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I'm sure that it's going to occur to someone that opening up with a meta-diary is a bit strange, but so be it.  To everything there is a season.

I've been a reader here for quite some time.  Until now, I have resisted the temptation to join in.  I teach at a small private college in New Jersey, serving a mostly minority student body, and I have considered full participation as perhaps consuming more time than I really should be diverting from my ordinary duties. But a confluence of events has convinced me to speak up.

Who am I and why must I speak?  Check it out...

I'll try to give the short version...while not very short, at least it doesn't have footnotes.  My name is Robyn Serven.  I have a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Oregon.  I was born in Portland, OR, but grew up living in a small town somewhat to the south and west called Lake Oswego.  I couldn't afford to live there now, but at the time there was an area of the town called the First Addition where many of the worker-class people lived.  My father was an electrician, a former World War II bombardier, a bigot and a drunk.  This latter condition was the cause of his death.  My mother worked in a laundry owned by her father and wrote articles for the weekly Lake Oswego Review, of which she became a copy editor before she died.  From outward appearances, people probably thought I had a rather normal childhood and adolescence.  If it weren't for the fact that I spent a goodly portion of those years terrified, I might agree.

I got a scholarship to attend the University of Pennsylvania in 1966, but emotional problems on my part lead to a severance in our relationship after a year.  Since it was 1967 and I was no longer in college, was born male, and was a pacifist, I chose what I thought was the better part of valor and left for San Francisco in the summer of '67. There followed the longest 16 or so months imaginable, which included two trips back and forth across the country, one on the Poor People's March on Washington, and time spent in the lower east side of NYC, camping on a beach south of Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, and wandering around on the block on Haight Street that seemed only to be there when I was stoned, which was often.  Then Nixon was elected president and Reagan was elected governor of California and many of us figured it was time to disperse: there was no point hanging around where we were easily collectible.

I ended up in Joplin, MO, with a friend who turned out to be pregnant with my child. I had a social background that required that I try to do "the right thing," so we got married.  Our daughter was born in August of 1969.  In 1971 I was tracked down by the FBI while working at a pizza restaurant in Veneta, OK, and given the choice of pleading guilty to "moved, left no forwarding address," which was punishable by 5 years in the Oklahoma State penitentiary, or volunteering for the draft.  Given the option of two years with pay vs. five years without, I chose to support my family, figuring that I could always run again if they tried to send me to Vietnam.  

The Army may not have a sense of humor, but they are great with irony: after basic training, I was sent to MP school at Ft. Gordon, GA.  In order to avoid overseas duty, I volunteered for Correctional Specialist School upon completing MP training.  I was permanently stationed at the US Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth, KS. It turned out that the Army had been neglecting to pay the prisoners correctly for years and one of my schoolmates in Georgia was picked to be company secretary, so  my mathematics background gained me a slot in the Prisoner Pay section of the Finance Office, so at least I managed not to actually have to work in the prison much.  I was discharged in 1973 as a Spec 5 (Scandanavian heritagealert: if you're going to do something, do your best job).

I returned to college at first Portland Community College, then Portland State University, and then the University of Oregon, graduating in 1981.  My first employment was at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee for three years, which was followed by 16 years at the University of Central Arkansas, where I earned tenure as the one of the department's algebraists.  

During my time in Arkansas, my daughter came out as a lesbian, my spouse and I got divorced, and I underwent a sex-change operation. As you might assume, this last item did not go over well with the good citizen's of Arkansas, so my last 6 years there were not the best of times.  I was, however, selected to be acting chair (for a few months) of the Faulkner County chapter of NOW, a member of Little Rock PFLAG, a member of the board of the Arkansas Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and was a columnist for a time, writing "Outside the Gender Prison" for the Triangle Rising.

In 2000 my partner (I identify as a lesbian) took a job at Seton Hall (which she no longer has) and I quit my job and moved here to New Jersey as well, having pretty much used up excuses for not leaving Arkansas for a friendlier clime. After teaching as an adjunct for a year (math at Montclair State and computer literacy at Bloomfield College), I was invited to apply for a full time position in Computer Information Systems at Bloomfield.  I've spent the succeeding years teaching myself how to profess computer programming and as secretary of the faculty governance structure, a member of Women's Studies faculty and a co-coordinator of the Gay/Non-Gay Alliance. This is my tenure year.

Okay...so that's much more about me than probably anyone needs or wants to know, but I want to be open about where I am coming from.

