Trans issues

Recently, I’ve been thinking about dissertation topics in a more concrete way. Right now I’m thinking about examining the effect of drama-based instruction techniques in undergraduate foreign language courses on students’ transcultural competence, that is, their abilities to function across cultures. Specifically, I’d like to focus on students’ abilities to recognize their perspective from within their own cultural membership and to open themselves to the perspectives of people from cultures different than their own. While this may never result in complete understanding, empathy is an important trait of social interaction.

But I’ve also been thinking of another trans lately: transgender.

Ferran Esteve/ Flickr Creative Commons

Ferran Esteve/ Flickr Creative Commons

 

First, let’s talk terminology. To be transgender means that a person’s gender identity is different than the identity assigned at birth. Sexuality and anatomy are different issues. Gender/transgender refers to culture: social behaviors, identity and perceptions.

There was a Time Magazine cover recently titled “The Transgender Tipping Point: America’s next civil rights frontier”.  While the story by Katy Steinmetz was a balanced mix of background information, statistics, and stories about the experiences of a few diverse individuals, I found the most interesting quote to be a detail in parentheses: “(This article will use the names, nouns and pronouns preferred by individuals, in accordance with TIME’s style)”. That’s an important linguistic decision that shows respect and normalcy.

I too want to tell stories of three transgender women from my perspective as an outsider, a cis female. I offered to change their names to protect their privacy, but all three of these women gave me their explicit permission to use their real names. I like this, as I can write in greater detail without having to change their stories to protect their identities. Also, their willingness and relative nonchalance about being open indicates something good about the current state of US society.

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studying cacti and culture

A friend of mine from Dresden, Germany just arrived in Austin with his wife and their two daughters (ages: 2 years, 8 weeks). He’s a mechanical engineer researching the structure of cacti for his dissertation. So obviously his path led him to Texas. But it also brings my path full circle. Continue reading

Boston Marathon still inspiring

As an undergrad, I played bass drum in the Boston University Marching and Pep Bands. In the spring, on Patriot’s Day, we played at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. What an inspiring event! I loved cheering for the runners with costumes or signs to raise awareness for a cause. Sometimes someone looked ready to drop from exhaustion, but if you yelled encouragement using the name or number they wrote on their arm, they would perk up and keep going. Anyone bold enough to wear Texas shorts up north got a rowdy drumline rendition of “The Stars at Night”. It was an amazing and humbling community experience.

2013. Two bombs. No answers.

One of those killed was a Boston University grad student. That student’s day-to-day worries about research, advisors, funding, and work-life balance disappeared. Senselessly. There was a memorial for this student and the other victims today at BU’s Marsh Plaza, where I attended a memorial for the victims of 9/11 back in 2001.

Photo credit, creative commons license

What strikes me the most in reading accounts of what happened is that people ran towards the explosions to help with anticipated injuries. People shared phones, gave away coats, signed up on a google doc to house runners and visitors from out of town.

Tragedies can illustrate the worst in human nature, but also bring out the best.

I love you, Bahston.

Gentle Start at UT

I finished my last course at an American university 10 years ago in May, shortly before graduating from Boston University (BU). So it’s somehow fitting that last Friday, I submitted the final project for my first class at The University of Texas at Austin (UT). While it was an intense 3 weeks, I feel like it was a gentle start to my PhD program, all things considered. Continue reading