Archive for November, 2011


The Writer’s “Privilege”

25 November, 2011

My current bathtub book, so-called because I read it while soaking and it was cheap enough I will not feel bad if it gets wet, is Vigil by Robert Masello. The story centers on two major plots. The A plot is the discovery of a demon-like fossil in a submerged cave in Italy. The B plot is a Hebraic scholar translating a very old, very sacred text. Through the course of events both fossil and scholar end up in New York. The former is being analyzed by a pair of professors (one American and one Italian) the latter is doing his analyzing in the spare bedroom of his wealthy, influential father’s penthouse to the annoyance of the step-mother young enough to be his sister. I have enjoyed the story so far; the tale is well written. The problem I have, however, is the author’s view of the world.

The author’s tone is quite clear and he is, unfortunately, a bit of a bigot. To begin we have our Hebraic scholar. He is the neurotic son of the “wealthy Jewish merchant.” His neuroses are crippling without the medicine prescribed by his psychiatrist and he comes across as an educated, unfunny Woody Allen type. Next we have the women in the book. each one, of course is stunning, with the anticipated exception of the “next door neighbor” type wife who is friends with the American professor’s wife. This character is average and is also in constant spats with her husband. Another stereotype. As for the gorgeous women, the first is beautiful and panicky and needs to be rescued. The second (the American’s wife) is stunning and knowledgeable of Renaissance artwork, but her clients are more interested in her body than the artwork. The third is a bright and beautiful young graduate student who is feisty and aggressive in her questions. And the fourth, is the young, sexy, conniving, gold-digging step-mother. If I did not know better, I would swear the misogynistic author was channeling Ian Fleming.

The story is well written and has enough suspense that I keep reading, in spite of the author’s clearly  privileged, WASP-male perspective of the world. I would have to be an asshole to say Masello cannot write and even then it would be a lie. The action and pacing had caught me up and propelled me through the first third of the book, until I came to this paragraph on page 141:

He came around the side of the massive old building–yellow brick that had long since turned brown–and the mobs immediately thinned out. There were revelers, but they were bent on making their way back to the action. By the time he turned the corner and was crossing behind the loading area, there were just a few stragglers–and the ever-preset transvestite, a tall black man in a red suede coat, leaning into the rear window of an idling limousine. Working even on Halloween night, Russo thought; there was something laudable in that [emphasis mine].

The passage turned my stomach.

To begin, there is no reason for the inclusion of the transvestite prostitute. We had not encountered the character before and I doubt we will again. Notice that the author makes it a point to say the character is male when simply saying transvestite would have been sufficient as, according to the mental health community, only men can suffer transvestism; women who wear men’s clothes are expressing a natural though ineffective desire to better themselves. (Clearly, writers are not the only ones who can be sexist.) The only reason to include the statement the character is male is to heighten the falsity and deviance of the character’s existence and to enable “his” use as a prop to create a seedy, ominous, surrealistic feel. Next on my list of complaints, Masello made the transvestite a prostitute, aside from being incredibly offensive in its stereotyping, it is also a gigantic white-male writer cliché. “Oh, I need something creepy and clearly divergent and wrong, I know I’ll include a trans sex worker.” Adding further insult is the fact this is the novel’s only black character. A black, transvestite, sex worker in a dark alley catering the whims of a wealthy, sex-fiend in a limo. “Yep,” says the writer, “that should creep people out.” Finally, the only good quality the character has is a solid work ethic because it is Halloween night. Hence the description of the transvestite as “ever-present,” as in this is not a costume but how this person is everyday. Never mind the struggles, racism, cissexism, and general discrimination this character would clearly face as a marginalized member of society. The bravery to be oneself in spite of those odds is nothing, but to be working on Halloween, well that is “laudable.”

And what really pisses me off is the rest of the book is well written enough that I am going to finish reading it because I need to know what happens next.

God damn.


