Being a Trans Person in Academia: Part V Back to the Present

[This is part of a series.  Here is Part 0,  Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4]

Hi there!  I took a break from writing this series of blog posts, because as it turns out, writing about my experiences as a trans person trying to move through academia is emotionally exhausting.  Most of the time I am actively trying to not rehash my past difficulties so that I have enough energy to go about my day.  So writing these blogs has gone against my standard way of being, and has been a special exercise in discomfort and vulnerability.  While on the whole I’m glad that I have written these posts and made this public (did I mention that my natural inclination is to be really private?) this has not been an entirely enjoyable experience.

If I were to keep going chronologically, this post would be about my first year in the Biostatistics doctoral program at Brown.  But there are no rules here, right?  So instead of talking about my PhD experience (which had many ups and downs as well.  Some of which I documented in a pathetically dejected zine LOL) I am skipping ahead to the present.

I’m in the second year of a tenure track job at Smith College, back to where I went to undergrad.  I am in the Statistical and Data Sciences (SDS) program, which is my dream scenario.  I have a friend who, when I had just started grad school, asked me what I would ideally end up doing.  No joke, I told him that I would love to be a professor at Smith, and now here I am!  I have wonderful colleagues who come from Statistics, Mathematics, Psychology, and Computer Science backgrounds. The program is pretty new (the first SDS majors graduated in 2017) and it has been extremely rewarding to be a part of building this program in cooperation with so many dedicated, smart, caring, creative, and forward-thinking coworkers. It seems to be working! We now have over 70 declared majors, and we continue to grow all the time.  It feels like, here in Smith SDS, I am part of something truly special and that all of my experiences have prepared me for this moment.

I’m really happy (and kind of surprised?) that I have been able to keep my research moving along. I’m enjoying working on a bunch of different projects: developing statistical methods for analyzing data collected through Respondent-Driven Sampling, for allocating “treatments” to maximize impact in social network studies, as well as working on analyses of data relating to LGBT public health issues.  The balance of teaching and research is suiting me well.  I love that statistics and research is a team activity, and getting to work on several different projects with people from diverse fields is energizing.  While I like that I get to do research on trans health, I am glad that this isn’t the only area of focus for me.  I am pretty sure that if I only did trans health research I would burn out fast.  The health disparities between trans (especially trans women of color) and non-trans people are extremely stark, and sometimes even though I know I am doing my best to help address those disparities, it gets me down.  But the only choice is to keep going, so that is what I am doing.

Now that I am at Smith I have been searching for ways that I can leverage my position and relative comfort with being out as trans to help other trans people.  Not every trans person can be out at their job, and I feel that because I am able to be out, that I have an extra responsibility.  This series of blog posts is a part of that effort.  I have also been working with some wonderful new colleagues that I met at the Women in Statistics and Data Science conference to increase visibility of LGBT+ statisticians/data scientists and to create resources for allies and LGBT+ folks.   The hard part for me in this moment is figuring out how I can make the biggest positive impact in a way that doesn’t deplete me.  I don’t imagine I will ever find a perfect balance, but I think I am getting closer.  This is the kind of challenge that I am gratified to be engaging with.

Thanks for reading and sharing!


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