I found this unpublished blog post from 9 or 10 years ago. It was from the first time that I taught violin classes as a girl. Back then I haven’t started calling myself Kate; “Tara” was the name that I used. I’m not sure why it wasn’t posted. In any case, I did a quick (i.e. it took me all morning) edit, and here it is.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me to substitute for his private one-on-one violin lessons for 2 days while he took a vacation with his wife. He knows that I’m transgender, so I curiously asked if it was okay to teach as Tara. I worry that most people have wild misconceptions about transgender women, and it can be tricky for the parents to leave their children alone in a closed room with one. So as much as I hoped that I can be a girl from head to toe, I also offered to teach as a dude to keep my friend out of any potential trouble.
“Meh, go as Tara, if they have issues, they can deal with me later.” That ended the discussion.
Preparing teaching materials was straightforward; my friend had already laid out his lesson plans in detail. All I had to do was review and follow them. Preparing my look, well, that took a hell of a lot more work than I could ever have imagine. I wanted to look attractive, but not too “pretty” that I didn’t look professional. At the end, I wore my white flower wrap dress on both days. It’s one of my favourites; it’s comfortable and feminine.
The lessons were at my friend’s home studio across town; I went there early to familiarize myself with his house. Then the students came. The students on the first day were all kids who had played the instrument for a few years. If there was ever a great confidence booster, it was seeing them. Every one of them were polite and…cute, and they either called me “Teacher Tara” or “Miss Tara” or “ma’am”, which was very reassuring to a woman who hasn’t been a woman for very long.
The kids also had their quirky sides too. One young girl, while twirling her hair (and not playing the violin as she was told to), told me that I was very pretty. Then she told me that my voice sounded like her dad’s. Another boy just stared at my face, and after what felt like forever (I’m sure it was no more than 5 second) he giggled and said, “You’re wearing makeup.”
The five hours of teaching just breezed through. I love those kids, they don’t judge, they don’t get offended, they aren’t threatened by my gender. If they thought I was pretty, then I was pretty. If they thought my voice was funny, then it was. I was quite happy when I locked up my friend’s house that night.
The second day was a bit different. This day the students were all adult men. They were polite too, but there seemed to be slight hesitations when interacting with me. I suppose that was understandable, since during the lessons I often have to tap the students’ shoulder and hands and back to correct their posture. For a middle-age married man, being in a room with a young single transgender woman can be a bit disconcerting (let along being “touched” by one!), especially if they have never interacted with other transwomen before. There were the usual awkward questions “to break the ice”, about what washroom I use, and whether I’ve had my surgeries, that sort of things. But although I don’t appreciate those questions, I wasn’t really offended either. (Okay, may be I was a bit annoyed.)
So overall, the experience had been a very positive one, and I hope my friend will ask me to substitute again. That will of course depend on the feedback from the students and their parents. If there was anything that I have learned, it is that there is a difference between kids and adults when it comes to gender issues. People’s discomfort with transgender women is learned from society and not something natural.
Well, I’m going to go back to my research work now. There is lots of programming to do, and my computer isn’t going to program itself.