Week 8: My life in the dorms
I faced a challenge perhaps unique to all of the blog writers. While at MIT, I lived in a dorm with suitemates for the ﬁrst time
in quite a long while. However, this was not the greatest challenge of my living circumstances. I am transgendered, and this was my ﬁrst time ever living with genetic females. I looked forward to my experience with both anticipation and trepidation. What if they found out about my secret? What if there were manifestations of my behavior that gave my past away? How would they react? How would I adjust? I found that all of my questions had answers, and all of my answers had questions.
To my enormous surprise and relief, nothing averse happened. Not only was there no negative reaction to my previous gender, but my suitemates and I also strongly bonded and I had the best suitemate/dorm/living arrangement that I had ever had! It was a great learning experience about the issues that genetic women face in their lives, which as a result of my
cohabitation, I got to glimpse in enormous detail and I gained tremendous insight into what it means to be a woman in a way that I could not and have not had in any other way.
result of psychological mistreatment and how they are dealing with them. It is signiﬁcant to note that this trauma was inﬂicted on them by men. This by no means is meant to suggest that men are all bad or in some way emotionally inferior to women. However, it does reinforce a growing sense within me that we were all in this together, and that we were different from them. In fact, that is the whole concept and deﬁnition of gender identity in the ﬁrst place, “us women” as opposed to “them men”.
I found that through my living arrangements, as well as my presence in Cambridge allows me to participate far more extensively in groups such as Scientista I have grown to identify far more strongly with females than ever before, which is quite startling when you consider that it was my internal sense of gender identity that drove me to become so involved with
Scientista in the ﬁrst place. Perhaps this goes to prove that gender identity is due to external conditions (“nurture” opposed to “nature”) more than previously thought. It is indeed an interesting hypothesis to ponder.
There is a raging debate going on in academic circles about the formation of gender identity, is it inborn and innate, or is
it learned through same gender experiences? There are some that may argue that it is biologically determined and unchangeable. However, a growing number of scientists believe that it is acquired through bonding experiences with same
gender peers. For example, proponents of this theory argue that experiences such as boy scouts, gender segregated camps, schools and dorms can “cure” transsexuality in a young genetically male child. My experiences living in gender segregated dorms and my involvement in gender segregated groups (i.e. Scientista) suggests (quite ironically, if you desire my opinion) that there is some truth to this, as I fell much more than a woman than ever before.
About the Blogger
Amy Beth Prager is a mathematics educator interested in outreach efforts. She is currently expanding her knowledge of mathematics, computer science and engineering.She is spending the summer in the mathematics department of MIT pursuing coursework in applied numerical methods; taking a class known as 18.085, Computational Science and Engineering. The course teaches methods of
applied mathematics useful in engineering and science.