Wednesday, 21 September 2005

Tolerance and Acceptance

I just had two interviews over opportunities to do a PhD.

One of them - the one I really wanted to do - was doing research on the prevalence of Transsexualism, as a precursor to more work on the effect of TS on career choice.

The other was in Computer Science.

So, I made my way to the department of Gender Studies, and had a very nice interview with a very warm-hearted and genuinely helpful doctor of Arts. Transsexuality? Perfectly accepted, whether "passing", "andro" or "Oh My God A Man In A Dress".

But.... if you weren't politically Ultra Progressive, if you didn't worship the ground Monbiot deigned to walk on, and took part in the morning Voodoo ceremony sticking pins in an effigy of Karl Rove... difficult.

Then when I said I was a pragmatist, scientist and engineer by nature, interested in quantitative analysis, hard numbers wherever they could be found, evidence and proof, the scientific method, and generally of The Other Side (Her words, not mine).... then she sadly suggested that I'd probably find things too difficult. It's not that I'd just be an outsider, after all, TS women are used to that from their girlhood, but that people with power over me would misuse that power to downgrade my marks, out of the highest of motives. Nothing I could do about it.

C.P. Snow's "The Two Cultures" is alive and well here. Maybe the political views could be tolerated, but not the Rationalist philosophy.

Diversity, tolerance and so on is practiced in the faculty of Arts. You are allowed to diverge, you can be Maoist, Trostkyite or Mainstream Marxist. You can be Post-Modernist or Radical Deconstructionist. You can vote Radical Green or Socialist Workers Party. They are Fanatically tolerant of GLBT, but say you're a liberal (ie conservative in Australia) voter and worse, a Kantian Realist, and you're anathema. I think a genuine Straight mainstream Christian would be burnt at the stake. Thank God I'm an atheist (with tendencies to commit Buddhism).

I must emphasise that the professor talking to me could not have been more supportive , helpful, and generally warmhearted. She did her best to give me the best and most honest guidance she could, and I'm in her debt. She even went out of her way to search for alternatives for me, looking up names and numbers, a wonderful human being. Given the situation, her advice was exactly right, aboveboard, and rigorously ethical and intellectually honest. I wish I could have studied under her.

Perhaps I'm overstating the case. But those were the Vibes I was getting (and now, I'm able to detect such things with high accuracy, a wonder in itself). I'd be an outsider, and an allergic reaction would occur. Nobody's fault, just the way things are.

Then I went for a similar interview over at the Computer Science Department. There, they didn't care what I looked like, certainly never considered my politics, but they did care about the quality of my thought. The professional "runs I had on the board". Also my worth as an individual human being, not a cypher or representative member of any particular category.

After the interview, we had sandwiches is the Refectory with some other Profs and Admin staff, and the head of the Department stopped in to say hello and give me the once over, as we swapped lies and gossiped.

It was like.... coming home. Where I belonged.

Yes, the situation in the Faculty of Arts is exactly the opposite of what should be happening. Universities and Arts departments in particular are supposed to encourage diversity, and debate. But the situation has been like this for some time.

Fifty years ago, the intolerance was against Blacks, and Jews, and Catholics, and especially those Un-American (or in our case Un-Australian) Commies.

Now it's still against Jews (Zionazi tools of oppression etc etc) but everyone else gets a free pass. Apart from those who aren't "Progressive". And those still propagating the Chauvinist Dead White Male oppressive notion of "objective truth". Oh yes, and Christians too, they're right out.

Now I'm agin "Creation Science", "Pyramidology", and other such superstition, but Jeez Louise, if my Rationalist views are so wonderful, they should be able to stand a little competition and debate. Even by Fundies. Even by Scientologists. Heck, even by Fundamentalist Muslim Flat-Earthers. Certainly I've learned a lot from those few Ultra-Leftists like Prof Norman Geras who are true to the core of Marxism, while being willing to abandon such idiocies as the "Labour Theory of Value" and "Dictatorship of the Proletariat". I still differ from Norm on methods, but we're in agreement on the goals. I'm a Right Wing Death B*tch, a NeoCon and proud of it, but my blog has links to some very, very "Progressive" sites that happen also to be Rational and Humane. And to some people far to the Right of me, some even Fundies, but who are decent people of goodwill and humanity, even if I disagree with them on just about everything.

But those whose views won't stand up to scrutiny or rational debate have to find refuge in exclusion. It was so with the late and unlamented White Supremacists. It's the same now for those who genuinely believe that Bush is quite literally the AntiChrist.

They live in a world where everyone shares the same worldview, where the only debate consists of everyone trying to prove that they are "More Progressive than thou".

Post-Modernist philosophy sees everything as a social construct. Although there's an element of truth in this, and as someone with Buddhist tendencies, I can see that the "world as illusion" may be true at the core, everything is seen purely in terms of a personal power struggle.

The Theory of Gravity is just a male oppression foisted on the general populace in accordance with their sterile conservative world-view, and if we all wished really hard Tinkerbell would come back to life and we all could fly.

That we can't just proves that the Zionist Conspiracy that actually rules the world is too powerful at the moment.

Thus any dissent from the Democratic Majority (who are instructed by Authority what to think) has to be a personal attack, a power grab out of the basest of motives, any questioning of existing dogma is not just Heresy, but actually a manifestation of Evil. There is no room for Diversity, unless it challenges the Societal Status Quo, whereupon it becomes compulsory.

