Lal Zimman (he/him/his) (FAQ)
[lɑɫ ˈzimn̩]

zimman at ucsb dot edu

Assistant Professor of Linguistics
Affiliated Faculty in Feminist Studies
South Hall 3518
University of California, Santa Barbara
Lal Zimman

I am originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, where I grew up in the shadow of Marin County's Mount Tamalpais. I was not a particularly academically-inclined young person, and as a kid I imagined myself going into an artistic profession. I dropped out of high school toward the end of my sophomore year and got emancipated shortly after my 15th birthday, at which point I moved to San Francisco and began taking college classes. After a brief stint in fashion school(!), I realized that a more academic program might be a better use of my talent and switched to community college coursework.

After some time at College of Marin and City College of San Francisco, I transferred to San Francisco State University to study philosophy. I loved SFSU, and developed the dream of becoming a professor at this time; I also realized that philosophy was not for me. Luckily, during my final semester, I took my first linguistics class – Phonology and Morphology – and knew immediately that I'd found an intellectual home. I enrolled SFSU's MA program in English with a concentration in linguistics without much sense of what kind of linguistics I would want to do, and had my next epiphany when I took a course on language and gender in 2004. I'd previously had no intention of studying trans communities, or even sharing my trans status with colleagues, but I realized in this course that almost nothing had been published on language in the kinds of transgender communities that I knew, that what had been published was highly problematic, and that virtually every topic we discussed in that seminar could benefit from a trans perspective. I realized that I could build a career out of my lived experience, though at the time I had no idea how fruitful this line of inquiry would be, nor the deeper implications of making my identity so deeply tied up with my work.  My initial discomfort with becoming publicly trans as part of my professional life ended up providing the impetus for my first journal article on the topic of coming out as transgender, which critiqued the "coming out imperative" and flattening of "LGBT" experience, in which trans people's particularities are usually erased.

Graduate school was a wonderful time for me, but the biggest challenge I faced was how to manage my academic work while also dealing with chronic migraines, which went from frequent and annoying to daily and inescapable around the time I started my MA. I've since developed a lot of strategies for dealing with my migraines, but I still experience symptoms on a daily basis, generally worsening as the day goes on. So just know that when I fail to show up for something or leave early, it's almost always because of my migraine. I tend to be triggered by many scents (perfume, cologne, scented detergent, dryer sheets, cigarette smoke - even some "natural" scents, like lavender, can do it), foods (primarily alliums like onions, garlic, shallots and chives, esp. when raw, including the smell alone), and fluorescent lights, and I always appreciate assistance in avoiding these stimuli when possible.

My life right now is split between Santa Barbara (during academic terms) and San Francisco (during breaks and most weekends), where my partner and family live. I enjoy exploring California, making friends with animals, eating good vegetarian food, traveling, movies/film festivals, following politics at a variety of levels, and ruining people's good time with critical analysis of everyday life. I am also interested in a variety of body modification practices. I currently have one linguistics-related tattoo, with others planned for the near future. See my page on linguistics tattoos for pics.

Finally, I am an avid proponent of structured procrastination, but have a lot of trouble keeping up with email. Please feel free to write me again if you haven't heard back...