I took a month off from writing because honestly, my head has been in such a state of chaotic energy, that every time I would sit with my thoughts and try to compose anything resembling a coherent article, I would make it about five minutes before erasing my rambling with a fury. I am currently trying to resist said urge as I type this sentence. It has been an interesting month, both in terms of living in our continuing slow-motion collapse of our society, and in that I recently obtained a new position, in a specialty that is the opposite of placating grumpy adults, which continues to lose its luster as people shed their humanity by the day.
Fifteen years ago, this upcoming August, I started a collegiate career that was supposed to culminate in me being a band director in either a middle or high school capacity. A dozen left turns, detours, a gender identity-influenced quarter-life crisis, and the subsequent rebuilding of a stable life and relationships later, I have a job that allows me to combine my love of collecting Vans and pairing them with bright patterned button downs. Last week, I spent thirty minutes of my day learning the motions to a song about being a superhero with a class of pre-kindergartners, and it was only the second most fun I had, closely coming behind the release of the butterflies raised in my third-grade class. Other than having a crash course in the multitude of technology-assisted learning devices, I can say that elementary school is the same place it was when we all left it at the end of the first decade of our life. I had a visceral response to a group of students asking me to take a turn at their cootie-catchers/fortune-tellers, and I am thrilled that kickball is still the coolest thing to spend recess partaking in.
It was on a whim that I even applied. The pandemic has made the reality of hospitality and customer service bleaker than I thought possible. I honestly would go back to working for a narcissist who routinely accuses her staff of stealing her profits if it meant guests and customers would go back to how they treated staff before COVID stole their kindness and decency. Making crumbs over minimum wage to be verbally assaulted was bad enough, but the longer I worked without benefits, the more I realized how unfair it was to not have them. So, I applied, without thinking I would get an interview. Let alone be the top prospect and hired to the point that even as I was completing the on-boarding process, I kept expecting for them to pull me aside and dismiss me, realizing they had erred severely in selecting me. Instead, I have a backpack slowly filling up with notes and art from various students and my entire TikTok FYP is different versions of the Sheeeeeeeesh sound.
I have started looking at the process of obtaining a second Bachelor’s degree instead of pursuing a Master’s in Public Policy. Yesterday was my first day off in a week, and I spent it reflecting on how that whim of a computer click has changed the trajectory of my life. The biggest difference has been the internal feelings that coincide with having a job/career that you truly enjoy, as opposed to something you are just good at. I honestly have been reconciling with the reality that until I acquired this job, I was mistaking that competency for enjoyment and fulfillment, and now experiencing that, I regret not pursuing it, or recognizing it sooner. And then we hit the eventual gender-affiliated aspects of it all. Which is, that unless I decide to share it, I get to just be Mr. K to students and staff alike, no asterisk or special circumstances in this post-name change reality I exist in.
I spent a lot of my life seen as a girl-who-looked-like-a-boy, and then I was a boy-who-looked-and-sounded-like-a-girl, and then a boy-who-carried-an-ID-that-had-a-girl’s-name. Being a boy who sounds like a boy, with an ID that says I am a boy, and having everyone around me just accepting that at face value without me having to show a Court Order, or explain a backstory is a whole lot of mental fatigue that has simply been erased. I wish I would have known how much of my aversion with interacting in the world as a functioning adult was related to that and not my mental illness, as I had previously thought. I had a group of kids mind-blown the other day when I let them know that I loved both Moana and Frozen. Because of course, those are for girls, or at least they were until I admitted to liking it, and then suddenly there were more boys willing to admit that the music in both movies is factually fantastic. I am not sure which gave me a stronger feeling of gender euphoria, having the boys just seeing me as a man, or them realizing that if Mr. K can like Moana and Frozen, then so can they.
- Asher Kennedy is a writer, activist, transman and cisnerd living an hour outside of Washington in the Eastern Panhandle of WV. An alumnus of Shepherd University where honed both his writing and musical skills, he is the current treasurer of Hagerstown Hopes, serving as a member of its Board of Directors. He is also the co-facilitator of both the Trans and Spouse groups. Through his work with Hagerstown Hopes, he works alongside Trans Healthcare MD to bridge the gap for medical knowledge and coverage for the trans and non-binary communities throughout Maryland. He has been featured on RoleReboot (rolereboot.org) and is an avid speaker for local college and community panels. He is on Twitter @ItsAsherK, and can be found re-watching the same six episodes of The Office in his spare time.