In a weird space & those little things that mean a lot

“Look, Transman, I proclaimed the death of the author decades ago. You’re deluding yourself with this whole writing career fantasy.” Roland Barthes as himself.

Transman’s a bit of a glutton for punishment and signed up for a class even though he’s already finished with school. Transman just can’t get enough of talking about books and publishing or of spreading himself thin. Anyway, we’ll get to all that in a minute.

Transman sees and hears himself every damn day, so he has no idea whether he looks and sounds male. (You know how you can’t hear the sound of your own voice when you speak and are dismayed to hear it on recordings?  Or, how you see a giant fat moon-face in photos of the Thanksgiving family reunion, wonder who that unknown relative is, and then are shocked to realize it is you? That’s what’s going on here.)

However, the scale seems to be tipping toward manliness. When Transman speaks to strangers on the phone or goes through a drive-through (hence the giant fat moon-face), the person on the other end calls him “sir.” These folks don’t swap to “ma’am” when they see him as often as they used to.

“Yes, I did get new glasses. Thanks for noticing.” Michael Caine as Transman.

Transman has started having the bizarre experience of not being recognized by people from his old life. There are many people Transman hasn’t told about his transition because he figures they don’t cross paths very often and there’s no pressing need for them to know. You get kind of tired of “coming out” over and over. But, lately, he’s run into people from the past and there hasn’t been a spark of recognition at all. Transman doesn’t want to be unfriendly, but he also doesn’t feel like just going up to people in public and saying hello and having to explain what’s going on when it’s clear that he has become a stranger to them.

Here are some recent non-run-ins with the past:

“Who is that very old grad student who keeps eyeing us?” Edward Said as Transman’s former professor. “I have no idea. Maybe we should call security.” Mahmoud Darwish as the ex-classmate. “By the way, can you sign my bag of Doritos?”

A professor that Transman took four different classes from during grad school has walked by him twice a week for the past three weeks and not blinked an eye in recognition–even when the professor awkwardly waited for an elevator and smiled blandly at Transman the whole time. The professor now gives Transman the curt nod he usually uses on the new crop of grad students who know the professor, but whom he doesn’t know yet. (The professor is one of those folks who is known in his area of scholarship and is a draw for bringing in grad students, and more importantly, grant money; he’s used to new students staring at him as if they’ve spotted a celebrity in line at Subway and are torn between leaving the celeb alone and going up asking him or her to autograph a sandwich wrapper or something.)

A former classmate from Transman’s master’s program is also still hanging around the university as an adjunct and, like the former professor, has walked by Transman several times over the past week and given a friendly “hi, I guess you’re new in the department” smile without greeting him or seeming to recognize him.

“Hi, honey, I just had the strangest thing happen … yeah … I was talking to someone for 10 minutes and he seemed to know me, but I have no idea who he is. Maybe you’d better come home early.” Diane Wiest as Transman’s former co-worker.

A former co-worker dropped by the office to say hi to the old crew and she didn’t recognize Transman even after they spoke for a couple of minutes. He felt a little sorry for her because he could tell she was worried that she was having “a senior moment” even though she’s only in her early 60s.

So, basically, Transman is still not sure how people are seeing him, which ties into the next part of this post.

One thing that helps a transperson be seen as their target gender is when people use the correct name and pronouns when talking to or referring to them. This gives other people the correct gender information without putting the transperson in an awkward position. Using the correct name and pronouns in this way also helps keep the transperson safe;  for example, it may help a transperson be accepted at face value when they go  into the bathroom or changing room of their target gender.

Transman’s new teacher has done a bang-up job in being an ally by using the correct name and pronouns in class.

“Transman, pay attention! I am going to teach you all you need to know about the publishing industry.” Maxwell Perkins as Transman’s new professor.

Transman emailed the professor before the semester started and explained the situation and the fact that university-generated faculty course lists would likely have Transman’s birth name on them. On the first day, the professor substituted Transman’s chosen name for the one on the list and consistently calls him by his preferred name.

No one in the class has looked at either Transman or the professor as if they were bonkers, so everyone is either super polite and not questioning things or they’re seing Transman as a regular guy.

This little gesture by the professor has made a huge difference in Transman’s participation in the class. In the past, he was the kind of student who contributed a lot in writing, but very little verbally, in class. Now, Transman isn’t afraid to speak up in class and offer his opinion on the readings.

Testosterone plays a big role here, too. The lower voice definitely boosts Transman’s confidence about speaking in public and not getting misgendered. Testosterone also generally boosts Transman’s self-confidence. For example, in the small-group work in previous classes, Transman usually sat and listened and let people give him whatever tasks they didn’t want to do. This time, Transman has been more outspoken about what role he wants to take and was the old guy directing the young pups so they stayed on track. (He’s a good 20 years older than his classmates and is that non-traditional student who doesn’t have a lot of patience for wasting time on departmental gossip and ego-stroking. “I got shit to do; let’s divide this sucker up and get going.”)

Speaking of having things to do, Transman better wrap this up and start his homework.

“When you kids are ready to get serious, I’ll be right over here. Until then, keep it quiet; I’m reading Barthes and seething.” Hugh Laurie as Transman.

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