“Hi, I’m Marlo Mack. I’m a single mom raising a young transgender daughter. We live in Seattle. With my daughter’s help, I produce How to Be a Girl, an audio podcast about our life together and the challenges we face.”
This podcast, which is award-winning and beautifully produced, lends itself directly to the classroom. In many ways, it’s an essentially pedagogical podcast. Marlo, the pseudonymous host, integrates her own ongoing reflections about parenting a trans daughter with tape from their daily life together. Where the tape is intimate, engaging and evocative, the reflections open up broader socio-political and existential questions about the relationality of gender-identity (and of parenting, and development more generally). Marlo invites the listener to accompany her own pedagogical journey, and along the way she stages important lessons about trans-inclusive, impassioned learning.
Especially teachable episode
Episode 19: Red State Mama Marlo explains, “I thought I was pretty brave until I met my counterpart from a red state.” This is an excellent episode to teach as an on-its-own episode, since Marlo’s conversation with another mom of a transgender kid sharpens Marlo’s own thinking about the stakes of her podcast as well as the fundamental issues of social justice that are at play. Like the other episodes in this podcast, it’s the tape of the girls themselves (Marlo’s and her guest’s daughters, laughing and telling stories) that demonstrate how effective “audio” is as a medium for critical thinking.
As a way to animate conversation about the podcast, consider watching one of Marlo Mack’s videos together in class. And, for a helpful discussion prompt, here’s an overview of trans literature by Gwen Benaway (which includes a great list of recommendations for trans fiction and poetry-reading).
Taking up one of Gwen’s suggestions, the episode would pair beautifully with some of the short stories in Casey Plett’s Lamba-award-winning collection, “A Safe Girl to Love“. In turn, students might enjoy listening to Casey converse about her writing process in this episode of the Woodland Secrets podcast. And, as one final recommendation: the last entry in Casey Plett’s McSweeney’s column, “Voices,” lends itself to in-class conversations about gender, transition and the specific dynamics of voices.