It would have been more timely for me to have responded at the time of the HRC discussion of a week or so back, but like I said, I was a reader but not a member, so I have had to go through the time delay portion of the program.  

(1) At the time, I wanted to point out what has unfortunately become a too-often tradition of trading the rights of transgendered people for gains in the rights of gays and lesbians.  I am troubled that the HRC has in the past been proficient at this. I have yet to be convinced that they have changed their viewpoint.  I would counsel people who wish to donate to consider the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force as an alternative.  The NGLTF has promised not to barter the rights of the gender-variant.

(2) I have been annoyed at some of the intended humor.  There is not a post about Ann Coulter that doesn't have at least one comment accusing her of being born a man.  Whether it is true or not (not, from what I have seen), this is apparently a severe offense in the eyes of those making the comments.  I've got to tell you that this attitude offends me. While it is true that many transsexual people do try to hide their past, which might seem to make them fair game to some people, there are many of us who are proud of who we are and what we have accomplished during our lives and would take kindly to you knocking it off, if you please.

(3)  Given (1) and (2) it appears to me that it's time for someone to begin an education process.  Seeing nobody else step forward since I have been here and being a teacher anyway, I guess it's time to answer the questions:  "If not now, when?  If not me, who?"  So I'm going to be posting a series of diaries including past writings and current ones (I've (foolishly?) offered to do a performance piece at BC for National Coming Out Day (October 11)).  Many will ignore them, I'm sure.  But this sort of education happens one person at a time.

See you next time.

Originally posted to Robyn's Perch on Sun Sep 25, 2005 at 04:30 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for the introduction (none)
    and let me say welcome, from #18,461.

    I look forward to reading your series.

    Teaching is an act of patriotism

    by mrsdbrown1 on Sun Sep 25, 2005 at 04:38:38 PM PDT

  •  First, you need a tip jar (none)
    Recommend this diary!

    I look forward to your series. You are right on the money about HRC. It is never right, in my view, to dump one group overboard to make the boat go a little faster. You'll get an argument from some that they'll come back later to pick up the survivors, we have to trim our sails on this one, compromise. . . Utter and total bullshit as you have no doubt experienced.

    -7.88, -7.74 In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.

    by melvin on Sun Sep 25, 2005 at 04:41:40 PM PDT

    •  Comments are appreciated... (4.00)
      ...but unfortunately won't always get a response.  Like I said, it is my tenure year and I have limited time.  

      Tonight I have to begin writing a treatise on teaching, specifically on the teaching of computer programming, and on changing one's field of expertise.
  •  As just one voice (none)
    I feel I speak for many in welcoming you.  We have an adequate cross section of the American misfit represented here.  Myself included.  One more voice makes all of our voices stronger.

    If we're dumb. Then God is dumb. And maybe a little ugly on the side.

    by Ghost of Frank Zappa on Sun Sep 25, 2005 at 04:54:06 PM PDT

  •  Welcome. (none)
    Yours is quite an amazing story. Intricate and dramatic.

    You know, KOS is kinda irreverant, and the humor is all over the place. I don't think you'll be able to censor it, but I look forward to learning more when you have time to write another diary.

    Meanwhile, I've gotta tell you -- I was just served a tall White Russian by my roommate, who really DOES look like Ann Coulter and he really IS a guy.

    Small world.


    It's okay to be a sheep, but not at the wheel. -- Cap'n Pluto

    by Pluto on Sun Sep 25, 2005 at 05:41:45 PM PDT

  •  I despise (none)
    Coulter, but for her views. I get irritated when the comments start about her appearance. Welcome.
  •  Welcome Robyn (none)
    I look forward to reading your future posts. Interestingly, I have a friend who was Robin, and now is Rob.
  •  Welcome (none)
    looking forward to reading your series.
    And remember, in any given group of 65 thousand, there are bound to be a couple of asshats. With minimal offense ment to asses, or hats.

    I'ts too wet to work. Let's buy a DVD.

    by emmasnacker on Sun Sep 25, 2005 at 08:26:42 PM PDT

  •  The timing of this worthwhile diary, rserven, (none)
    was bad in the sense that it got buried quickly in afternoon traffic. Please do not go away. You clearly have a great deal to contribute and can articulate it well. Your voice is badly needed here. This is our place, yours and mine.

    -7.88, -7.74 In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.

    by melvin on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 12:38:22 AM PDT

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