by Denny Meyer
Zander Keig is a highly educated helping professional, Coast Guard veteran, and middle aged teddy bear of a mustachioed man with a full beard and kindly eyes. He's earned three masters degrees, and has enough experience helping veterans and others to deserve medals and awards. He was named this year's National Association of Social Workers (NASW) California Chapter Social Worker of the Year. So, you'd be surprised perhaps to hear that he was a once a troubled incorrigible teen aged girl who dropped out of high school.
This is the story of his triumph and determination to achieve self realization and so much more.
Zander Keig is a first generation Latino of Mexican heritage whose father emigrated here legally. He was raised speaking English within the Mexican-American culture, near the ocean in Southern California. They had a fairly good way of life, his father having been an engineer. But Zander's childhood was traumatized early on with a medical catastrophe at the age of six when he was struck with paralyzing encephalitis resulting in years of rehabilitation in order to learn how walk, talk, read, and write again.
Having survived and triumphed over all of that, as a young girl he realized he was a lesbian at the age of thirteen and, puberty being what it is for some of us, Zander went wild to the point that he was placed in a group home, attended an alternative school and was repeatedly suspended until he eventually dropped out of high school. What a miserable difficult childhood straight out of Charles Dickens drama. And like a Dickens drama about a girl who overcame adversity to become a successful man, Zander found the inner inspiration and strength of character to put himself on the path to maturity.
First, he joined the Coast Guard. As almost any vet knows, boot camp and service will help you grow up very fast. It worked. It took a while to get where he is, of course. It required a lot of determination. Life as a Coastie was miserable and wonderfully exiting at the same time; a not unusual military experience. He loved the boats, and training as a fireman and maritime enforcement. But there was also the servile life as a lower enlisted person, cleaning heads and all the other fun things that make you love your senior NCOs.