29 September 2011

Returning To Where I Don't Have The Choice of Anonymity

I can't believe so much time has passed since my last post on this blog.  The new semester is already a month old, which means that about a quarter of it has passed.  All of the class sizes increased by 25 percent this year, but it seems that I'm grading twice as many papers as I did last year.  

Apart from the beauty and energy of Prague, another thing I loved about my trip there was that I was utterly anonymous.  I didn't know a soul when I got off the plane there; nobody knew me.  I met some people and disclosed my past to three of them.  Two of them, Martina and Eva (Weird, how that name always seems to pop up in my life!) are a couple and, really, I didn't have to tell them anything; they knew.  And Spencer, the guy at the bike rental shop talked about gay friends and acquaintances and just seemed like a safe person to talk to.

At the Pride March, I didn't tell anyone about myself, but some of them had to have known.  After all, why else would I have marched with them?  To tell you the truth, it really didn't matter there, anyway.  Actually, it didn't really matter anywhere I went in Prague.  The people I met elsewhere extended the same sorts of courtesies to me that they would extend to any middle-aged woman in that city.  Perhaps I was the proverbial old lady in tennis shoes.

But now that I've been back, I'm around lots of people who know that I've transitioned.  Maybe that's why I sometimes feel as if I'm in my past, as if I were in high school, or even junior high school, again.  The difference is that nobody I see every day can be a role model for me.  Actually, nobody in my pubescent and teen years could have done that for me, either, but at least I could still live the illusion that such a thing was possible.  No, that's not quite right--I just did live that illusion, to the degree that I could.  I didn't know, and nobody else could have shown me, any other way at that time.

What this means is that, apart from having a job and whatever satisfaction I can gain from interactions with my students, there really isn't anything else for me on my job.  I cannot rise to any higher a position than the one I now have, and it's not likely that I'm going to teach any different courses or get involved in any different projects from the ones I've already done.  And the idea of going for another degree--at least another academic or a law degree--has absolutely no appeal for me.  Been there, done that.

Here is something I hadn't anticipated:  People who met me during some early or middle stage of my transition are (that is to say, most of my co-workers at York College), I find, far more presumptuous in their dealings with me than those who've met me recently or who knew me when I was still Nick (the ones who are still in my life, anyway).  I find that when I'm among some of the co-workers I met when I first started teaching as Justine, the spectre of my transition still hangs over everything.  Sometimes it's mentioned, though not by me.  

Plus, I notice that a lot of people, particularly in the administration, are imposing their religious beliefs on the life of the school at the same time they're using the students, whom they despise, to help them trump up charges against profs they don't like.  For one thing, I don't know how they're getting away with so much public religiosity in a state-sponsored institution.  For another, as they are behaving in the ways I've described, I can only imagine what else might be going on "behind the scenes."

How do you represent an institution of education, or the institution of education itself, when the people who run it--who are supposedly educated themselves--behave in such ways?  And, oh, should I mention that they're utterly homophobic.  They've stifled every attempt to start an LGBT organization on campus, and they don't want any public discussion of the issue.  I offered to take the "Safe Zone" training, at my own expense if necessary, so that I could make my office space a "safe haven" for students.  They said it was "too controversial;" never mind it's done at every other college in New York City.

Right now I just want to be in some quiet place, not in conferences and seminars, not behind a podium and talking to a bunch of people, not having to flatter people with whom I have absolutely nothing in common and who aren't listening. Better to be anonymous, even invisible.  


Miss Kitty said...

How do you represent an institution of education, or the institution of education itself, when the people who run it--who are supposedly educated themselves--behave in such ways?

Excellent question. How can people with so much education be so hateful and willfully ignorant? Perhaps because they're "old," and the students/younger people were raised differently? At least there's a little hope in this younger generation.

Justine Valinotti said...

Miss Kitty: At one time, I used to confuse schooling with education. And I believed that "education" would make for a more tolerant and enlightened world. Meeting and working with "educated" people have disabused me of that notion.

I am still trying to answer the question you've posed. Age has something to do with it, but outside the academic world, some of the kindest and most accepting people I've met are collecting Social Security. But it's true that the younger generations' attitudes are changing, which gives me hope--if not for me, then for the trans people (and other people who are "different" from those in the dominant culture) who are coming after us.