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Much to be understood, respected about transgender students on campus

This week, we’re talking with Stephanie, who works for a non-profit organization on campus. She is a musician of over 30 years as well as a Star Wars fan. I asked Stephanie about her experience of transitioning, and she generously shared some really great insights.

 

BR: What do you wish people knew or understood about transitioning?

ST: The journey is not linear. There are many trajectories along the path; individuals make changes at their own pace, and the hope is that friends and family would be patient. My gender expression has been different at different points along the way. It can change radically in a short period of time. There are lots of paths to choose from [through transition].

Pop culture sets out a certain image or expectation of what you will look like. It’s anticipated that if you go from male to female, you will end up looking like a female supermodel. But people are naturally variable and we all turn out different.

And although we may seem different, we are ordinary people who want to be accepted for who we are and have the same experiences that other people do – love, success, etc.

BR: What kinds of things could others do that would be most helpful to someone experiencing transition?

ST: The pronoun thing. Use the desired pronouns and name preferences as a matter of respect. [Generally, use the pronoun the person is transitioning toward, to honour their goal and journey.]

Be an ally – march with me in the rain; that’s huge. It makes such a big difference. Show your support in whatever way you can.

Be willing to ask questions, research things so you have better understanding of the life and issues. Use the Internet, e.g. how to be an ally to trans people. Be open to exploring and learning about trans lives and issues.

 

BR: What’s unhelpful, insulting, or rude that you wish people would not do?

ST: Mis-gendering after being told that person’s preferences. If you are unsure which pronoun to use, you might use gender-neutral pronouns, until you can ask for the person’s preference if necessary. If I’ve shared my story with you, and you still refer to me in the past gender, that can be hurtful and is disrespectful.

Use respectful language, not derogatory terms. If you don’t know them, look them up. And don’t rely on stereotyped images of trans people; we aren’t like that.

 

BR: How can people who want to learn more about what it’s like to live in our UNB community as a trans person ask questions, to seek understanding and knowledge?

ST: Trans people are as different from one another as everyone, so the answer to this varies, as it would with anyone. I welcome authentic attempts to learn and understand. Others might feel differently. Inquire with respect, and respect the reply.

BR: What has been hard?

ST: Losing friends and struggling for acceptance with family. The process of becoming someone else has had psychological effects. Transitioning has been a great confidence-builder, that someday I will be myself, but struggling with your identity, for now it’s difficult… Looking into the mirror and recognizing somebody new.

BR: What myths would you bust?

ST: The myth that everyone wants surgery – no, they don’t. Lots of people are OK with their bodies as they are, or you can make whichever changes suit. There are lots of variations between male and female, lots of gray area.

Trans people just want to be able to use the bathroom of their choice, where they feel comfortable, without being viewed with suspicion.

1 Comment

  1. TaylorBissnette Reply

    The surgery thing is so big. Some people see it as an end goal, but have financial issues (particularly in NB where it’s not covered) or aren’t happy with what they’ve seen as current end results, so never persue in. Then there are those, like Stephanie said, who aren’t interested period. There’s such a variance to respect, like in cis (non-trans) people.

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