I have been involved with FIRST for ten years now. My first brush with it was at a summer camp held by an FIRST LEGO League team – my mother had to make me go, and I’m glad she did. After ‘aging out’ of FLL, I joined a FIRST Tech Challenge team and continued with the FTC program until I graduated, as well as staying involved as an active volunteer with FLL. FIRST has changed my life, given me experiences I would have never had the opportunity for otherwise, and given me an amazing community that I’m proud to be a part of.
My last couple years in high school I began to struggle with my gender identity. I can’t say that that was the beginning of my questioning, but that’s when I really began to have to accept things about myself and figure out words to put to my experiences. As I slowly started to come to terms with being transgender, I also slowly began to feel more alienated in a lot of spaces . I wrestled with the idea of ostracised if I came out, and of losing communities that meant a lot to me- namely the FIRST community.
I didn’t really feel as if I felt a part of anything outside of FIRST. By the time I was ready to come out, I had graduated high school and was promoted to a key volunteer role in the same state I grew up in, and also served at the Super Regional and World Championship levels. And I was terrified to tell anyone the truth. I was part of enough circles and relatively tight communities that I knew I would be facing a lot of scrutiny, and the idea of being harshly judged in places that meant so much to me was a heavy prospect. When I finally came out to my parents, I told them that they could tell anyone else they wanted, as long as they weren’t people in FIRST circles. It was a very difficult time in my life.
Looking back now, I wish I had come out sooner, because the support and acceptance I have found in my FIRST community has been more than I ever expected. Reactions and adjustments from mentors and fellow volunteers have varied, but overall the positive reception has been wonderful. FIRST headquarters have worked with me to make sure my volunteer registration account was correct, and has been very thoughtful with housing accommodations for me as a transgender individual as I took a larger role in the FIRST volunteer world. One reason that I feel as if what LGBTQ+ of FIRST is doing is so important is because I know that coming out would have been easier if I had seen other transgender people- or even gay, lesbian or bisexual people- being visibly accepted in FIRST spaces and known that I had one less thing to fear. I now know many, and I am thankful for that.
FIRST as an organization encourages diversity and acceptance, and I am glad that in the last few years a push has been made to make sure that the LGBT community is included in that. Being an LGBT adolescent is difficult, and it is my sincere hope that the FIRST community is a haven for more of these young people than it is an additional stressor. For anyone who is wrestling with similar circumstances as I did, I hope you are able to make that step soon. Whether you are a student, a volunteer or a mentor, there are people behind you and people next to you who want you to be able to live your most genuine life.
This was written by a contributor to LGBTQ+ of FIRST who would prefer not to be named.
Passing is the holy grail for many trans people, the almighty goal that they seek through the trials of transitioning. It is defined by the LGBT Resource Center at the University of Southern California as “successfully being perceived as a member of your preferred gender regardless of actual birth sex”, but the concept of passing is accompanied by controversy. It requires trans people to fit into a rigidly structured binary and fulfill gender stereotypes they may not wish to conform to, but it can also improve quality of life and keep them safe under circumstances where not passing would put them at risk.
With both these arguments in mind, is the concept of passing helpful or harmful for the trans community?
With regards to the earlier question, there is no clear answer. The concept of passing will remain controversial, and it is up to the individual whether or not they want to pursue it. Therefore, it’s important to remember that your perspective on passing does not hold true for everyone and that there are very distinct arguments on both sides. Like so many issues, it’s not a matter of black and white. Do what makes you feel the most comfortable, and respect the decisions of the people around you.
Have something to add to the conversation? Need some advice? Leave a comment below or tweet us at @LGBTQ_of_FIRST
During the 2017 build season I came out to my team as transgender. The team was fine with it, extremely supportive even. The mentors, not so much. They didn’t say much about it, or acknowledge it even. I suppose worse could have happened. All was well until time came for an away regional. They were intending to put me in a boys room, and I of course was very very uncomfortable and unhappy about this. Luckily, I have fantastic friends that stood up for me and got them to change their minds about it. They ended up putting me in my own room alone and away from everyone else. This was preferable to a guys room, though I was still pretty unhappy with my situation because I was away from my friends. At this point, however, I was willing to take anything that wasn’t a boys room.
When the time came for competition, they again asked me if I wanted a boys room, it seemed as if they were pushing me towards going in to one. I refused of course, and the mentor who asked me seemed grumpy about it. At that moment I asked if there was absolutely no way I could stay in the girls room(my gender is female), and to this question, his response was :”No, of course not. Out of the question”. I was again upset by this, but I was grateful they didn’t force me into a boys room. What got me really pissed off was that the ‘girls’ room was comprised of one girl, one nonbinary person, and a trans guy. They put a boy in the girls room over me. The guy in question didn’t want to fight them, and was more uncomfortable being in a guys room for understandable reasons, so he just decided to stay in the girls room.
The whole point of this story wasn’t just to share a negative experience, but I would not have gotten any accommodation had it not been for my friends who stood up for me and did what I was too timid to do for myself. Eventually, I was able to stand up for myself, but this was after my friends had supported me. I guess what I am saying is, if your mentors are refusing to yield, don’t back down from them. The only way you can get what you want is by fighting for your rights.
On May 20, 2017, STORM Robotics hosted its first annual FIRST Compass, an event where teams can give or watch presentations about different subjects in robotics. Representing LGBTQ+ of FIRST, Jaye and Sean presented this slide show to help teams in the MAR region and MAR itself learn how to be more inclusive to LGBTQ+ FIRST participants.
