Six weeks definitely makes a difference. You may recall my blog post on going to speak with my department chair on December 20 and how I felt constantly bombarded with the “fight or flight” response. Well, Dr. Drummond and I took it up to the next level in the academic chain of command today by going to speak with the dean of the college of Arts and Sciences, Janet Wilson.

We walked briskly across campus on a very pretty winter day with the sun shining and a light breeze blowing. No overcoat was required. He asked me how I wanted to do this, and I said I had been disclosing my transsexuality to quite a few people lately and have learned some things about doing it along the way. He said he’d just sit there for support and pipe in if necessary.

We entered the dean’s office and sat around a round table. Dean Wilson shut the door, sat down, and engaged in the obligatory chit chat for a couple of minutes until she paused, leaned forward, and said, “So, what are we here for today?”

Compared to six weeks ago, this meeting was a breeze, probably because I’ve come a long way in self-acceptance even since December, but also probably because I’ve had practice at talking to people about my situation, and the more you do it, the easier it gets. The first thing I realized is that no matter what questions someone has, they’re very unlikely to pass out, scream, or hit me over the head with a hammer. The worst that has happened to me, and it wasn’t bad at all, has been 30 seconds of “ok, for real? is this a joke?” This incredulity is pretty typical and doesn’t reflect badly on the person and it doesn’t make me feel bad, either.

So I sat there, heart beating normally, eyes focused, having no flight or fight feelings, actually eager to disclose my situation to her. I did a quick introduction about finally dealing with something that has plagued me for all my life, and she was obviously very interested in what I was about to say, because I don’t suspect she hears this type of disclosure every day. So, about 60 seconds into this introduction, I said something like, “and what I’ve known about myself all this time is that I’m transsexual. And what I’m doing about it is changing from male to female.” It was sort and sweet, and then I quit to give her time to respond.

“Gosh,” she said (something she’d repeat several times during our meeting). She asked surgery questions, workplace questions, and personal questions for perhaps 10 minutes, and then asked, “What do you want me to do?”

“Nothing,” I said. “I’d like for you to watch my back and simply be aware that this is going on. If there are things you’d like do to, like sensitivity training, memos to units, or what-have-you, that’s really up to you.”

She asked me about my name and about changing all my personnel files. I explained my choice of name, which she understood. She asked if I needed sick leave, to which I replied, “I’m not sick and don’t anticipate missing any of my duties at all.” “If you need it, though,” she said, “you can take all you need.”

We talked about my department and about there being no precedent in the university for someone transitioning on the job. She asked Sean if he thought our department would have any problems and he said, “No, if anyone has any sort of problem with this, they’ll almost certainly just be quiet and avoid Joyce.”

Near the end of the meeting, we discussed the schedule, and when I would begin presenting as female. I explained that my general plan for the spring is to try to keep control of the disclosures until grades are due in May, at which point, I was fine with the news getting out. If things leak faster, I said, it won’t be the worst thing in the world, but my preference is to tell close friends and colleagues this spring, and save the more general, organizational disclosures for May and June. She said that makes sense.

She said she’d need to tell the provost and would think on how and when she wanted to do it. I agreed, not only because it’s the right thing to do in an organization, but also because I don’t want some reporter ambushing him or the president or the chancellor with a “what about the tranny in your university?” kind of question and have them look clueless or stupid.

We parted with very friendly talk, and I felt that in this bureaucratic disclosure meeting I was calm, in control, and reassuring whereas six weeks ago I was nervous and unsure of myself and my situation (I don’t know if Sean Drummond perceived it to be the case, but that was what it felt like inside my head).

Up the ladder we go, as my trajectory and landing point become more and more real to me and others.


PS — I received the following supportive email from her on 2-9:

Dear Joyce,

Your putting your trust in me in this matter is an honor to me. What you are doing is wondrous. Forever, gender was immutable, and now the possibility exists to change. But beyond that, you are taking the huge step of changing and actually living what could have stayed a theoretical. You are very brave.

I think what I will do is find a time when the provost and I are standing alone on the same spot for a minute and then let him know the general outlines. If such opportunity doesn’t arise naturally rather soon, I’ll call. If he wants to pursue it further, with you, we can set up an appointment.

We’ll be in touch.

Janet