16 January 2010

Resisting a Temptation to Revise

Dina, who teaches at the college, told me about a vacancy that was recently listed at a college in which I used to teach. The job is, in some ways, attractive: It would entail a lighter teaching load and possibly give me an opportunity to develop and teach new courses. Plus, the college has developed a "gay-friendly" relationship.

For the reasons I've mentioned, I thought, for a moment, about applying for that job. But I think I'll pass.

For one thing, "gay-friendly" doesn't always translate into tolerance for, much less acceptance of, transgender people. Also, if I take a new job, I'm not so sure of how much I want my identity to be a factor in getting, taking or staying on the job--unless, of course, I were to work with an LGBT organization.

One nice thing about working this semester has been that my identity, though it is known to most people at the college, has been far less of a factor in my dealings with people there than it had been before. At the beginning of the semester, a few colleagues who knew that I'd had my operation asked about it. Some were very supportive. As the semester wore on, most of the faculty and students treated me well. There was one exception: I've managed, for the most part, to steer clear of that faculty member since her shenanigans. And I've talked about who I am just once, with the class I'm teaching now. I felt that it was an appropriate time and the students appreciated my candor and the fact that, as a result of my experiences, I could understand some of theirs.

The odd thing is that the college in which I teach has the reputation as the most "gay-hostile" campus in the city. I've had gay students for freshman and sophomore courses who didn't return for their junior or senior years and others who "came out" to me and swore me to secrecy. Yet, apart from a couple of incidents like the one I mentioned earlier, I really haven't had any difficulties this semester. Some of my former students have come to my office or sent me e-mails to wish me well; so have some faculty members from my department and others. Save for the one who made the false accusations against me, I haven't encountered hostility or other negativity from other faculty members.

So my current situation, while not ideal, is tenable. Or, at least, I've found my way around it, more or less.

Plus, while my colleagues met me early in my life as Justine, they don't have any memory of me as Nick. In contrast, there are several profs at the other college, where I taught for five years, who would probably remember me from my days in boy-drag. I wasn't happy in those days, so I'm not so sure whether their memories of me would be pleasant.

It's not that I'm afraid of seeing them again or that I feel any shame about who I am or have become. It's more like I want to move forward rather than to revise my past, or anyone's perception of it.

Perhaps most important of all, I've lost the desire I once had to meet people who knew me as Nick and try to show them my real self. I've even lost the curiosity I once had about what it might be like to have relationships, as Justine, with people who knew me as Nick but who last saw me some time before I started my transition. To be sure, I've had pleasant reunions with my cousin and aunt, and with Sheldon. On the other hand, hooking up with Elizabeth after being out of touch for a number of years didn't turn out so well. Fate or circumstance or whatever you want to call it may well bring other people from my past back into my life, as happened with my cousin and aunt. But I'm not so sure I want to purposely revisit past relationships, whether they were friendships or work partnerships.

The one other temptation about applying for the job at my old school is the fact that the old chairman has retired. The new chair started teaching there around the same time I did; she was working on her PhD. I don't know how or whether she remembers me, but I don't recall any negativity between us. So I may be able to start on a good note, or at least with a clean slate, at least as far as she's concerned.

However, the old chair is listed as a professor emeritus, which may mean that I'll see him again. About a year into living full-time as a woman, I found out that he was hiring adjunct instructors and asked whether he'd consider me. He declined, claiming that my reviews were "inconsistent" (They were all excellent.) and that I was "erratic." (He used to praise my consistency.) There were "problems," when I worked there, he said.

"Why didn't I hear about them then?"

"I can't talk about that."

Of course he couldn't: How can anyone who revises someone else's history talk about it with the person whose history has been revised?

So, I think I will leave that school in the past, and not try to revise it.