all that other stuff, but I realized it’s just not my job to do that. People have the internet.
Karleigh: Trans people don’t owe you anything. Non-binary people don’t owe you androgyny. Trans men don’t owe you masculinity, and trans women don’t owe you femininity. You are who you are. You can look how you want, be who you want, dress how you want. It really doesn’t matter. Regardless, I feel like cis people’s look on it is very different from trans people’s look on it because I feel like a lot of people don’t have first-hand experience. If you’ve been born AFAB and you just continue to be a woman and you’re comfortable with that, that’s so awesome. That’s a great thing to never have to struggle with, but I feel like it’s… not a comfortable topic for a lot of trans people who have trauma surrounding this kind of topic to educate other people about it.
Rickie: Also, it’s not a choice. If it’s a choice, I would be a cis woman. This is not fun.
Melina: That concludes this episode of Roar: The Podcast. This is a two-parter, so stay tuned next week when the second part of this episode comes out. Until then, you can visit scroar.net to stay updated on the happenings of the SCHS community. Thank you for listening, and we will catch you in the next one.