When I was Your Age: Caitlin on Computers

24 November, 2011

I am amused by students’ complaints regarding how I missed a post or message from them. They are quite indignant that their message should sit unread in my inbox for longer than twenty minutes and they are horrified when I explain to them I do not check my email or Twitter account after five during the work week and never on a weekend or holiday. Their eyes go wide with fright at the prospect of not having near instantaneous access to someone. “But . . . what if I have a question?” they ask in a voice bordering hysteria. I just smile genially; in essence patting them on the head and sending them on their way.

When I was in high school, there was no Twitter, no boards in the classroom other than the blackboard, and teachers did not have e-mail accounts. What little Internet there was existed only in privatized groups. The ARPANET had been decommissioned but it would be another five years before the first commercialization of the internet. I remember, my senior year the earth sciences teacher showed a small group of us he thought capable of understanding and appreciating the sneak peek (a total of three students) a data list he could access over the phone line through the then NSFNET. He was the most technologically advanced person we had ever met and his over-the-phone-line-encyclopedic-thing was straight out of an Isaac Asimov story. What the teachers did have was landlines at their home but their numbers were typically unlisted, so that was no help to us. We got our assignments by listening in class and writing them down in our notebooks. The advanced and savvy kids stored this information in their TrapperKeeper. If we had a question about the work after the school day we utilized the LSINET (Localized Student Information Network), that is, we used our parent’s landline to call their parent’s landline and we politely asked Mr. or Mrs. Soandso if we could speak to their daughter or son about a school assignment. If the LSINET failed, we sat down, reviewed our class notes, and did our best on the assignment, hoping we understood enough to get a C, which at that point still meant average, and not an F, back when there was still a letter for “you fucked up”—er, “failed.”

College was even worse. The professors were only available briefly after class or in a limited window called “office hours” and those coveted times were by appointment only. The appointment was attained by scheduling it with the professor in the ten minutes s/he was available after class and then dutifully trudging cross-campus to her/his office for the appointment. We did not cancel or reschedule these appointments because we would not be able to arrange another one until after the next class, if your failure to show had not annoyed the professor to the point s/he would not meet with you.

The NSFNET was finally decommissioned and the Internet commercialized my first year of college. We had one computer that could access it. It was located in the library, you had to sign-up in advance to use it, and all we knew how to do was look up the previous night’s David Letterman’s Top Ten list and Shakespeare quotes. There were no pictures. Only text and text that pretended to be a picture called ASCII Art. They looked liked this:

oo )_______
|_ / \………….|\
……..| |____ | |.\
……..| |…..W| |

Mostly they were of cows doing funny things, like kicking a lantern and setting Chicago on fire.

I did not get my first e-mail address until my Sophmore year of college. To access it I had to trudge cross-campus to the Gilbert Science Center’s computer lab. This was an amazing place. A whole long table full of computers that all had the ability to access the Internet through a special phone line specifically devoted to that purpose! In other words, you would not get booted off by an incoming phone call—just lagging connectivity, inactivity while you were reading the page’s text, or a host of other mysterious reasons ranging from faulty switches to squirrels chewing through the landline. Of course, once I got there I did not know what to do with my e-mail address because the only other people I knew who had e-mail addresses were professors who never checked their inboxes and other students, most of whom were sitting beside me wondering what to do with their e-mail addresses. So I did what every techno savvy student did. I joined a list serve. A list serve was like a chat room only slower because your e-mail message went to the central hub that disseminated it out to the e-mails of everyone else signed up on that list. I joined a The X-Files list serve, proving that the Internet always has been and always will be the home base for obsessive fandoms.

My senior year I got my first desktop computer, an E Machine. Now I was cool because I could access the Internet through the phone line in my dorm room. Of course, I got kicked off every time some tried to call.

