The Table Scraps Mentality

Obviously, I’m still upset over hearing the news that, as of January, I will be making $900 a month. And that, as of May, I will have no employment at all, as I had no employment this summer either. And that this change of events directly correlates with my transition. Not that transitioning and my being made redundant are directly related, but they do intersect. If anything, being trans on the poverty line is a bit different from the same situation if one is cis.

But it’s budgets, of course. No one’s fault, per se. And you can’t argue with a budget. Universities are following the WalMart model of pump and dump cheap employment, and desperate graduates are the casualties. This is not likely change, and is only likely to get worse, as the turnover rate of recent PhDs increases seemingly exponentially. I have no doubt as well, from those now safely ensconced, that there is a hidden elitism excusing these practises on the quiet: the great people will always get jobs, the cream works against gravity by nature of its excellence, ever rising. The curds deserve to sink. It’s sad. But that’s life.

Forget that — and I need to find a ref for the exact numbers — that of the tenure track recent hires, 150 or so in the Faculty of Arts at UBC, something like 145 of them were white males. I’m not making a vague at appeal to racial sectarianism here. Those were the numbers I heard. And I believe them. Cos I used to pretend to be a white-cis-male.

So where my eyes roll back into my head is the “we did our best” line or “some got nothing; be grateful” as the rationale du jour in the wasteland of discarded teachers. Yes, you did your best. Dômo arigatô gozaimasu. Deep bow. And be grateful? I’m on my knees with appreciation, fo’ sho’.

Actually, the table scrap argument leaves me cold.

These very lines are just too eerily similar to the tactical brushoffs and excusatory apologetics that I’ve got off some friends and family about my being trans: “You’re lucky we even TRY to get pronouns right”; You can’t expect us to suddenly think of you as a ‘girl’ when you’ve been so obviously a boy you’re whole life”; “You know, we could have just ignored you”; “We’re doing our best to acknowledge this bizarre ‘option you’re pursuing, so be glad for that effort”; “We’re being nicer to you than most people in our situation would . . .”


It’s hard to know what to make of it, since this line of defense has the added benefit of attacking shame and insecurity I feel since I’ve come out as trans. The redundancy rhetoric works on the same line, in fact — addressing the powerless in terms of disempowerment . . . it could be worse . . . it’s not us, it’s the colony collapse syndrome . . . it’s not us, it’s just that amorphous cloud of transphobia . . . it’s not us, it’s just the way things are. The shifting see-saw of having less and having none, always on the downward curve. Take it or leave it.

But there’s neither taking nor leaving in a game of desperation that is the musical bowls of emptiness rotating in competition for the one morsel of someone else’s banquet — no hot, cold, or just right — only what is left us . . .whether that’s the struggle for equitable employment, or the fight for gender identity, two fronts I now find my stretched psyche struggling again.

What they’re really saying: “Our table scraps are your treats.”

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