08 August 2009
Yesterday I posted a new photo to my blog: one that Regina took. I think I can see what she and other people mean when they say that I look "calmer," "happier" or "better" since the surgery. Certainly, I feel all of those things, even with the uncertainties I see in my future.
The uncertainties include my career, where I will be next year, the year after or at any other time in my life and who will or won't be in my life. I know that surgery isn't supposed to change your life all by itself. But I think about those people who left, and came into, from the time I started my transition. And I also wonder whether some of my priorites will change, and how they might affect what kind of work I do and where I live. For the moment, I like my neighborhood. And I enjoy teaching, although I wonder whether the battles over utterly arcane pieces of mental turf that seem to be part of the academic world will make me wish for something else--or whether, as Regina and I were discussing, I might focus my efforts on writing and on educating people about gender and sexuality issues.
I'm not sure of how useful it was for her, but talking to Marilynne when her family was giving her grief over her daughter's impending surgery is one of the most satisfying things I've ever done in my life. I didn't get only emotional gratification from it; I also gained spiritual nourishment, which, I am sure, helped me as I was going through my surgery. I also enjoyed talking with the ones who were about to expereince what I'd just experienced.
Plus, I can already see that I am living in a world of women to an even greater degree than I did before my surgery, or my transition. The funny thing is that I am actually becoming, I think, more sympathetic to men than I was--which, I guess, isn't hard to do, considering that before my transition, I hated most men. But, as a woman among women, I find it enjoyable and healthy to spend time with all sorts of women, from the ones who home-school their children, whether for religious or other reasons, to the ones who've spent their entire lives in educational institutions; from school bus drivers to molecular biologists and from butch dykes to the most femme transgender women. And, I've come to feel that in the academic world, people are expected to talk about, but not to empathise, with them.
The more I see of it, the more it disturbs me that motherhood is so stigmatized in the academic world--by women. I've met women who've become department chairs and have risen even higher than that, in the academic as well as in the corporate world. And, it seems that in the hallowed halls, the women who are in positions of authority--at least the ones I've known--were childless and usually single or divorced. And, I've seen too many instances when an adjunct instructor's child had a medical emergency or needed more time or attention for some other reason, and the female department chair or other supervisor was grudging or unwilling in allowing the instructor whatever accomodations she needed.
Even tenured professors who take maternity leave or have to sacrifice for their children are not looked at favorably by their chairs or their college's administration. Their work is taken less seriously, and they are often kept off those committees and projects that could help their careers.
I'm not saying that this sort of thing doesn't go on in the corporate world, or in other fields of endeavor. But I find it disheartening that women who, I'm sure, faced a lot of prejudice and other difficulties should inflict more of the same on another woman who's doing what she needs to do, and is probably doing her job better than most other people are doing theirs.
Maybe it's odd that I, who will never be a mother (unless I adopt), should think this way. Maybe it has to do with the relationship I have with my own mother. At times in my life, I downplayed it, and even distanced myself from her, at least somewhat. But, not long ago, I told her that if I had to change anything in the life, the very last thing I'd want to change is that she's my mother.
Having that sort of relationship is probably the reason why I gravitate toward women like Regina, Millie and Marilynne. Having a good mother, I know one when I see one, and realize what good and valuable people they are. Plus, as Regina says, I've given birth and am caring for a new life. I expect that, and other things, to influence the rest of my life. So I expect to change in other ways, even if I don't yet know what will change, or how.
Still, I'm looking forward to it all--yes, even to returning to the college. After all, that will be part of those changes and will be an early step on the road of "the rest of my life."