Eventually the Internet got pictures and web pages. This was followed by IM—wow! a fast list serve that does not flood your inbox. In graduate school I was told I had to join this new personalized site called MySpace. Then it was the facebook, back when it still had the “the” and you needed a university e-mail address to join. Now it is a mishmash of posts, tweets, “likes,” YouTube vlogs, wikis, and tumblogs. All accessed from a computer that fits in the palm of your hand with touch screen input. The whole techno culture is mind blowing. But, in spite of these advancements, I still prefer my students pay attention in class and ask me questions after the lecture.


Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge: Days 1 – 15

22 November, 2011

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 1.

1) When did you realize the term transgender referred to you?

I cannot remember when I first realized the term was descriptive of me. It was, maybe, in college when I realized the Internet could be used to find information you cannot ask others about. Of course, the first several sites Netscape took me to were “she-male” porn sites. Imagine, my first exposure to the idea there were others out there like me and it was porn. No wonder it took another decade plus a few for me to accept that it was descriptive of me and I had to do something about it. Despite always kinda knowing, I have only embraced who I am in the last seven months.

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 2.

2) How did you choose your name, and what names were you thinking about using and why?

Choosing a name is difficult because, like your original name, the plan is you are stuck with it for the rest of your life. You certainly do not want to choose something that will come back to bite you in the ass. At first I was going to go with a feminized version of my birth-name, ——-, but after thought on the issue I decided it would make it difficult for those close to me to remember to use proper pronouns or to see me as I am and not as I was. This is a bit of a sad thing for me, because I liked my birth name (and I do occasionally use it with online games like Farmville, I can’t believe I just outed myself as a Farmvillian).

I had also considered the name Melody or River, but decided against this because the choice was based on admiration for a strong female character from television. This works fine for a nickname that you can disregard later, but I did not want to go with that as my actual name because it seemed a bit flippant and, god forbid, I should find myself hating the character later and thus my name.

I wanted something that would have meaning to me, but also honor my family—as my parents and I still have a strong bond. I talked to them about what name they had considered for a baby girl. Their choice: Guinevere. Now, Guinevere is a bit archaic for my tastes and I cannot stand the nickname Gwen (no offense to all you Gwens out there). I did a little research and learned that Guinevere is Gaelic (Welsh to be exact) and the Anglo-Saxon version is Jennifer. Jennifer also happened to align in popularity with my birth-name from my birth-year (serendipity). My parents liked it and it was confirmed for me by the use of Jenny in Doctor Who—which struck me as a brilliant and subtle reference to a show that inspired my original thoughts on regenerating and identity. It all came together so perfectly that, in retrospect, there could never have been another choice.

As for my middle name, I let my brother pick it for me. I really wanted him to be part of the process and for him to know how much his support and love means to me.

That’s how I ended up Jennifer “Jenny” Caitlin. But I still get a thrill when people call me by my nickname: River.

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 3.

3) Have you ever been outed?

I have been outed a couple of times. The one that stands out most clearly in my mind happened about six months ago. I was at the grocery store picking up a few items and the cashier in the check out lane decided it was his responsibility to make sure everyone else in line knew I “was male.” The person behind me let me use their Safeway card and the cashier said, “Thank you for helping HIM with HIS groceries.” There was a caustic tone every time he used the male pronouns. He was trying to remind me of “what I was” and to make me ashamed of who I am.

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 4.

4) How did your family take it when you came out?

My immediate family took it well overall. My brother has been the most supportive. He is a recovering alcoholic so he understands what it is like to be trapped in a state that is not who you are. He has been a rock of stability as the ground quakes with change. My Mum has been pretty cool with it. She is an aging hippie (one of the originals) so she is very into the ideals of freedom and self-expression. My Dad was the one I was most worried about. He is a the epitome of manhood and, although he is accepting and loves me all the same, he was also hoping there was another way of finding peace. He asked why I could not just be a bachelor. I had to explain to him that it was not about who I might have sex with but who I was; I could not be a bachelor anymore than I could be a playboy. He has moments still where he is very sad, but he is supportive and is starting to see that I am still me, just more me.

