23 January 2009

The Body of Lessons

This is depressing. I get the feeling that nobody's been reading my blog lately: I didn't get any hate mail after yesterday's post. In fact, I didn't get any mail at all. Maybe everybody understood what I meant, and that I meant no harm. However, I will refrain from using the "f-word" again. Really, I will.

And guess what? I submitted my tuition waiver to the Graduate Center. That means the course is now paid for, and I'm in it. I also told my department chair and a couple of other people in my department what I'd done. So now I guess I'm committed.

It looks like I'm committed to that course--The Poetics and Rhetoric of Hip-hop-- I'm scheduled to teach, too. Even Tom, my voice instructor, mentioned that he's heard about it. "I bet it'll be great," he said. Same sentiment, different words, from what my department chair said. And a few other profs, a bunch of students, Cady Ann and Sharon (the department secretaries), Dominick, Bruce and everyone else who's heard about it. And they all say I'm going to do fine in both of those courses.

OK. For the course I'm taking, I'll forget that it's the first class I'm taking in sixteen years and that it's on a topic--gender studies-- I once swore I'd never touch. And for the course I'm teaching, I'll forget that for half of that course's content, the students will know more than I do. So I won't introduce myself as Prof J-Val or Mizz J--at least not on the first day, anyway!

Today's session with Tom may be the last I'll have with him for a while. I wish that weren't so: The three sessions I've had with him have taught me so much. However, he's directing a play and is involved with another production that will keep him busy. I know I could take other voice classes, but nobody can top a teacher who's opened up a world to you.

In a way, Tom reminds me of Ray, the social worker I saw every week during the year before I started to live full-time as Justine, and for the first year-and-a-half of my current life. They both combine discipline and empathy: They have a clear sense of what they're guiding you through, but they also understand what you're going through. And, of course, Ray taught me all sorts of first lessons about one thing and another, while Tom taught me my first lessons about the way I carry my body and take my breaths.

I've talked to many women--and have read the words of many, many more--who look back in shock, anger, grief or frustration over the fact that they knew so little about their own bodies. Usually, they were in the dark because parents, teachers and other adults couldn't or wouldn't discuss those matters. Some of those women come from milieux in which such talk is taboo. For others, their lack of awareness had to do with the pure-and-simple misogyny of their communities or societies, some of which they internalized in much the same way that I internalized a lot of homo- and trans-phobia. I recall now an interview that some journalist--I forget who--did with an Afghani schoolteacher. She said that one result of the repressive regime that required all women to be covered from head to toe, save for a small grille around the eyes, was that women's bodies deteriorated. Worse, they were unable to pass on any awareness of how their bodies worked to their daughters, female students or any other girls or young women in their lives.

Of course, frustration over how little women understand their bodies--and one part in particular--is part of what motivated Eve Ensler to create The Vagina Monologues.

After my surgery, what will my vagina say? "Thank you for bringing me to light," or "Cotton only, please!"?

I'll soon find out. Meantime, I'm learning through other means.


Anonymous said...

Don't worry..there is someone out there reading your blogs...me!!!


chelsea said...

i'm sorry i haven't responded to your blog before...i'm just behind you on the path you follow. i need to see that we can survive and be happy. please don't take that as pressure on you.
thank you very much,