19 September 2010

A Dilemma

Today I got an e-mail from another prof at my main job.  She and I have completely different schedules this semester, so I haven't seen her.  And, she is as busy as she says she is because, among other things, she heads an interdisciplinary program at the college, and is the college's representative on the university senate and to the union.

Even though some of our opinions and ideas are very different, I have always liked  and, more important, trusted her. While she is a late-middle-aged version of the sort of tweed-clad hippie the University of Wisconsin in Madison was graduating around 1972, she does not have that terrible quality that so many leftist academics (or those who fancy themselves as liberals) display:  that curious sort of hypocrisy that causes them to, sometimes misguidedly, take up the causes of people they will never meet and issues that they understand only in abstract ways while they neglect their children (if indeed they have them) or anyone or anything else they encounter every day.  Tranio in The Taming of the Shrew could have had them (or their 16th-century equivalents) in mind when he said, "In brief, sir, study what you most affect."

Anyway...I had asked this prof if she would write a letter of reference for me.  It would actually be more of a character than a professional reference, as she works in a different department and has only passing familiarity with my work.  She agreed, and that presents a dilemma.

You see, she feels that the strongest endorsement she can make of me comes from what students in her classes say about me.  She teaches a course that's part of the college's core requirements, so her students have had courses with nearly every other instructor in the college--including me.  And, she says, her students often make unsolicited comments--all of them positive--about me.  According to her, the students say they like and respect me as a teacher and admire me for my courage.  She has told me that her students have made comments "I want to be like her." and "She makes me realize I can do what I want to do."

Mind you, she's willing to write a reference that doesn't mention those things.  But, she says, she could write something even more powerful--even more powerful than anything she's ever written for anybody--if she could mention what her students said.

What that would do, of course, is to reveal that I'm transgendered.  And I feel that if I were to go elsewhere, I don't want to go in as the "token trannie" or as someone who's a transgendered prof or transgendered whatever.  I'm liking the fact that on my part-time job, I have not talked about it and have felt no pressure to do so.

Now here's another part of the dilemma:  The college to which I want to apply for a job has a reputation for openness to , and acceptance of, LGBT people.   It has a very large and active gay-straight alliance, and, from what I've heard, I wouldn't be the only trans faculty member there.  So it's no surprise that while most people there accept members of the LGBT spectrum, they also understand the differences between us.

On one hand, it's tempting to let the prof talk about what her students say and the workshops and guest lectures I've given on the topic.  On the other, I don't want my identity to be the basis of acceptance any more than I want it to be the cause of rejection.

So...Here's another case of "What's A Girl To Do?"