On Being The Only One In The Room (Updated)

December 4, 2008 at 3:25 pm (LGBT, stupidity) ()

So in about half my classes this semester, I’m the only visibly queer person. I noticed this right away; the first few weeks of school were marked by near-constant nightmares that I somehow had long hair again. I had to cut my hair even shorter than I usually keep it just to feel like I can breathe.

This makes me feel isolated and freakish. (And it really doesn’t help that my classmates have occasionally directly pointed out that I’m, um, a deviation from the statistical norm.) There’s also the fact that I don’t feel like I have very many friends at school anyway, which is my own fault for being misanthropic, I guess. Not that I can help it, but whatever.

Anyway, all this came to a head at my midterm critique some weeks ago. I put a up a few portraits of my girlfriend — in addition to a bunch of other stuff — and in introducing my work, I mentioned that she’s my girlfriend and said some things that I think made it pretty damn obvious that she’s my girlfriend. Not to mention how plainly gay I am anyway. But my professor referred to her as my “friend” throughout the presentation, saying stuff to make it clear he understood the relationship as totally trivial (saying, basically, that I don’t really know her). I was fuming and I felt like someone had stepped on my throat, but I couldn’t say anything because I didn’t have any allies — I don’t think anyone else even noticed. I wrote him a note about it, explaining that I knew it was just a mistake but that it hurt my feelings. Of course he never said anything.

Today, in our final critique, my professor misgendered one of the people I’d made a portrait of. This picture is of a pretty young woman who has short hair. Though you can only see her face, her gender is very obvious — she’s wearing earrings and make-up, and has clearly feminine facial features. What the hell.

This is starting to wear down and me and make me depressed. I am so fucking glad I will be out of that class after Tuesday. I’m sick of feeling like a freak everyday. And it’s not that everyone there is apparently cisgender and heterosexual — it’s the creeping sensation that, when these weird, unintentional insults happen, I’m the only one who sees them. I would never, ever let something like that just pass if it happened to someone else. That is, provided I could see it happening; that’s the worst part — that they’re on such a different planet from me that they can’t even see me. My feelings are so foreign they’re invisible.

These are just the two things that are on my mind today; they’re part of a collection of dozens of similar things this semester, all of which have built up into the sense of alienation that’s starting to overwhelm me. If the pattern continues I might seriously consider leaving school. It’s toxic. It’s heartbreaking. It’s fucking unnecessary. And I do not have the resources to go at it alone.

UPDATE: I talked to some of my schoolmates about this in my class this evening, and they were very kind to me, which was tremendously heartening. I also learned that this professor has said similarly stupid things to several other people; I guess that should annoy me even more, but actually, it was a relief. I’ve concluded that the problem is, in fact, almost entirely the bad behavior of a single person.

I’ll take this as a sign that’s it’s time to write a post I’ve been sitting on for awhile about power dynamics in the classroom.



  1. Emily said,

    Aw, I’m so sorry to hear that this has only gotten worse. And I can’t believe your teacher didn’t respond to that note and apologize! That is unacceptable.

    I hope your experience next semester is better…

  2. Daisy said,

    Hey, thanks. I think next semester will be better — I’m not going to have this professor again, and 80% of this stuff has been in his class. Professors tend to seriously underestimate the extent to which they dictate the classroom culture; I’m hopeful that I won’t run into anything this bad again. This didn’t happen at all last year, so it maybe it’s just him.

    I’m planning on complaining about this (and about the fact that less than 10% of the artists we study in his class are female) in my “anonymous” course evaluation, but I think it will be really obvious that’s it’s me. Oh well.

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