Over the course of my last eight posts, you have learned about the ways that I have attempted a balance between mom life and PhD student life. You have read a couple of “interview-like” posts from a first-year DMA student, Andy Bruhn, in choral conducting, and from Director of Choral Activities, Dr. Andrew Megill. You have also read a couple of posts about my covid vaccine experience and all about my weekends at the Music Ed Annex. But how well do you think you know me based on those posts alone?
"Well, sure - you know that I have a lot of feelings and that I encourage UIUC music student teachers to practice as much self-care as possible while they are student teaching. You even know that I have a wife and a kid...allow me now, the space to share with you all that I have held back.
Hi. I’m Miranda - M.R. if you’re my student - and I have always had a complicated relationship with my gender identity. “It’s a girl!” is what I’m sure my mom heard 30+ years ago when I was born...but did they even ask me? They slapped this label on me and I have been stuck with it for as many years as I have been alive. It wasn’t until I began this program that I started to really find out who I was.
I have always known that I was more masculine than feminine (yuck). That I was more attracted to girls than I was to boys (double yuck). But the only word that was ever used to describe me was tomboy. What does that even mean? Let’s see what Wikipedia says, shall we?
"A tomboy is a girl who exhibits characteristics or behaviors considered typical of a boy. Common characteristics include wearing masculine clothing and engaging in games and activities that are physical in nature and are considered in many cultures to be unfeminine or the domain of boys."
So, with this definition, gender is only being looked at through this binary, this seemingly unbreakable dichotomy, male or female, girl or boy. What room does that leave for me to truly have a chance to understand my gender identity? What happens to those of us who have never really been attached to this “girl” role that we were forced into? It’s that tomboy label that we usually wore in our early days, and some of us wore it proudly with our skinned knees and our sweater vests.
For me, I would describe myself as a strong, smart, badass mom who is transmasculine and uses gender neutral pronouns. For those who are not familiar with this transmasc umbrella term, it usually refers to a person who was assigned female at birth (AFAB) - aka that whole “it’s a girl” moment from earlier - who presents their gender identity outside of the societal expectations driven by their biology. I’m not a huge fan of using the binary to describe who I am, because I don’t really connect to one side of the spectrum or the other. I’m just me and this journey into my identity has been informative and exciting.
Over the summer, I will be working on my dissertation proposal which focuses on folks like me who are living in the binary world of music education where you’re either student or teacher, teacher or musician, Mr. or Ms. I will be considering the ways that transgender and gender expansive choral music students navigate their transition from choral music student to choral music teacher and explore their perceptions of visibility and validation during their student teaching experience. It is my hope that this study will help gender expansive student teachers (or in-service teachers) to be able to live life as themselves and not have to hide a part of themselves just to ensure that students won’t be confused by their presence.
Never be afraid to be who you are and if you need help, find me. Or, you can reach out to the LGBT Resource Center on campus - or if you want to venture out into the community, the CU Up Center is a fabulous resource as well. Be kind to yourselves as you explore your identity and know that it is never too late to honor who you are. Your journey is yours and yours alone.
Miranda (M.R.) Rowland
2nd year PhD student, music education
*Note: the images attached to this post are from Frankie’s first PRIDE (2017) parade in Chicago and the second is us wearing my fundraiser t-shirt to celebrate this year’s Transgender Day of Visibility.