Now, if that has happened to me both as Nick and as Justine, I know it can happen to anyone who teaches!
Anyway...One of my students, it seems, just can't stop looking at me--with a longing, winsome smile. It's funny that, even though this is not the first such experience I've had, it seems even stranger--yet, in some odd way, more gratifying--than any student crush I've experienced before.
Not to boast, but I am one of the few faculty members I know who has been the object of longings from both male and female students. So no such attention should seem out of the ordinary by now. So why am I talking about this particular student?
I'll call her Matilda. She was born in Venezuela and came here as a teenager. In one of her papers, she described the day she realized she had sexual feelings for women. She mentioned it in relation to something we'd read in class, and she's older than the "traditional" college-age student (though she's very youthful-looking). So I didn't regard it as a "coming out." In fact, I somehow felt that her sexual self-identity was normal, perhaps even routine, to her. I daresay that the way I relate to my own gender and sexual identity is probably newer for me than hers is for her.
In another assignment, she said (again, in relation to something we'd read in class) that she never has never been with a man, and never had interest (at least sexually) in them. Before she realized she had feelings for women, she said, the other girls in her class had boyfriends and she tried to believe what her family told her: that her "turn" hadn't come yet.
Now, when you teach a work of literature, your students (at least some of them) are sure to relate something or another about it to some experience or another in their own lives. I do not discourage that, for that is often the "gateway" for students. Some have told me some very personal stories. So, in a sense, what Matilda did wasn't so unusual, at least to me. Still, I somehow felt that she was revealing even more of herself to me than students normally do.
Then I started to think--especially after I noticed her gaze and her smile--that she was trying to tell me something more than the connection she found between her experience and the reading.
Of course, I have no intention of pursuing a relationship with her. Certainly, I would never do it while she was my student. But I wouldn't go on a date with her even after she has completed the course with me. For one thing, if she's still in school after that, it would definitely lead to some awkward moments. And, for another, I realize that my allure (such as it is) would probably be gone once I'm not her prof any more. The fact that we are in the same class (albeit in different roles) might be the only thing we have in common.
But, even so, I find her attraction to me even more affirming than the first time a man was attracted to me after I started living as Justine. (At least, he was the first one that I noticed.) He was a Puerto Rican artist, whom I'll call Dario, about a decade or so older than me. When I "confessed" who I really was to him, he said he was willing to stay with me until my operation--which, at that point, was still well into the future--and beyond. In fact, he said, he wanted me as a woman.
Dario also insisted that, sexually, he was interested only in women. I had my doubts then, which were later confirmed. That wasn't the reason I didn't go out with him, though. I just didn't sense that we were terribly compatible in other ways.
On the other hand, I am sure Matilda has never been interested in men. I wouldn't care if anyone I dated had relations with both genders, as long as he or she were honest and disease-free. But I know--or, at least, I've surmised from what I've seen--that she isn't interested in any manifestation of my Y chromosome. I've run into a few women who seemed to want me to be a boyfriend, only better. That's not what I'm sensing in Matilda.
So, as strange as this attraction is, I'm enjoying it. We probably will never see each other again once the course is over. Perhaps one or both of us will have come to know ourselves better as a result of this.