Friday, July 07, 2017

Drip, Drip, Drip…

When I am a guest lecturer one of the things that talk about are microaggressions, I say it is not the one drip of a dripping faucet that gets to you but rather that constant drip, drip, drip that gets to you.
On Anti-Transgender Microaggressions
Academics want to know and explore critically, writes Francis Walker, but the way in which that curiosity is expressed in relation to trans people is fundamentally unbalanced.
Higher Ed
By Francis Walker
July 7, 2017

Not more than two weeks after I started my master's degree in English literature, the department chair sent an email to everyone, including the other graduate students, detailing my gender transition. Noting his mistake, he apologized to me minutes later, explaining that he had accidentally sent the email to the department email list. At the time, my legal name was in the process of being changed, and he was explaining to an incoming professor why there was a discrepancy on the roster.

His intent in writing the email was not malicious. But, in reality, he outed me as trans to the entire department. And the way the chair interacted with me, the way my cohort interacted with me and the language the chair used to describe my transition couldn't be undone. It affected me for the duration of my two-year master's degree.
Yes! Once you are outed everything changes; I am on many non-trans forums and I started out with no one knowing that I am trans and on a couple of forums I accidently outed myself and on others no one knows that I am trans. On the forums that they found out that I was trans there was a change in members toward me, some positive, some negative but there was a noticeable shift.

Back to the topic, microaggressions…
Most "Conditionally Accepted" readers are probably already familiar with microaggressions -- those brief, commonplace exchanges that do not seem harmful on the surface but, in reality, express a power imbalance and suggest the inferiority of marginalized people. Transgender theorist Julia Serano describes the culture we live in as cissexist, meaning that in the spectrum of power of cis/trans, it is cisgender people (those who identify with their sex assigned at birth) who maintain power and control. That entails cis people’s regularly committing cissexist microaggressions against trans people, and those seemingly small slights lead to much larger consequences.

One of the most common examples of a cissexist microaggression is asking a transgender person if they have had "the surgery." The question implies that there is only one surgery (not true), that the surgery is the only way the person can be recognized as a “real” woman or man (also not true) and that the individual asking the question has the right to ask and know about the transgender person's genitals (obviously not true). The last connotation, at its core, is the one I want to focus on in more depth here, as it can be the most harmful in one-on-one relationships, including those in academe -- like the connections we have with our department chairs or supervisors.
When I was in grad school, everyone knew I was trans. As I like to say if you can’t tell I’m trans you need glasses and a hearing aid.

In one class that I taught one student wrote in their journal,
When it was announced that we would have a guest speaker for our next class I originally thought nothing of it. I’ve had a good experience with guest speakers in the TCPCG program so far and I was excited to hear what the guest lecturer would say. When I walked into class on Wednesday I remember seeing the back of a tall woman standing in front of our class, thinking she was our guest, and proceeded to sit down and open up my computer. About 5 minutes later the guest came forward and she said that we were going to start the lecture. Once the guest lecturer starting talking and I began to look at her a bit more in detail, I realized something very interesting - our guest speaker was a transsexual [sic].

Now being an educated grad student I was fully aware of was exactly a transsexual was and that the transexual [sic] community is growing every day, however, as far as I know, this was my first time meeting one. The weird thing however was that it didn’t seem like I was meeting a transsexual [sic], but rather just another women - a guest lecturer. Once you get past the deep voice and the 6’2” figure, there was nothing weird or different here, just another woman. When the lecture started I was expecting to learn all about life as a transsexual, and while she did touch on this a little, she was focused more on the big picture. The picture being that there are thousands of transsexuals [sic] and people dreaming of being a different gender all around us, and often times they either go unnoticed or are looked as weirdly or differently. I think the message she was trying to tell us is that although on the outside we may look a little strange, it is really who they are on the inside that matters.
Another student wrote,
One thing that stood out to me was the discussion of microaggressions. We had just learned about microaggressions in our previous class! I think that hearing Diana’s perspective enhanced my understanding of microaggressions. Many of the questions that she said never to ask or say are things that I could easily see well-meaning people saying unwittingly. For example, “have you hadthe surgery?” “I would have never known you were a male!” “Which bathroom do you use?” “What was your real name?” and “When did you decide to become a woman?” are all things that I can imagine people would say if they were trying to be kind or genuinely trying to understand her experience. I’m glad that I’ve been taught to be more sensitive about these types of matters and now I can see why it’s actually very rude to say any of these things.
The thing that I like to point out is that yeah you misgendered them and they flew off the handle and you think that we are overly sensitive but what you might not realize is that you were the tenth person to misgender them that day.

This is the video that I use in class…

And this is a new video that I was thinking on using in its place

Thoughts? Do you like one video better?

1 comment:

  1. I like the first video better, the one with the mosquitos. It spells it out very quickly and clearly. I had a hard time figuring out what the second one was about for the first several frames, and I think it would be easier to lose your audience with that one.