Extended family has been a mixed bag. My grandparents (surprisingly) have been very supportive. Most of my extended family well that all depends on if we are talking about the maternal side or paternal side. Let’s just say the maternal side has taken the news better.

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 5.

5) Are you active in the trans community or LGBTQ community?

Yes, I am. One of the unique things about my regeneration is I am more socially/sociologically/societally conscious. One of the major reasons for this is the amount of time and energy I now have.

Before, I was expending all my time and energy on maintaining my disguise. Being who I was (read: who society wanted me to be) was a constant vigil, an unending self-monitoring, that never went anywhere because it took all my effort to stand in one place. People described me as steadfast and a bedrock. That was because I was unable to progress beyond the illusion into deeper territory.

Also, without the Trans* and LGBTQ community I would have no local friends. Zip. Zilch. Zero. People who knew the previous incarnation have expressed disinterest in the regenerated me or, on a few occasions, out-and-out hostility toward me. The Trans* and LGBTQ community, though they did not know me from Lilith, accepted and supported me, so I do everything I can to show my acceptance and support of them.

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 6.

6) Who was the first person you told about being Trans*?

That is a hard question to answer. I have told elements of my story to people through out the years but because I did not have the terminology or understanding I could not make myself clear to them whom were even more confused by what I was trying to say than I was. The first person to piece my muddled confessions into a coherent picture was my brother. He did not put all the thoughts in order but he gathered enough pieces into one place that he was able to make a clear image of them. He has also been my greatest source of love and support.

Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 7.

7) Who do you look up to?

  • My Mum and Grandam
  • Kate Bornstein, Julia Serano, Jennifer Boylan
  • T. S. Elliot, Carl Sandberg, Elizabeth Bishop, Silvia Plath, e. e. cummings
  • Diana Joseph, Anne MacCaffery, Ursula K. LeGuin, Amy Bender
  • A
  • Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 8.

    8 ) How do you deal with being read/mis-gendered in the beginning of transitioning by people?

    It all depends on the day and my emotional state. Sometimes I get embarrassed and hang my head in shame. Sometimes I get offend and I correct them. Sometimes I just cannot be bothered with it.

    It is the first that is the most disturbing for me. Why should I feel shame because someone else cannot figure out who I am? Why should I feel embarrassed because someone else doesn’t like who I am? I don’t understand the insistent need to apologize to people that I have. This need angers me even more than the mis-gendering (and the mis-gendering is definitely angering, I am in feminine clothing and have breasts, fucking get it right!) It is after the intense burst of shame that I am most angry with myself. Angry that I am so compliant, angry at the damage over-exposure to testosterone has done to my body, angry at the world for being so closed minded I had to wait thirty years before it was safe to admit who I was.

    I don’t hate my life. I do hate how broken and damaged it is.

    Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 9.

    9) What is something positive about being trans?

    Having lived as both genders I have a deeper, richer insight into the human condition and that makes me a better novelist.

    Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 10.

    10) What are some of your fears in regards to being trans?

    I love how this question is phrased. What are some of your fears? If I listed all of my fears, the post would be ridonkulously long. I’ll just go with my top three.

    3. That my body will develop abnormally. This is a rather legitimate concern. I found myself with the wrong physicality to begin with, so how do I know things will not get muddled again. And there is the question of testosterone damage. In spite of being on HRT there were still thirty-four years of over-exposure to T. So I am very concerned about how my body will develop.

    2. Being a trans woman will make it impossible to do my job. As a teacher my credibility is an important issue. If I do not come across as sound of intellect and psyche, the students will disregard my instruction (in regards to both content and life-application). I am ranked, nationally, in the top one percent of English instructors yet my identity as a trans woman matters more to most parents and students than my qualifications as an exceptional instructor.