Since numerous teams seemed interested, LGBTQ+ of FIRST is sharing this presentation for all FIRSTers, especially those outside the MAR region and those who missed the event.
Every LGBTQ+ students deserves a welcoming and inclusive environment.
I was wondering if LGBTQ+ FIRST has given any thought to Texas passing a bathroom bill, and how that would impact trans FIRST students, especially with South Champs being hosted in Houston, Texas. Is this something that should be protested?
Hey sorry for letting this ask sit for so long, but we had to think and work on this since it’s such a complicated issue. We are contacting FIRST about the issue and asking for support. Although these types of laws affect a lot of people, businesses and organizations can choose whether or not it applies to them. FIRST, in its nondiscrimination policy, directly references gender identity and sexual orientation so we anticipate support.
This is a stressful time of year for all of us. Seniors are applying and hearing back from schools, juniors are planning visits, midterms are around the corner, and it’s also build season. It’s really easy to get carried away with the stress and forget about the outside world. Even in the midst of the FRC build season, we still have to remember the FLL and FTC teams that are building and competing for their competitions. Being a safe space and resource for LGBTQ+ youth in FIRST, we want to include everyone, not just FRC members. Life is really stressful as an LGBTQ+ kid, especially with an extracurricular activity as stressful and time consuming as any FIRST organization.
To all my fellow LGBTQ+ FIRSTers out there, I love you, we love you, and your identity is valid, no matter how young you are. Whatever you feel is what is true of your experience. You may change your labels as you come upon ones that fit you better, and that’s okay. Finding your place in the LGBTQ+ community is confusing, but I promise you, it is worth it. As your classmates mature, the taunting will stop and you’ll feel safer, Even if high school is rough, the world is so much bigger than your small community. The world is big and amazing and full of so many opportunities and support for you. Don’t give up.
To the mentors and teachers, support your LGBTQ+ students, even if they are young. Puberty is a rough time for everyone, but especially for LGBTQ+ kids who are growing into an experience they weren’t prepared for. If a student comes out to you, support them. Lend them a shoulder if they need to cry, and build them up. Without support, almost 60% of LGBTQ+ people will attempt suicide, but if you give your students support, that high rate exponentially decreases.
“Results suggested that a hostile school climate has serious ramifications for LGBT students but institutional supports can play a significant role in making schools safer for these students,” [x].
To everyone in FIRST, you can make a safer environment for LGBTQ+ youth. You can start a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) or Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) at your lower schools. You can practice using gender inclusive languages such as “hey, students” instead of “hello, boys and girls.” You can introduce yourself with you pronouns (ex: “Hi, I’m Sean and I use he/him pronouns"). Most importantly, you can be there your your students, because being there makes a huge difference.
Today is a solemn day; today is Trans Day of Remembrance. Today we must remember the transgender members of the LGBTQ+ community who either lost or took their lives due to hate crimes. TDoR was founded in 1995 to honor the victims of transphobia from the previous year. A list of those to remember this year can be found at https://tdor.info/.
Trans individuals in America have an attempted suicide rate of 49%. One out of every twelve trans people are victims of hate crime. In 2016 alone, 26 people were murdered in America just because of ignorance and transphobia.
With the continued efforts of the LGBTQ+ community and our allies, we can draw attention to transphobia so that future generations do not needlessly suffer. Today, draw honor our victims by attending a vigil near you, donating money to a trans inclusive charity, writing a letter to local legislators about protecting transgender people’s rights, and educating friends and family if you feel safe doing so.
-August S. 2194
Thanks for reading! Here’s a really good list of trans related resources.
-Tristan D. 107
Everyone experiences dysphoria differently, so my experiences might not be an accurate reflection for some of y’all. However, there are some noticeable differences between trans and nonbinary dysphoria.
Before I begin, it is important to understand what dysphoria is. One of the other admins on the blog said, “Dysphoria is like the feeling you get when you scratch a holographic bookmark the wrong way.” Essentially, it is the realization (and the aftermath of the realization) that one doesn’t perceive themselves as how their body represents that person. You know that makeup scene in Mulan where she wipes it off with her sleeve because she doesn’t recognize her reflection in the water? These are examples of what dysphoria feels like.
First, let’s discuss transgender dysphoria. A central issue here is not feeling aligned with the genitalia you possess. Many trans people undergo surgery to help combat this feeling. Another great way to help combat dysphoria is by taking hormones to make oneself either more feminine or more masculine. Another method to relieve dysphoria is by binding. Other strategies include packing, changing names, and changing pronouns. These strategies allow a person to feel more aligned with their body.
Nonbinary dysphoria is less obvious. Instead of the jarring holographic bookmark example from above, it feels more like being called by your sibling’s name. It throws your brain for a loop, and you’re left feeling confused and distraught afterwards. Nonbinary dysphoria is a balancing game; for me, I feel dysphoric if I present as too masculine or too feminine on a given day. To combat this, I tend to wear over-sized flannels and mom-jeans. Coping methods for nonbinary dysphoria range from changing pronouns, changing names, dressing a certain way, taking hormones, getting surgery, and sometimes just flat out dying your hair a wonky color.
The most important message from this should be that everyone experiences dysphoria differently. It feels different to everyone, and it fluctuates in severity. This does not make anyone’s experiences with dysphoria any more or less valid. There is not an ideal level of dysphoria that you have to reach in order to claim the term.
-August S. 2194
About LGBTQ+ of FIRST
LGBTQ+ of FIRST is an organization dedicated to raising awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ+ participants in FIRST Robotics. LGBTQ+ of FIRST was started to spread visibility of the LGBTQ+ community within FIRST and help teams become safe spaces for their members.