Sticking it out without feeling tied down

Two hands intertwined, one wearing a wooden ring
Two hands intertwined, one wearing a wooden ring
My partner and I hold hands two years before our marriage. We handmade our engagement rings out of oak.

I am married and monogamous, even though I was polyamorous most of my adult life before we married. I am committed to my wife. It’s not just about fidelity, although that is part of it. You know, now that we are all living in a pandemic, monogamy looks a lot more like convenience. If you were lucky enough to be living with someone when the lockdown went into effect, you have a steady partnership as long as you don’t drive each other crazy. If you were single and dating and you happened to find someone, taking them into your bubble takes on so much more significance now. People are finding themselves living with and forming bonds with one another by circumstance. But is there commitment there? …


Why We Can’t Make Change Until We Change the System

Close up of a judge’s gavel on the block
Close up of a judge’s gavel on the block
Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

Taking Action

I was ready to do more than take a knee or carry a cardboard sign. I felt like it was time for me to move beyond protesting and get involved, somehow, in creating change. That was why I joined an ad hoc committee formed by our city council to address police policy. Think global, act local. At last, I felt hope. I felt like maybe I can make a difference that matters. And then I faced reality, and was shocked by how bad it is.

I was not naïve going into this. I fully expected that whatever good policy change our committee was able to craft might be diluted or rejected by the city council in the end, or that the Police Chief might find ways to circumvent them, or that even if enacted, the police union would still allow officers who violate those policies to be exonerated. With that in mind, I stayed focused on the long haul. I wanted to craft strong and demanding policies that could become part of a list of demands to be relentlessly rallied before the city officials until they are adopted. I kept my eye on forming alliances with others on the committee that could grow into lasting coalitions. …


Re-examining the what of educational content

Bare tree surrounded by flames and smoke
Bare tree surrounded by flames and smoke
Photo by Vladyslav Dukhin from Pexels

August means two things where I live. Back to school and fire season. Schools are starting up again and teachers are scrambling to deliver lessons through distance learning or in some kind of hybrid fashion. Meanwhile, we are still struggling to control three very titchy wildfires: the pandemic, climate disaster and racism. All three can flare up unpredictably and are elusive to quell. A lot of the back to school focus is on the how: weighing the pros and cons of in person versus distance learning against the threat of disease, or from the teacher’s perspective, translating in person instructional techniques into a Learning Management System and creating instructional videos. All of this while the smoke and particulates of coronavirus, unchecked climate change and racism are heavy in the air around us. …


In defense of non binary students

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Photo by Antreina Stone on Unsplash

After a bizarre 12 weeks of distance learning, I was just as eager as my graduating seniors to experience some culminating celebration. We all looked forward to ending this odd scrambled-together pandemic edition of public education. The graduates are crossing the threshold of putting an end to their high school years. I was also putting an end, for now, to ten years of teaching.

Our school decided to create a video that would launch at 6:30 p.m. on Grad Night. The roughly hour-long video somewhat mirrored our traditional ceremony with speeches and music and voice performances followed by the reading of the names of each graduate. …


Re-envisioning high schools in a global pandemic

Man lying down on a bench with eyes closed.
Man lying down on a bench with eyes closed.
Photo by Cassandra Hamer on Unsplash

They are saying school will never be the same again. They are saying there’s no going back to ‘normal’ after the pandemic. God, I hope that’s true. I never liked public high school, really. Now that I’ve been teaching in them for ten years, I have a lot of reasons why I think it should change.

Fear and Blind Devotion

A little over ten years ago when I was deciding to go back to school to get a Master’s of Education and go into public teaching, I went to my local high school to interview a teacher. It was a place I drove past nearly every day. A gigantic complex of buildings down the street with floodlights that I could see from my second story window every Friday night. I was shocked by how deeply I dreaded entering that place for the first time. My lizard brain was flooding my body with flight instincts. I had the strongest primal sense of being a lone animal invading the territory of a pack. Looking back, I laugh at myself and wonder what exactly I was scared of. And yet, every high school I have ever been to, and I attended four of them in my youth, all have the same underlying atmosphere of fear. Sometimes it’s more or less pronounced from one school to the next, but teenagers all over the country live in questioning insecurity and cling to the seeming protection of smaller packs in a realm of competitive survivalism. There is the constant sizing up. Are you my ally or my enemy? Do I identify with you or against you? …


What is this pandemic doing to our queer youth?

