Can Ignorance Be Innocent?

My university ‘s orchestra has a major concert engagement coming up and its not exactly next door. We’ll be busing ourselves up to the city that never sleeps this Friday and, by extension, will be staying in a hotel when we Kentuckians will very much need to sleep. My orchestra has never, to my knowledge and observations, encountered a transperson before so they tactfully had a student working for them call me to ask with whom I would like to be roomed (same-sex rooming is a newly-enforced university policy). The discussion went okay though I subsequently had to deal speak with three other people to communicate that “no, my room-mate of choice does not have a ‘problem’ rooming with me.” Makes a boy feel warm and fuzzy inside, don’t it? Though the repetitious questioning wore on me I was told at every turn that my friend and me could room together and that it was final (even after the accidental pseduo-release of a preliminary room count that had me paired with a female friend of mine). It all felt like necessary bureaucratic process until last Saturday.

I walked into rehearsal with a fresh sex-inspired grin plastered across my face, saddled with the hope that I could draw upon the recent memories to mentally get me through rehearsal. It’s my greatest survival strategy, after all. Five steps through the doors I was called over by a friend who works for the orchestra and told to sign myself and my room-mate up for a hotel room together immediately. I was pressured to ask him again if he was ‘okay’ with this. Ever a good sport, he replied “it’s not like you’re going to rub off on me. ‘Ah! where’s my penis!'” I sat down thinking about how rad my friends are and began to daydream through rehearsal. After we finished, early and rather painlessly, I saw one of the male graduate students approach my room-mate. I watched from just out of earshot as the scene began to unfold. Male grad student (MGS) held the sign up sheet and gestured at it, then my room-mate, then to his girlfriend. I watch my room-mate speak, shrug, and watch as MGS walked in a huff to our director. I continued to watch in a rubbernecking sort of fashion as our conductor listened and shrugged. MGS began to rant; this was my cue to leave. I was later told that the phrase ‘mind you own business’ was used. As much as I would have liked to have witnessed that, I made the choice to back in the arms of my beloved, ignorant of the unfolding drama.

I work in the orchestra office twice a week and arrived to work Monday morning to receive pieces of the scene that unfolded in my absence. MGS compared my rooming situation to that which he desired with his girlfriend because I’m ‘not biologically male’. Whoa there, sir. Really? Various sources colored this exchange as ‘ugly’ and full of ‘rage’. I was not there so I cannot ultimately say. I have known MGS for about three years now and this tale surprised me. The outcome of this, I can however speak to; I was greeted at rehearsal Tuesday afternoon with the news that MGS’s freak-out caused orchestra officials to call the university, establishing that I am still female according to them so I was SOL. The orchestra ‘compromised’ by putting me in a single room. Tranny freak party of one. By Wednesday afternoon, one of these orchestra officials had become galvanized to advocate for me and got the university to let me room with my pre-ordained room-mate. Praise be to G-d.

I sent an email to MGS between being ‘othered’ and receiving justice Wednesday afternoon to tell him that what he said, and the subsequent mess that ensued, was not okay. It went a little like this.

I do not know how much you know about transgender issues or if you have ever interacted with a transgender person before. I write to you only to tell you how much words can hurt and that one action can cause a transperson to be made to feel like an ‘other’ as you have done here. I know that I am no less of a man or a person because of my biology and I hope that you will see and respect this for me and for any other transgender person you meet in your life. Again, I hope that your words came out of a lack of information and that we can continue to be friendly as colleagues in the orchestra.

The response I received later that day was unexpected. MGS stated that he had no idea that I am trans-identified and that he was, in part, standing up to unfair policy that was forcing me to room with the boys because I was lesbian-identified. Well, cool… but not quite. His email sounded sincere and remorseful. He sent another later on bolstering the sincerity, etc. I saw him in orchestra that afternoon and we talked about everything. I told him I believed him and offered him a hug. I even surprise myself sometimes. I had no idea what really happened and thus had to move on.

Heresay is heresay even when a handful of good friends are all saying the same thing. Right?

One Response to “Can Ignorance Be Innocent?”
  1. gyndran says:

    Seems like an innocent mistake to me; though I think he should have spoken to you first before he decided to “stand up to an unfair policy…” Nevertheless, sucks you had to deal with the drama.

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