    1. I will never know anonymity again. At this point in the journey I am open about who I am, partially because I believe others knowing about this journey and condition will increase tolerance and social acceptance and partially because I cannot consistently pass (sometimes I wonder if I ever pass or if on those occasions where I seem to I am just interacting with one of the few people in this world who know how to be polite and respectful). Will I always be open? I do not have an answer to that, but I do know that I would love to walk down the street without attracting attention, without the stares, without the comments, and without the laughter. My biggest fear is how things are now is how they will always be.

    Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 11.

    11) How do you manage dysphoria?

    I do not like the phrasing of this question. “Manage” makes dysphoria sound bland and inconsequential like how do you manage your portfolio or how do you manage your morning routine? I do not manage my dysphoria, or perhaps I do not manage it well.

    One thing I try to do is avoid mirrors. Mirrors always set the dysphoria off. I look in it and the reflection is not the mental image I have of myself. Hair, facial structure, brow. No good. None of it. Mirrors are the enemy.

    When I was a kid that was literally the case. I had this phobia around my reflection (to a lesser extent I still do); because it was so dramatically different than how I thought I looked, I was afraid it was another person. Some mirror alternate in his universe and he was trying to get out and that’s why I did not see my reflection.

    Crazy, huh? That is why I do not like the phrasing. You cannot manage dysphoria; you have to beat it down with everything you have in you and occasionally you win.

    Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 12.

    12) What are you doing to stay healthy for transitioning mentally and physically?

    I am doing the obvious, of course, which is eating right, taking vitamins, and getting enough sleep. I find my appetite is in flux. Sometimes I am ravenous and other times I don’t feel like eating at all. Today it is the latter, but I make sure I eat at least two meals even if I am not hungry.

    Another obvious thing that I am doing is seeing a therapist. I say that is obvious because you cannot transition without a therapist (and a minimum of two therapists when you decide to have surgery). I also have a support group that I try to go to on a regular basis (I have not had the best luck with that lately) and I stay in touch with my immediate family (they are very supportive),

    Making sure I get out and do social things is also important. My natural tendency is to isolate myself. If I follow that natural inclination, though, I will exacerbate my depression, which I have always come by naturally and the dysphoria is not kind on.

    Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 13.

    13) Bathrooms?

    As I am a woman I use the women’s bathroom.

    ‘Nuf said.

    Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 14.

    14) What are some of your passing tips or things you do to pass?

    • Always, always put on a little foundation before leaving the house.

    • Develop a scheduled routine for any prep work you need to do and give yourself time to do it well; this is your safety!

    • Do not throw out your pantyhose with runs in them. Instead, cut the leggings off and you have a pair of binding panties to aid in tucking.

    • Express your style. Trying too hard to look like someone else will result in you feeling nervous an awkward either of which can prevent you from successfully passing.

    • Be confident. If you are confident and comfortable in your self-expression you while pass easier and/or people will notice your confidence and be less likely to bug you.

    Regeneration: 30 Day Trans* Challenge. Day 15.

    15) How have you embraced your trans* identity?

    Admitting it to myself and to people I know is a big step in embracing my identity. A lot of times I feel like I am going through AA. First, admit there is a problem. Hi, my name is River and my subconscious sex and biological sex do not match.

    My journey has also wandered through the grieving process. I had to give myself time to mourn and to be angry at the universe for having been afflicted with the wrong biology. There were other things, however, that also required mourning. Lost friendships, the change in how people respond to me, the dramatic loss of respect and trust, and—most painful—the end of my marriage. There needed to be time for the pain and time for the healing. I am still healing, but in coming through the pain I can embrace who I truly am and who I have become.

    I see us all as a series of snap shots strung together through space-time, the ultimate foray into timelapse photography. As a result there is me and there is Me. The me I am now is just a single image throughout a lifetime of images whereas the true Me is the sum of those images, a view of the whole. Each me is different from the other mes, sometimes by small degrees and sometimes radical shifts, and each must be embraced for without each one there can be no Me.


