27 December 2014

Stranded For Coming Out

People sometimes tell me I'm lucky to be a writer and in the academic world.  They believe--with more than some justification--that "educated" and "creative" people are more receptive, if not welcoming, to transgender people.

Now, if you think I've used a lot of qualifiers in the preceding sentences, you're right and I have good reason for doing so.  On the whole, I probably fared better after "coming out" and starting my transition than I might have in other work environments.  Still, there were people who said and did things that were inappropriate and reflected ignorance if not outright hostility.  Interestingly, I never experienced such treatment from students or fellow writers.  A few faculty members chilled toward me, but most of the difficulties I experienced came from administrators. That may have had more to do with the particular administrators in question than with any general principle.  

Fortunately, I have good relations with my current colleagues.  Some have known me "from the beginning", if you will, while others I met during and since my transition.  

So, perhaps, I can say--as Dan Savage likes to tell LGBT teenagers who are being bullied--"It gets better!"  At least, I'd like to be able to say that to Meredith Talusan.

I've never met her.  In fact, I learned of her only from a news item posted on ABS-CBN News yesterday. She's a graduate student in literature at Cornell University, where she recently applied for a professional position.  As a scholarship student, she's entitled to free on-campus housing and meals.

But now she may lose those--and, perhaps, her scholarship and standing as a student.  No, she didn't fail a class or miss a deadline.  Rather, she had the temerity to protest the harassment she experienced from her housemate and, apparently, others in the university community.  She says people heckle her with comments like "You're a man dressed as a woman!" and "You lost your penis!"

What makes her situation all the more disconcerting, at least for her, is that she's thousands of miles from her home in the Philippines. During an impromptu protest she and some friends staged against her mistreatment, they chanted, "This is what democracy looks like!"  

Like so many who come from faraway countries to work and study in the US, she works hard toward her goal of "a better life".  But her path to that life has been detoured, at least for now, as she was suspended from the house in which she'd been living and has been denied access to meals.  But she has refused to leave and has filed an appeal.