“I thought you’d be interested in this.”

3 01 2011

Disclaimer: This post is meant as a humourous observation, not a complaint.

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A funny thing phenomenon began to happen at work when people finally wrapped their minds around my transition. To show how supportive and understanding they were, people sent me links to every single article on transsexuals and transsexuality they came across. It’s quite hilarious. I don’t know how many emails I got that were the subject line looked like: “FWD: insert news headline about transsexuality or a transsexual person here” and in which the contents read something like: “Hi Jacky, I came across this and I thought you’d be interested” followed by a link to something like Chaz Bono’s transition or Thomas Beatie’s pregnancy. Even more hilarious were the links to “Trans 101” type articles or articles on how to respect a trans co-worker.

But, since the spirit behind it all was well-intentioned, and since my colleagues were mostly supportive in spite of their difficulties in wrapping their brains around my genderqueer identity, I simply replied “Thank you” and left it at that. I didn’t point out that they were the ones who needed to read the “how to respect” and 101 articles. I just didn’t feel like getting into it. And it’s not that they were disrespectful, it’s that they were SO afraid to just come out and ask me questions in spite of all my reassurances that they could, so long as it didn’t concern my genitals.

The only time I reacted a bit differently, and it was just for fun, was when I met up with a co-worker for coffee. He handed over a magazine that his sister in law had given him to give to me because “she thought I’d be interested in this.” Right away, I spotted a headline for an article about an MTF reporter somewhere in the states and how she transitioned on the job. Yet, I looked at him quizzically and asked why she thought I’d be interested in a magazine about the business world. Anyone who knows me should indeed know better. He opened the magazine to the “appropriate page” with an incredulous look and that was that. He didn’t even get that I was screwing with him.

Oh well. I think I’ll start reciprocating and send all my hetero friends from work clippings from advice columns that specifically refer to heterosexual arrangements and say: “I thought this might interest you” and to all my cis friends from work (which would be all of them) clippings from magazines catering to their specific gender and say: “I thought this might interest you.”

Hey, it’s all in good fun. Cause sometimes, ya just gotta laugh.

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6 responses

4 01 2011
Faggot Boi

This is interesting. I also am transitioning on the job in an academic context and have not experienced anything of the sort (other than a genuinely interesting question from a colleague whose husband shares an office with the Transgender Law Project about what non-gendered symbols could be used on bathroom doors to indicate what kinds of facilities – toilets and/or urinals – could be found within them). Aside from people apologizing about pronoun mistakes, neither I nor my colleagues ever refer to my transness. I think part of this is that I let people know how I identified, in an extremely economically-worded email, as soon as I began the job. I never spoke to anyone about how I identified, what led me to transition, or what type of transition I was pursuing. (I don’t even think it’s occurred to most of them that I could be taking testosterone). This is a situation I’ve created, and I feel very comfortable with it.

4 01 2011
Jacky V.

That *is* interesting. Your wording and manner of dealing with “coming out” might have something to do with it. Also, I wonder if it has something to do with type of discipline. I’m in a social science/humanities/women’s studies context and the people who sent me lots of articles tended to be faculty in these departments. Support staff (cause I’m friends with lots of them) and people from other departments, not so much. So I have a feeling this is often stuff people were coming across in their search for articles for their classes, since gender and sexuality are recurring topics. If you’re in something like business, physics, etc, maybe that wouldn’t come up so much.

As for discussions of identity, etc…I’d been having those conversations with colleagues that I was friendly with, at the bar mostly, long before I announced my transition so the whole transition thing took place in a context where my gender had already been announced as ambiguous and non-conventional.

So, I’m guessing all these things contribute to me getting lots of articles by email 🙂

4 01 2011
Faggot Boi

No, I actually teach in a Humanities/Social Sciences context as well so discipline doesn’t explain the discrepancy. I think it’s more to do with how I set the tone about my transition – I just didn’t create a context in which it’s a legitimate subject of discussion. Come to think of it, the folks that DO send me articles are Women’s Studies faculty from my previous institution. I have a personal relationship to both of them, I’ve discussed my transition with both, and both have a scholarly interest in trans issues, so it didn’t seem like the kind of clueless forwarding that you’re discussing here.

4 01 2011
Jacky V.

Interesting. Yeah, so I guess the only major variable here *is* your tone. Fair enough. I actually enjoy engaging in conversations about gender and have for a long time so there was no real way around it for me. And I actually *do* want my transition to be a subject of conversation because I find there are so many misconceptions among even my most well-intentioned colleagues. Problem is, they don’t *ask*. They just assume. And then they call me defensive when I call them on their assumptions. *sigh*. Not all of them of course, but a significant number.

As for the forwarding…yeah. I think it’s their way of showing that they’re interested. Or that they’re progressive and accepting. In any case, I just find it really funny : )

8 01 2011
nix

haha! i know exactly what you mean! it hasn’t really been my academic peers but people from my non-academic workplaces have often sent me news items or links to (for example) oprah’s various trans related stories or whathaveyou. i choose to see it as their attempt to show me that they’re interested and they’re ok with it, and after the first few times it happened i pretty much ignored the content of the pieces and didn’t try to engage with the (often very ciscentric, sexist and heteronormative) ideas underlying them. i just have a little giggle to myself and think of it as being kind of cute.

academic friends and colleagues are much more likely to tell me about random trans- and drag-related films that they’ve seen or heard about (because “trans cinema” is the two word summary of what i’m researching).

8 01 2011
Jacky V.

Hye Nix! Yeah, I think it’s cute too and have also mostly ignored the articles because…yeah. What you said.

I think it’s interesting that it’s your non-academic peers and that your academic peers are more likely to talk about films. I’ve had a few people mention films. One of the first was Boys Don’t Cry and I was actually really glad that time because it was about someone on the trans masculine spectrum so it showed that at least they had heard of us!!

It’s funny though because I have to admit this was not completely a new phenomenon when I transitioned. I’ve always been out at work about being bi/queer so people were already sending me articles on “gay” stuff and telling me I should really see Brokeback Mountain (I still haven’t.) So it was more like a switch to trans stuff and…in greater numbers because I made such a splash with my coming out, I guess 🙂

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