Dear Abby, Part 2

Dear Abby,

 

            There’s a professor at the university that fails me on all of my work. If I was doing bad work I wouldn’t mind it so much but I’m actually acing the work. In fact, this professor uses my work as an example for the class of what an “A” assignment looks like. So why am I failing, you might be asking…

            Because I’m transgender. My parents beat me and sent me through therapy to “correct” my sexuality and to “fix” my internal gender identity. When I turned eighteen years old I moved out and haven’t looked back. I am proud of my transgender identity. However, my school records reflect my birth identity. I understand why, there’s a legal obligation to disclose that information, but the school records also show that I prefer to identify as a male.

            My professor fails me because I write my chosen name on the papers. He says that for me to receive credit for my school work I must write my legal name because that is how my loans are processed, that this is how my taxes are filed, and that is how my birth certificate identifies me. As such, he fails me because I “could” be plagiarizing the information I turn into him.

            I don’t know what to do because I know for a fact that he has tenure. In order to file a complaint I would have to file it first within his department. If his department sees no fault I have to appeal it, but there is no promise that the board of directors will even hear it! This is blatant harassment and is illegal.

            What should I do to fix this problem? If I fail this class I’ll be forced into a remedial course which will hold up my graduation and force me to not only take this class a second time with the same professor, but also force me to extend my degree an entire semester.

 

Sincerely,

Unfairly Failed Student

 

Carson finishes reading to Professor Teagan with sincere concern. Thalia had read it prior to their Wednesday brunch. She expressed that she didn’t believe they should answer it but when Carson reviewed it, she couldn’t just let it go. This person did not deserve this unfair (and unacceptable) treatment. Carson sprinted across the campus to catch Professor Teagan before her next lecture began.

The silence hangs in the balance, as the saying goes, and Professor Teagan rereads the submission silently. Over and over and over… Hatred seems to fill the space where her pupils reside. Presumable Professor Teagan herself cannot process what professor at the university would actually do this with the belief that it would go unnoticed.

“There is something else going on here. This professor must be doing something else, or this person must have filed a complaint unsuccessfully previously. I am going to bring this to the attention of my superior and see what more we can do to fix it. Do you have the original e-mail submission?” Professor Teagan is writing notes on the back of the e-mail as she shifts from leaning back in her seat to sitting on the edge.

Still gasping for air, she comments that this was an anonymous submission. Professor Teagan instructs her to get someone from the computer programs that will be able to identify the specific location and the time stamp so that the person can be identified. She demands results by the end of the day, although it is with a polite voice. Carson agrees to meet up with her for dinner in the cafeteria.

“No, you will meet me here. I want to be discreet because if I am correct, there might be more than one staff member mistreating this young man.” Carson’s lips voluntarily tug into a tiny grin, appreciating the way in which Professor Teagan respects the person’s identity. Over the last few weeks there has been nothing but positive feedback on the school’s “Dear Abby” column. So many people feel as though they can be at peace with themselves after receiving confirmation from their submissions, and others who’ve read with similar issues. Carson has gone from complacent to exuberantly happy. Satisfaction with her life in this way is something she’s never tasted and there is no desire to return to her passive lifestyle.

“Absolutely.” Carson agrees while storming out the door, racing to a young man that she’s heard runs a shady computer business.


Grayson is clicking through the fan mail he received last weekend on Tumblr. So many people love his fan art, and reading the nice things those fans say is uplifting. Of course, none of it lightens the stress of being in college completely.

Suddenly someone sits next to him, he doesn’t recognize her but she is pretty. He likes her brilliant smile filled with off-white teeth shining in the florescent light of the computer lab. Grayson is sure he blushes, but he plays it off so cool.

“If you want me to draw something for you then I suggest we go on a date. I need to know more about how you tick.” Suave, he thinks to himself. It came out of his mouth sensually low with just the slightest hint of humor. Hopefully she goes for it, because even though it is a joke – he wouldn’t mind a date.