    “Stupid Bitch” (a Caitlin on . . . post)

    16 November, 2011

    4:45 pm
    Alexandria, Virginia

    Through out the day I have been receiving phone calls from a guy claiming to be from “Stream Link,” or perhaps “Streamlink” they have been asking to talk to A. I have told him repeatedly that there is no one here by that name. I have even told him my name, I have offered to take a message but he refuses to leave one. Each time he calls back in an hour. At one point the guy denied having called previously, called me a liar, and demanded I put A on the phone “right fucking now.” I hung up. He called back fifty-eight minutes later.

    This last time I told him there was no one here by the name they were looking for and if they wanted to talk to someone they could talk to me or they could waste their time trying to find A. He relented and told me he works for a company that works with Amazon and his company could help me make money from home. I asked how much do you expect me to invest and he ignored the question and continued his pitch. I asked him if he could prove he worked for Amazon. To which he replied, not for them but with them. I told him I was not interested in a pyramid scheme. He said, how is Amazon a pyramid scheme? I reminded him he did not work for Amazon only with them. He offered to prove it and all I had to do was go to a website and enter some information. I told him I was not interested in being the victim of a phishing scam.

    At this point he was becoming aggressive and I was interested only in a way to get him to stop calling. No matter what he said my reply was, I want you to remove this number from your list. He began yelling at me, called me a stupid woman, said women had no head for business, and made several demands to speak to the man of the house about this important opportunity. Each comment and demand was met with, I want you to remove this number from your list. He finally cussed me out as a stupid bitch and hung up.

    That was thirty minutes ago. We’ll see if he calls back.


    Vocality in Gender Locality

    11 November, 2011

    I have the flu. It sucks, big time. But something interesting has resulted from it. Attempting to teach and hold parent conferences with the flu for thirteen (auspicious number) hours yesterday has left me, literally, sans voice.

    This has me wondering. What would life be like without vocality. A lot of our conversations are conducted through texts, IM, Tumblr, blogs, Linkedin, and Facebook. (I am currently sharing some intimate thought with you, without ever opening my mouth.) Even my job as a teacher would only be hampered and not negated. True, I could no longer give the lectures I am famous for among the PG students; however, I could continue to teach via online courses. About the only thing that I could regret the loss of would be the ability to scream for help or to shout a warning.

    When it comes to gender, the loss of voice, might actually be a positive. I have read several people’s accounts about how their voice, falling back into its original register, outed them. I have had to work hard to feminize my voice and I do not doubt that the strain that puts my vocal cords under has contributed to my current sans vocal condition. Having no voice, would give me one less thing to worry about. One less opportunity to be outed to the world.

    I would be okay with loss of voice, if it were to happen, just as long as I could still keep the ability to intimately whisper, for when I meet that someone worth whispering to.


    Regeneratio et Politica

    5 November, 2011

    The prevailing theory on the Doctor’s regeneration and personality states the emotions, situations, and general state of being the Doctor is in just before regeneration dictate the resulting personality of the next regeneration. This theory, the idea that we are the sum of our experiences, is one of insight and verisimilitude exposing the inner workings of the world. I have noted this in my regeneration from A to River. There are so many elements of my personality shaped by my situation as I began regeneration. From my bleak outlook on the possibility of being loved (my divorce) to the Buddhist like calm of River (the inner peace found in acknowledging who I am publicly) to the political activism that drives me (resultant of my work place and colleagues). Of these elements, it is the last that is so telling to the idea of situational personality.

    As I began the regeneration process and began my (forced) public deceleration of intent, I was approached privately by a friend who—though I believe him to have been well meaning—said things I found more painful and heart wrenching than the divorce from my wife or the shunning by my extended family. He said that I was simply “[River] in a wig” and that he could accept my regeneration provided I did not “make it political.” How this came across to me was he would never see me as anything other than a fraud and that if I went down this path I would have no right to expect acceptance or fair treatment by society. It came across as, I will tolerate this choice but it is wrong and you are wrong to be open about it. That is, a denial of the right to self-determination.

