Coming out as a FIRST Volunteer

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.


The Controversy Surrounding “Passing”

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?

The Future of the Capital Markets IndustryWith 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

Room Situation – Pride Month Testimonial

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.

– Julia

Inclusion in FIRST

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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.

Anon – Texas Bathroom Bill

anonymous asked:

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.

-Sean 5113

20TH OF MARCH 2017

Being Trans in a Christian School

I attend a private Christian school in a fairly conservative part of the Midwest, but I decided at the beginning of the school year that I was tired of being closeted. I came out at school as transgender, and teachers and classmates began using preferred name and pronouns. I didn’t come in with a list of demands, but instead respected the boundaries and reservations of those around me in hopes that they would respect me in return. Early in the year, I got to choose the name for my diploma, graduation, and the yearbook. Or so I thought. In late January, my principal informed me that there are had been parent complaints and the school board was reevaluating my situation and the potential harm to my school. Understandably upset, I wrote a letter to the school board explaining my situation. I talked about how I had no desire to be a pioneer, but merely wanted to live authentically in my final year of high school. I stated my goals for transition, which are “to remain calm in the face of opposition and ignorance, educate people on transgender issues to hopefully prevent discrimination based on lack of knowledge, and when people come after me for who I am, to stand up with pride.” I discussed how the response I’d received had been positive as my teachers, peers and mentors have accepted me and respect my journey to self acceptance. I also expressed my hurt at their concerns about the potential harms to my school and asked them to reconsider their decision, as I wished to finish off the last few months of my senior year as smoothly as possible.

The school board met with my parents who shared my letter, but the results were less than I’d hoped for. The yearbook will read how I want it to, but all graduation related information will be under my birth name. It is completely legal for my school to do this because it’s a private institution, but it’s still disheartening and frustrating. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been questioning whether I really have a place in the school that I’ve attended for the last fifteen years. I’ve been reflecting, and the most influential lesson I’ve taken away from the last six weeks is that the negative reactions do not take away from the positive ones.

I had low expectations when coming out, fully believing that my teachers or peers would push back against me. Much to my surprise, however, it went smoothly. The people in my life who really matter have embraced me. I have been struggling  to accept that I have any place in my school, but I was too distracted by the conservative drama to realize that the positivity of my peers was proof that I belonged. This isn’t exclusive to me; I’ve known many people to become completely bogged down in the negative and forget all the good. This does nothing but hurt everyone involved. My friends, family and teachers have stood beside me and offered their support, so while this may be a low point in the early stages of my transition, it does not define my relationship with my school.

It’s hard to be different. There will always be people who fight back against your existence or life choices, and it will hurt. However, their uneducated opinion shouldn’t be what defines interaction with an entire community of people.

Being Trans at Comps

For a trans person, a robotics competition can be extremely nerve-wracking. FIRST doesn’t know much about being trans, you don’t know about room arrangements, it’s hot and stuffy, and you don’t have the opportunity to take off your binder, gaff, compression shorts, or any other items you wear. Not to mention the usual issues of passing and others’ tolerance. Combined with all of the non-trans anxiety involved in comps, it’s a lot to handle. This being my third season in FIRST, I have a few tips from experience.

During the day

  1. If you’re going to bind, do it with caution. Comps are longer than 8 hour days, and while I’d love it if we were all comfortable only binding part of the day, that’s not reasonable. Instead, take time to sneak away to a bathroom to loosen your binder for a moment. Make it a habit to sit up and cough, letting fluid out of your lungs. Make sure to take a lot of deep breaths. If it hurts- yes, you have to take it off. Maybe a large sweatshirt could be big enough to hide your chest, at least for a little while so you can take a break.
  2. Drink a lot of fluid. Binding is hot, tucking is hot, competitions are hot, sweatshirts are hot. You’re going to get dehydrated. Carry a water bottle with you and keep refilling it.
  3. For tucking, it’s gonna get really uncomfortable. Try taking as many possible bathroom breaks as possible, carry painkiller meds, and putting a body powder (like Gold Bond) between your thighs! And do not use duct tape! You’ll regret it. At the end of the day, be prepared to be uncomfortable and possibly (TMI) have a bit of a rash.
  4. If you have a problem with being misgendered, try to not be in a group of people that are all your birth sex. So trans guys, avoid being in all female groups, and trans girls, avoid being in all male groups. It’s unfortunate, but you can avoid a lot of being grouped as one of them if you make sure to usually be around at least one teammate of the same gender as you.


Hotel rooms

This topic is… difficult. Most teams are affiliated with a school, and, as such, it’s often difficult to be placed in the correct room for a lot of political reasons. As such, I’m going to be talking about ways to deal with having to be in the wrong gendered room.

  1. See if you can room with other LGBT+ teammates. Even if they aren’t trans, just having the support of rooming with someone in the community can make you feel better. Plus, it can be uncomfortable to some to room with someone whose gender they’re attracted to.
  2. Spread as much time as possible outside of the room. The room is only for sleeping, after all. Spend the rest of your time with other team members in an open area in the lobby until you absolutely have to be in the room.
  3. Arrange to sleep by yourself. At least for my team, we have to share beds. If I’m in a room of three, I arrange to sleep alone, or if I’m in a room of four, I’ll take the couch.
  4. Remember that you’re going to be in there for as little time as possible, and no one will think about it. This weekend is for robots, after all!

Good luck to all the trans kids out there. If anyone needs anything to talk to or needs more advice, I’m always available to DM on the Discord!
– Maddox 2197