The Transformation

Matt Kailey shares lessons learned on his transgender journey.

By Doug McPherson

Publish Date: April 22, 2013

Matt Kailer, an adjunct professor at MSU Denver, teaches a course in transgender studies. Credit:
Matt Kailey, an adjunct professor at MSU Denver, teaches a course in transgender
studies. Photo: Seth Baca

The title alone is enough to garner plenty of attention: “Teeny Weenies: And Other Short Subjects.” But the book of personal essays also landed some sizeable praise earlier this year when it earned a nomination for one of the most prestigious prizes in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender publishing, a Lambda Literary Award.

In the book, author and MSU Denver professor Matt Kailey shares the tender and tough times growing up in Iowa and Nebraska as “Jennifer,” and his later life fitting into the name and life of Matt. You see, Kailey was born female. Now he’s male.

“It’s sort of a before-and-after affair,” says Kailey, an adjunct instructor in MSU Denver’s Women’s Studies program.

Kailey’s first book, “Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience,” netted the same nomination in 2006. “It didn’t win,” Kailey notes, “but as they say, it’s great just to be nominated.”

After that book’s success, Kailey felt compelled to write a follow up at readers’ request.

“They’d email me and say, ‘I loved your book, but it really doesn’t tell me a whole lot about you before the transition. I’d like to know what your childhood and early years were like.’ ”

Kailey returned to his computer and poured his life onto the screen with essays, his genre of choice.

As painful as some of his memories are, Kailey manages a lighthearted approach with chapter titles like “Putting the Men in Menopause” and “Most Changed Since High School.”

“What I want readers to get out of it is basically a good time. It’s a humorous read, and I want them to enjoy themselves,” Kailey says. “But I think they are also poignant, and I think they strike a chord with readers.”

Kailey also is striking a chord with MSU Denver students. Last fall he approached the University about offering a new course called Transgender Studies to help students better understand that population. The course was approved, and Kailey taught it this spring.

Steve Willich — director for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Student Services at Auraria — is a fan of the course and says the definition of diversity needs to be expanded beyond race and ethnicity to include information and education about sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

“Vice President Joe Biden has called transgender discrimination the civil rights issue of our time,” Willich says. “Our students will be working with trans individuals when they graduate, and we all need to be aware of the broad diversity of identities in our communities and have knowledge on how to treat everyone with respect and dignity.”

So what’s next for Kailey? A series of short e-books. His first one is already out—“My Child is Transgender: 10 Tips for Parents of Adult Trans Children,” 30-pages and 99 cents at Amazon.com.

For future e-books, he plans to target human resource departments, employers, medical professionals, sales professionals, therapists and educators.

“That is a lot of books,” Kailey says with a laugh. “I have to get at it.”

 

Matt Kailey blogs about transgender and transsexual issues at www.tranifesto.com.

Read an interview with Kailey about his Transgender Studies course.