    The person of whom I speak is a good man, but he is one who is a possessor of power and privilege (as defined by Kate Bornstein and the Power Pyramid). He falls victim to the same blindness that all individuals in this position incarnate: an inability to recognize their own position and how different and biased it is from the majority of human doings. I am, however, understanding and compassionate toward this state of politica caecitas because I used to be a sufferer of the condition. It took a Parkinson’s diagnosis and regenerating to shake me violently enough to knock the blinders off. We cannot blame the privileged for their blindness to their own privilege; it is a regrettable but natural state.

    Despite how forgivable his offense may be, it became a defining moment in my regenerative process. It helped open my eyes to the inherent bias in the American culture. The idea that outlaws and rebels, speakers for those with no voice, progenitors of change and revolution, protestors for equality and representation, are tolerable only in small disenfranchised doses is a linchpin holding the control of those in power in place.

    The very act of regenerating made me a threat to the comfortable universe he lived in. But how? Simple. I represent, at my core, not just an alternative lifestyle, but the idea of tolerance for and acceptance of things his political and religious institution condemns. In most cases he would ignore this existence or even condemn it, but he could not with me. I was within his sphere of influence. He knew me, respected me, and believed in my basic decency and social acceptability. The moment I began regeneration I created a violently opposing dichotomy for him. Here is a person that embodies the more noble aspects of his private philosophy that simultaneously embodies the unacceptable, morally questionable, and sinful. This left him with three possible resolutions to this conflict:

    • ignore the positive qualities
    • ignore the negative qualities
    • redefine his personal schemata

    To his credit he was not someone who could do the first, but engaging the third is such a huge undertaking it is not surprising that only the most committed or the most desperate are capable of it. This left him only one option: to ignore the aspects of who I am that are in direct conflict with his perception of me as a good human being. He had to ask me not to display these aspects in order to maintain the delicate mental and moral equilibrium his mind had created.

    This also meant that he could not acknowledge my position to influence or sway others to the type of tolerant and accepting thinking that the opposing dichotomy and my position of instructor gave me. Unable to ignore the situation’s reality, he gave me a polite ultimatum: either be quiet about this and remain friends or be public (political) and be cut off. It was the only course a rational and thinking member of the powered and privileged could take. And, predictably, since transferring to a new teaching site, I have not heard from him.

    Nor have I been capable of contacting him. Why not? Because the forced choice of being quietly myself or openly, actively, myself became a defining moment in my regenerative process. I was malleable at this point, subject to influence in a number of directions. This private conversation and subtle ultimatum pushed me in the direction of activist. I was so offended by the command’s audacity (as it was not phrased as either a request or a stance for consideration, but as an imperative declaration, “don’t make this political”) that I veered in the opposite direction. It is basic physics, sweetie, every action (the command against the political) results in a reaction opposite of and equal in strength to the original action (River becomes a political activist).

    I know that I would have been aware of the political dimension of my existence even without this conversation. The degree of awareness and participation, however, would have been reduced. I was not one who paid attention to politics before regenerating. As a member of the powered and privileged I did not need to be, my position was secure. As a new member of the disenfranchised I could have focused only on securing the limited power and position my new life afforded me, a good white woman. But I was now aware of the bias and bigotry directed at those who make-up the bottom of the Power Pyramid. I was aware, I was emotionally charged, and I was malleable. My new personality was directly shaped by my situation, emotional state, and the people around me.

    Who I am is still in development but the public outlaw, the hippie professor, speaker of truth is a fundamental part of my personality. I have been shaped, however unintentionally, by my interactions with the other—those outside myself. Whether the regenerating individual is the last of the Time Lords, a MtF, or just someone growing up and growing into themselves, who they become is intimately linked to who they were, who they were with, and how they responded to the world.