What is it like to be transgender at BB&N? Most students here wouldn’t know. This is my first year at the school and my first year being socially transitioned, meaning the first school year of my life that I have been openly trans. Overall, the experience has been successful, but something I frequently struggle with is the fact that people in this community lack understanding about what it means to be trans.
Don’t get me wrong, the support I’ve received here has been fantastic. And in terms of the basics, my experience here has been smooth. Name change, bathrooms, all set. What I find most difficult about socially transitioning is others’ blatant disregard of something as simple as my pronouns.
I want to clear the air on “what I am.” Disclaimer: I’m not a girl who wants to be or thinks she’s a boy (yes, those are labels I have been mistakenly identified as). I am a boy. Being trans does not mean choosing to change your gender. People get confused by this because one can identify as the gender they were assigned at birth before realizing they’re trans; that was the case for me. I won’t explain the whole story of discovering my identity, but what I will say is I didn’t grow up knowing I was trans. But that doesn’t make my identity now any less valid.
Even though people know how I identify, some still fail to use my pronouns, he/him/his. One example took place during the week of midterm exams when I went into another room but could overhear my classmates conversing in my absence. While discussing where I had gone, someone used she/her/hers pronouns. Being misgendered frustrated and hurt me, but it wasn’t the end of the world. What happened next was what stood out.
When my other classmates corrected him, he insisted that he had not misgendered me and continuously denied his mistake. If you misgender someone, politely correct yourself and move on. Unwillingness to admit to and fix a mistake has been a common theme for my classmates regarding use of my pronouns. I can understand the embarrassment of making a mistake, but this was not a one-time event. The same student continues to misgender me; it happens at least once a day.
There is no excuse, there is no reason students should mistake my pronouns. It was May, the ninth month of the school year. My classmates know me, and I have made clear how I identify, but every single day my peers—especially my male classmates—repeatedly disregard my identity by referring to me with female pronouns. Why? You would never call another guy by she/her/hers pronouns. I find it uncomfortable—as most boys would—to be referred to by she/her/hers pronouns, but even more uncomfortable is the constant reminder that I am not seen as the same as other boys.
It is not my responsibility to remind you to respect and acknowledge trans people’s identities. I am always willing to answer questions, as long as they’re genuine and coming from a good place, but I often struggle with “Do I or do I not share my story?” I want to share my experience and educate those around me, but I do not want to be categorized as the kid whose only personality trait is his sexuality or gender identity. I don’t want to become the kid who only talks about being trans.
What I have come to realize, however, is that if I don’t, no one will.
One way to be welcoming of the trans community is by introducing yourself using your pronouns. It makes it easier for trans people to clarify their pronouns without explicitly outing themselves as trans. If I were the only one to include my pronouns in an introduction, it would most likely lead people to think I’m not cisgender (identifying with the gender one is born with); if other classmates or teachers include their pronouns, it becomes a normal occurrence.
Another way you can educate yourself is to do research. The process of educating yourself on the trans community is no different than the process of educating yourself on an event in history. If you are unaware of something or don’t know what it means, look it up. It’s not hard to find the articles or websites of trans people, like Schuyler Bailar [see “Q&A with Schuyler Bailar,” left], for example.
Of course, another way to educate yourself is to ask a member of the trans community around you. Be respectful and polite as you would with anyone else, but just say you have a question and ask if they’re comfortable answering. I recommend doing this in private, unless it is during an assembly or event where the person is clearly fine with answering questions publicly. Some people don’t like to be put on the spot, especially if they’re not completely open about their identity. I have been asked questions before, and, as I said before, I’m willing to answer them. I want to help educate people around me and better the community in any way I can.