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.

Dear Abby, Part 1

Dear Abby,

 

            My girlfriend told me last week that she wants to have a sexual reassignment surgery. I had no idea what it was to “transition” and freaked out when she told me this. Is this normal? Is it a joke? I told her that I needed to go because she was clearly having issues.

            She hasn’t spoken to me since and even though she isn’t telling people that we’ve broken up, she is avoiding me very publically. I just want to apologize for yelling at her and understand why she feels this way. At the end of the day – I do love her and want to be there by her side in any way she’ll let me.

            But I don’t know how to reach out to her when she won’t let me in. I know that I made her feel that way so do you have any advice on how to prove that I am sorry and willing to support her through this difficult decision?

 

Sincerely,

Really Shitty Boyfriend

 

Thalia and Carson sit side-by-side staring at the first submission to the new “Dear Abby” column of the school blog. Thanks to Hayden, the two of them have been brought together by Department Head Teagan, to operate as writers for the column. Thalia and Carson will decide which submissions to answer, and then divvy up who answers which questions, constantly varying what types of questions so that there’s a difference in writing styles to avoid anyone from being bullied.

“Hayden is Taylor’s assistant. They must be really close if she thought we were going to be the best people for this job. An English major and an Anthropology major? Giving emotional advice?” Carson shakes her head even though it’s probably accurate. She did not want to participate in this “Dear Abby” column initially but agreed after several perks were described:

Discounts for any products purchased on campus, excluding food franchises; a letter of recommendation from Professor Taylor Teagan herself upon graduation after two semesters of participation, and free sociology or psychology classes. To a college student, this sounds like the lottery, but there’s no substantial monetary loss to the college with only two writers at any given time – it’s a win-win for everyone really.

“You are taking this one.” Carson states harshly, a stern expression hardening her features. When silence threatens to envelop the room, though, her partner stops the procession.

Thalia replies with a scoff; “Have a bad day?”

“Yes.”

Thalia nods her head with certain dissatisfaction. Working together while pissed off will do nothing for the girls’ awkward friendship, but this is an obligation to which they both agreed. Neither girl is really mad enough to retract their involvement, so they will work together regardless of how difficult it might be at times.

“I know who this is. That’s why I’m having a bad day.” Carson reveals unexpectedly, or at least unexpectedly to Thalia, that in some way she is connected to this person. Neither of them is allowed to reveal that they are working on the “Dear Abby” column to anyone except each other. Hayden only knows because it was her brainchild.

Thalia waits a moment, nodding her head in a different rhythm now. After both agree that the situation sucks, Thalia concedes to take this letter. Carson decides to read the second letter this time.

Dear Abby,

 

            My little sister came out to our parents over the winter holiday.

            She isn’t allowed to tell anyone. People who do know have been contacted by our parents and corrected. They say: “She isn’t homosexual” (and she isn’t, to be accurate, she’s pansexual – her last partner was transgender); “she isn’t bisexual.”

            My poor sister is struggling to remain optimistic even though she will be graduating high school soon. I don’t know what to do because I can’t let my sister be treated as if her identity is a crime. They’re not even religious people!

            I want to have her live with me and cut our parents out of our lives all together but I wouldn’t even know the first place to start. How could I ever be able to care for another person as a parent figure?

 

Sincerely,

Concerned Sister

 

Thalia raises hand at the letter; “And I know this one. That makes this your letter.” Things continue like this for nearly a dozen letters before the two agree to take a break. As it turns out, one of them is moderately familiar with every letter. Or, at the very least, they believe that they’ve heard the real life situation described at some point.

It’s a small world after all; as the song goes!

During dinner a few more emails come in and the two are forced to discuss what type of organization there should be to this project. Thalia’s schedule is lighter at the beginning of the week whereas Carson’s is lighter at the end. Both of them have Wednesdays completely open, which works perfectly in the middle of the week.

Over coffee and donuts, the pair decides that every Wednesday they’ll meet for breakfast and wrap up at lunch after organizing the letters. Outside of team meetings, Thalia has to reply to her submissions on Tuesdays and then Carson will submit hers a week behind on Thursdays. The whole process is painless and will surely put them off on a good food writing this column.

Finally relaxed, Thalia announces that they need to go through the remaining submissions so that they can divvy up the last of the entries. Carson agrees to do all of the reading as long as Thalia keeps the piles organized and print the newest submissions. They’ll stop taking them for this week in one hour, something they convene about on the way back from the café.

Seven “Dear Abby” letters later, Carson gets one that she knows will be her first response. As soon as Thalia leaves for the night she sits down at her computer and begins typing the first entry, starting with pasting the original query:

Dear Abby,

 

            Life sucks. My family is decorated with criminals. My parents are divorced with messy addictions to sex and drugs. My siblings are violent. My friends are insincere and selfish. My teachers are lazy.

            The only thing I can trust is that when I look in the mirror every morning I’ll be pissed off that I know I’m a good person and I’m surrounded by people who can’t meet my level of passion to become better. My anger is eating me up, though, and I don’t know how much longer I can keep looking in the mirror before I give up on myself.

            I’m not suicidal but how can I just wipe my slate clean?

            How do I hit a “refresh” button in my life?

 

Sincerely,

So Tired of This Adaptation of My Life, The Writer Sucks!

 

Carson queues the post to upload first thing in the morning before she enters her reply. This will hopefully make the “Dear Abby” blog a part of everyone’s breakfast conversations. As she prepares her response she remembers the feeling she got that afternoon with Alison last spring – accomplishment. It’s good. When she is done she closes her browsers and shuts down the computer. As she lies down to watch television, she feels as though she needs to text message Thalia. Full of hope, Carson declares that the two of them are going to change the world…

 

Dear – Disgruntled Viewer?

 

            Step One: Cancel the show. Finish this season and cancel it.

            Step Two: Re-evaluate what makes you happiest about your life.

            Step Three: Do that thing that makes you happy far away from here.

            Step Four: Don’t look back.

            Step Five: Start a new show with better writers.

 

            I know that sounds silly, so let me put into terms that do make sense. If doing what you’re doing right now with the people you are with right now isn’t giving you satisfaction, then stop. There is no point whatsoever in sitting here making getting more upset.

            This is college and it can change. You don’t have to finish it, and you don’t have to stay in the same college the entire time. Transferring credits, losing credits, moving – it is an absolute headache; but so is being miserable. Choose a new location far enough away to separate yourself from the life you’ve created here.

            That is the best way to “refresh” your life. Some people will try to tell you that you’re running away from the problem, or that you’re ignoring the problem, but that’s not true. Sometimes people and lifestyles are just toxic. Moving further away from the toxicity will allow you to grow into a healthy adult and create a whole new life that actually fits your goals.

           

Best of Luck!

Abby