15 January 2009

Plus Qu'un Peu

Having to go to faculty meetings makes me feel like a real fool for going to graduate school. However, the one I attended today--for "new" full-time faculty members (some of whom have been teaching for more years than at least a couple of the meeting's organizers have lived on this planet) was, at least in some way, satisfying for me.

The good thing about meetings like that one is that they allow me to actually talk to a few of those new faculty members and catch up with some others. Most of them are nice people and interesting in their own ways. The weird thing is that they all seemed to know my name even before I actually met them. And some of them really made an effort to treat me well even when I was sulking at the beginning of the semester.

Today I spent about an hour after the meeting with Anne. I had met her on her very first day at the college, back in July. She was trying to find her way around campus and asked me for directions. Now, about my navigational skills, I tell people I'm a direct descendant of Christopher Columbus and inherited his sense of direction. I mean, after almost four years at the college, I still get lost sometimes. Then again, people who've been there even longer than I've been there say the same thing.

Anyway, she and I would occasionally pass by each other in the hallways. The funny thing is that I had more or less forgotten about the time I gave her directions until she reminded me of it at a meeting just before the holidays. And, on seeing her, I would greet her with a "Bonjour, comment ca-va?" When she said, "Oh, you speak French," I said, "un peu."

Well, today she exclaimed, "Your French is more than 'un peu.'" I felt myself blushing a bit. "I read your writing."


"Oui. J'en ai lis sur le web."

"Mes articles.?"

"Your blog. I've been reading it. I found out your full name and looked you up." She saw my surprise. "I know, I'm nosey," she demurred.

"Oh, I don't mind. I'm just kind of surprised."

"Well, ever since that first day, you intrigued me. You aren't like anyone else here, you know."

"So I'm told. "

She went on to express admiration for my writing as well as my gender identity transition. But it wasn't idle praise: Gender identity and sexuality was part of her research for several years. She is a geneticist who studied under another geneticist who has also done research in gender identity and sexuality and who, in fact, is a leader in the field.

During the course of our conversation, I used the acronym LGBT. I explained that it stands for "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender."

"Why are the transgenders in there. What you experience is so different from what gays and lesbians experience."

Wow! For a straight, straight woman, that's quite a bit of understanding: more than
un peu, if you will. What she expressed is the frustration I came to feel as an activist: That we were lumped together, although we were so different. However, I explained, there are reasons why we're together.

"Because you suffer from the same kind of discrimination."

"Yes, that. But also because we don't conform to society's ideas about gender and sexuality. And, in fact, transgender people were an important part of the early gay liberation movement, at least here in the States."

The thing about Anne is that she wasn't just expressing the "right" or even merely enlightened ideas. I think she has a genuine understanding of us, and of me. And she's a very warm, accessible person, in whatever language we're speaking.

And here I was, worried that I would seem foolish. After all, she is one of the most intelligent people I've met. But she was reaching out to me. And I'm glad that she has, more than
un peu.

I have to admit, though: It still puzzles me when people think I'm unique, memorable, special or say that I stand out in some way--not to mention when they compliment me. I guess whatever you live with isn't exceptional when it's integral to your being, and when you know enough to know how much you don't know, you feel like you only know
un peu.

I hope to sit down with Anne again soon. I feel that I'd learn more about a few things, along with my French!