Teen in black hoodie squatting with head in hand
Teen in black hoodie squatting with head in hand
Photo by Tammy Gann on Unsplash

In my senior year of high school, I ran a transit system for sophomores. My sister and I attended a magnet school across town. Military brats, we had just moved to a new town in the fall. This was my fourth high school. It was the magnet program’s first year, as well. Students had to be able to transport themselves. That’s how I ended up saddled with my little sister and two of her classmates each day on my commute.

Usually, they sat in the back of the little yellow Honda Civic and chatted amongst themselves and I just minded my own business, like a cab driver. One of the girls sometimes came home with us until her mom got off work and swung by our house to pick her up. It was on one of those days that this little tenth grader struck me with a piece of insight that my wise twelfth grade self had been oblivious to. As I drove into my block, having dropped off our other carpooler, she and my sister were going on about something that I was, likely as not, contradicting good naturedly. The conversation, though it may have been argumentative in substance, was amicable enough in spirit. We continued jovially as I rounded the bend to our house. Then it came into a view. A pale green Datsun pickup truck that was rarely parked in front of our house at this hour. …


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bell hooks and Laverne Cox in a Public Dialogue at The New School

How to build dialog between trans women and radical feminists

The schism between certain radical feminists and the trans community is one that pains me deeply. As a trans man who came of age among lesbian separatists, I have deep connections on both sides of the split. About a year ago, I made a heartfelt plea on social media to settle these disputes through open dialog. (See You Used to Call Me Sister). But even after exhaustingly long and compassionate one-on-one conversations with women I know personally, I haven’t yet found any bridges or crossings over.

I felt convinced that if the women I knew on both sides could find the courage to sit down together and talk to each other, they would realize that their fears are rooted in thoughts that have no anchor in the lived reality of the vulnerable person sitting across from them. Looking in each other’s eyes, they would feel compassion for one another, and find mutual understanding. I know it sounds overly romantic. Look at the divisiveness all around us today. I blame it in part on technology. The very medium with which I am able to connect with you, dear reader, also divorces us from each other. We don’t see each other, breathe the same air, bask in the same light, or hear each other’s sighs. That separation cuts the cord of compassion that makes us human. Instead of responding to sensations in our bodies, we go into our minds and allow ideas to override feelings. …


Why it is important to me to be out as an educator

The author pours oil into a pool while students prepare to capture the oil with a device they created
The author pours oil into a pool while students prepare to capture the oil with a device they created
The author conducting an oil spill challenge with students.

Ten years ago, I quit my job and went back to school to get a degree in education. I wanted to be a high school teacher, and a good one. I had been out of school and working in various career areas for 20 years. I had also been living as a man for the last ten of those years. I’m a transman with a colorful history. My wife got me a t-shirt that said “Born This Way” in big letters and in the background, it was covered with small words that listed Gay, Straight, Trans, Lesbian, Bisexual. I looked at it and laughed, “I’ve been all of those things.” But for the ten years leading up to my choice to become a teacher, I had been embraced in the world I moved through as a white man. That came with privileges aplenty, and it also came with invisibility and awkward moments. But the fact of the matter was that I got to choose whether or not I wanted to disclose the fact that I am trans. …


How I asked for accommodations as a transgender teacher

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Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash.

I asked my school district to pay me $200 for a phony penis. Seems like a stretch, but here’s why I did.

I’m a transman. I tell my students that my preferred pronoun is he and that I’ve been a man as long as they have been alive, but that when I was in high school, I was a girl. I don’t give them any label for myself. But by and large, people just see me as a man.

I dedicate myself to teaching. It’s not just a job to me. I see a light in each of my students and my goal is to help each one of them find the place to let it shine. I truly believe that if every young person in the world is able to find their joy and build a life around doing what they love, the world will be a better place. So when I teach, I work hard. It means starting early to get things prepared. It means being fully on and in performance mode for every period. It means sponsoring student clubs during lunch and being available to help students after school. Of all the jobs I’ve ever had, including grueling 17 hour shifts on film sets and high pressure tech jobs, teaching is the most demanding in terms of commandeering my time. …


Why Black Lives Matter is for everyone and white people need to show up

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You know those TV shows where something pivotal happens in the plot and suddenly time freezes? The main character gets a chance to see things from another person’s point of view, or turn back time, or get a do over. That’s usually not the way it happens in real life, but it happened to me.

Exactly one year ago, something happened. I got called into the principal’s office. I got in trouble, just a warning. It took me by surprise. I had no idea I’d done anything wrong. Since then, I’ve had a year off to think about it. A year away and apart from everything. …

About

Marty Wilder

Father, transman, teacher, and storyteller

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