26 February 2009

Going to School: It's a Girl Thing, Ya Know

It's really strange to have the day off on a Thursday. For as long as I can remember--yes, even back in elementary school--it was my longest and busiest day of the week.

Of course, when you teach English, you never really have a day off. There are always papers to grade, lesson plans to create and reading to do. And now, of course, I'm taking a class.

Yesterday, Cady Ann, the English Department secretary, wondered why I didn't take a class sooner and why I don't pursue a PhD. Well, it's not out of the question. I just hope that if I do it, I'll still be employable.

Somehow I had the sense that my gender transition would involve getting some sort of an education. I didn't really want to believe it, as I had lots of really bad experiences as a student, and more than a few as an educator. But deep down, I knew that I would. I didn't know whether it would mean the course I seem to be pursuing or something else entirely. A couple of years ago, with the encouragement of one prof who used to work in social services, I seriously entertained the idea of getting a master's in social work. Ironically enough, thinking about my social worker helped to spark--and extinguish the flame of--that idea. I guess it's not hard to see why people whose lives have been changed by counselors, therapists, social workers or teachers think they would like to spend their lives helping other people in the same way. On the other hand, I wonder how many of them understand what it's like to deal with people who have the same problems as theirs, only worse, every day.

And I honestly feel that I am not as patient or sensitive as my social worker or Regina, who worked at the college where I work. Then again, I probably have more of a chance of marrying into the Royal Family (as if I ever wanted to do such a thing) than I would of becoming as good a writer as Shakespeare. Yet I keep on writing.

In any event, I don't think now that I'll do social work or counseling. For that matter, I won't go to law school, either, in spite of encouragement I received from three lawyers and a few people who are doing advocacy work of one kind or another. The study might be interesting, but I'm not so sure about the practice. Not only that, I'd have to incur lots of debt, which means I'd have to take a corporate position or something equally unappealing.

So let's see...I could always train myself for some trade or another. Or another profession, like accounting. Uh-huh.

What else can I think of to avoid the inevitable. The inevitable? No, can't be. There must be some way of not becoming another tranny who does gender studies or some such thing. I mean, real education is old white men teaching about dead white men, right? At least that's how it was in my day.

But these days some people have different ideas. Everyone, including the professor, in the class I'm taking seems to have them. Even the crotchy conserviative that I am is going along with them.

So I'm back in school again, just like I'm supposed to be. Except that in some way I can't say I'm "back." I'm starting over, really, just as I have in everything else for the past seven years. The day Tammy and I split up, I knew that starting over was all I could do.

And ya know, going to school is a woman's thing. I mean, real men don't have to go to school. Guys are supposed to be physically powerful and their work is supposed to show it. Back when I was riding my bike a couple of hundred miles a week and lifting weights, I could live on fried foods and cheese and have a lower cholesterol level than 99% of people in the industrialized world. Schooling could never do that for me.

As long as I didn't know, I didn't need to know. And if I found out, I could ignore it and it would go away. Or, better yet, I could exorcise it by exercising myself, whether on the saddle or in bed.

Oh, you never heard of that theory before? It goes like this: If somehow you realize you're anything but hetero and/or can't live by that "M" on your birth certificate, you get married. If that doesn't work, you try it again--or at least live with a new girlfriend. Before, between and after each marriage or relationship, you sleep with a woman any chance you get.

In other words, act like a het guy and you'll be one. I don't think Skinner or any of the other behaviorists mentioned that, but they also never said that their principles couldn't be applied to one's gender identity or sexuality. You know, that's further proof of the axiom that if you don't know, you don't need to know. And its corollary: Your troubles begin the moment you know.

In some weird way, that's what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick said in The Epistemology of the Closet. Knowledge is not necessarily power. She gave the example of Ronald Reagan meeting Francois Mitterand. While Monsieur Mitterand spoke some of the most graceful English ever to come from lips first attuned to speaking another language, Ronnie Raygun couldn't utter so much as Bonjour. So, of course, their conversation was in English.

Naturally, the first thing I thought of was Caliban saying to Prospero, You have taught me language/And the profit on't is, I can curse. Oui, j'en ai entendu l'anglais, et donc, j'en ai parlait avec l'idiote american. And I got an education so that I could do the work of people who don't want to think--and get paid less than they're paid.

And, of course, this meant that Mitterand was forced to be all the more proficient in English. At the same time, it destroyed any incentive Reagan ever had, if indeed he had any, to learn French or any other language besides English.

That's how it is when you're a woman or a member of any other stigmatized group. You have to learn and know more--or, at least, different things--from members of the dominant groups. This allows them to be ignorant, which makes it all the more necessary to learn even more.

So, yeah, going to school is for women. And gays. And blacks. And...well, you get the picture.

Thus am I back in school. At least I'm enjoying it, so far, which really will trump any other sort of motivation. I need to know, I want to know, I can't imagine not knowing. And those are the reasons why I must keep on learning. What else can a middle-aged woman who happens to be trans do? Learn...and enjoy it.

Here I've come again.

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