Dating, though, could require him to admit that he is actually a she. Gender identity and sexual identity are confusing, especially to people who don’t see the fluidity of either of them. Plus, transgender identity gets a little weird in dating; at least it does for him. People still aren’t one-hundred-percent accepting of it yet. Grayson isn’t sure it ever will be, which only depresses him.

“Maybe later, hot shot. For now I’m looking for a diverse group of people to take a survey about the school blog. Professor Teagan is conducting it in person in her office.” Grayson shrugs his shoulders. Seems odd to conduct the survey in person, but the blog covers a lot of sensitive topics; especially in the “Dear Abby” column. He noticed that his submission hasn’t been answered. Grayson wasn’t able to figure out when the submissions are chosen for sure, and it is could be in part because the identity of Abby is hidden. The only thing he knows for sure is that there could be a backlog with as often as people are talking about it.

As they are walking, Grayson learns that the girl’s name is Carson. During her casual conversation she mentions that hates coffee, or rather hates coffee dates. She fancies herself a “hole-in-the-wall-dive” kind of girl. She likes beer food paired with cheap wine. Grayson talks about a friend’s start-up vegan shop a few blocks away from the campus, reminding her that he requires a date for pictures. They both laugh and he’s sure that he is going to pull this off. He might actually land a date with this girl.

Once the pair arrives at Professor Teagan’s office there are three other people present. One is definitely another student, but there is another staff member too. Grayson assumes that it’s just a part of the survey. Maybe the blog is having some bad feedback that the school board is concerned about?

“Grayson Frances, correct?” Carson nods on his behalf before slipping around to join the others. Everyone is looking at him, which he expected for a survey, so it doesn’t throw him off too much. Since this will probably been some kind of informal interview he just takes a seat at the conference table, kicking his feet up on the chair to get comfortable.

“Grayson, allow us to introduce ourselves. My name is Taylor Teagan. As you may know, I am the Department Head for our English program.” Grayson bobs his head along as she speaks. Next to her is a girl named Thalia Benson – the name rings a bell. He thinks that they may have had a class together in the past. Or no – he thinks she lives on the same floor as him in the co-ed dorms. After her, Carson gives her full name. Her last name is Reed. Carson Reed is a name he is sure he won’t forget.

As for the other staff member… Mrs. Melinda Mason… also known as the head of the board of directors

Immediately Grayson melts because he feels as if he should have seen this coming. After filing five complains with the psychology department head, Doctor Alfred Watson, and being told to shut his mouth – was there any chance the board wasn’t going to get involved? This will get ugly. He knows in his gut that it is going to become one hell of a storm.

“Listen, I will transfer somewhere else if I have to – if this is going to continue. I shouldn’t be treated like shit because I don’t identify as Gabriella Frances – as a female. The doctors don’t know how I feel and neither does your staff!” Grayson goes from zero to sixty in about two seconds, figuratively speaking. Carson waves her arms.

“That’s not what’s happening, Grayson. I violated your privacy and reported this to Professor Teagan. She and Mrs. Mason need to get more information about what you wrote because they want to take legal action against any staff members involved in the discrimination. It might not be happening to just you. But they need the whole truth, Grayson.” He can see in her eyes that she means well. Carson seems to be very enthralled in the justice of helping him. His friends have done the same on many occasions, but never an outsider. Not a real outsider, anyway; people on the Internet are great supporters but they don’t wipe the tears away and cover the bullet holes with bandages. Grayson sighs, worrying that complying will bring about even more horrific struggles; “Please. And then you and I can grab a bite to eat at that vegan place?”

Well, he landed the date. That is the kind of lift he needed. Grayson sighs with a different attitude this, crossing his arms as he starts from the beginning. The sexual relationship, the formal complaints, the grades, and all the blackmailing…

The further into it he goes, the more Mrs. Mason and Professor Teagan get red in the face.

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