I wouldn't mind that, the toddlers can go play in their own sandbox as long as it doesn't interfere with the grownups who are trying not just to keep the world running, but understand it, and search for meaning behind it. But the trouble is, these people have carved up branches of knowledge and laid claim to them, excluding outsiders. It's because I'm not some emotionless, spiritually bereft robot that I'm complaining. Poetry, Spirituality, Sociology and "What it means to be Transsexual" are far too important issues to be assigned to those who are Anti-rational and engaged in nothing but power games.

There are some who actually do good work, despite that environment. But you have to be willing to conceal your inner self until you've accreted enough power to be invulnerable. Well, I'm sick of concealing myself. That's a price too high for me to pay, no matter what good might come out of it. "I've done my time in Hell". I'll try to be diplomatic, but I won't go along with The Majority just because to stand out is to get trodden down. My decision, and I can't complain about it. But I won't stay silent and pretend the situation doesn't exist, either.

But anyone who's ever met me knows that. Some things don't change.

Never mind, as they say in the classics, (and as the Facial Feminisation surgeon Dr Ousterhaut has proven when confronted with some very rough raw material), "This too shall Pass."


wfzimmerman said...

Whilst the computer science dept sounds like the most prudent choice, I hope you also find an opportunity to do some work in gender studies. People who import disciplinary rigor into "soft" fields often have a disproportionate positive impact as it's whats most needed and least in supply.

DirtCrashr said...

It's gone beyond soft-brain science into the Star-Trek realms of total weirdness at my former University, wittness the new chancellor: scary picture.
(I think somebody misspelled Dennis.)

Zoe Brain said...


It's because of women like her that women like me get to blend in, even before Facial Feminisation Surgery.

Frankly, I think she could do with some FFS herself. But if she's comfortable as she is, then good for her. Her life when a young girl must have been Hellish - worse even than mine - but she excelled anyway.

And I'm very impressed with her record of achievement. She's not just good, she's outstanding, and axhieved a lot at a time when the glass ceiling was far lower than it is today.

Please look beyond external appearances. Look at what the person is, what they've done, not how much their faces may have been affected by a weird hormone mix. OK, since I'm getting FFS, I'm being hypocritical. I've looked so awful for so long that I want to look good for once, not just "passable", it's pure feminine vanity, I admit it.

As for Dr D? The hormone mix that gave her face many masculine markers probably wired her brain for an increase in IQ and creativity, it tends to do stuff like that. 46xx genes plus extra testosterone, or 46xy genes with extra oestrogen, either way works.

The experiences of living as a girl with a "wonderful personality" and coming through it whole and sane has probably given her an inner strength and tolerance that makes her an asset to the species.

OK, the picture is still scary. So's mine. For now.

I'd be proud to know her, anyway.

DirtCrashr said...

I don't think your picture's scary, but I personally believe she was once a he - I could be wrong. It actually happens not infrequently (at the University where I once worked anyhow) in the academic community, maybe more than "outside" in business or industry. Academe is a self-contained, socially cutting-edge, and intellectually supportive environment with codes of professional conduct which forbids negative, non-supportive, reactions to a gender-enterprising individual.
It's also not too surprising to find out that some upwardly mobile big-wig has secured a job for their spouse (in this case her girlfriend - $192,000 for a specially created billet that was unadvertised and closed to all other job applicants), as well as moving and transition expenses for each of them ($68,750 and $50,000), to live rent-free with service-provided in some university president's house.
That's quite a dream achievement for most people making their way in life, through one system or another.
Maybe as as an anthro major I should say that she has moved towards the culture that responded best to her, and which has enabled her to produce highly successful outcomes in terms of the positive feedback loop.
In business they talk about burn rate, cash-flow, and profit and loss statements with singular effort made to stay on the positive side of that flow-relationship. In Buddhism the main focus is on the flow-event itself, and riding dirtbikes offroad for me is a flow-practice - a reward event for weeks and months of "regular" life and work.
I wish you well in every endeavor.

DirtCrashr said...

I apologize if I've caused hurt or otherwise trampled carelessly on this topic of significance. Forgive me for commenting without having taken the time to read your blog, reacting only to the two polar situations. I now recognize how personal are the two different opportunities.

Zoe Brain said...

Dirt Crashr

No apologies neccessary, I thought your comments were most interesting. I certainly didn't take offence. Quite the reverse in fact.

And anyone who can author a blog with a subtitle :

"Partially sprawling adventures of a culturally hegomonic anti-idiotarian functional-structuralist and anti-collectivist imperialist, among the smugly dreaming self-satisfied Prius-driving lizadroid-Leftbat Californoodlian Eco-Tofuistas. And some home-improvement stuff."

Well, I'd forgive someone like that almost anything.

DirtCrashr said...

Ok I'm glad you're not hurt. Dr.D is about my age - but I didn't go on into the Professoriat, but while I was a student the glass-ceiling wasn't that low - it was busy being exploded into a thousand pieces by militant Socialist-Feminists. The academic environment I swam through was not conservative at all - the Left was well established and was the dominant paradigm at UC Santa Cruz, where a professor became Mayor running as a Marxist-Leninist. Most of the born-and-raised locals hate the transient academics who did things like that, except that they are gradually being displaced by coastal hippie activist locals. :-),_Santa_Cruz