I met a on a beautiful day in fall. Shyness and some insecurity were distinctly shown on his bright face and I wondered when was the last time someone sat down and talked to him about gender identity. On official documents authorized by NSU, A always fills out a preferred name he created for himself and checks the “other” checkbox for gender. He has attempted tirelessly to apprise people of his self-identity, which he has been discovering for the past seven years. People do hear his voice, but they don’t always listen.
In May, A was originally assigned to a double room in a dorm with a girl. He believed that he would not find comfort living there and consequently contacted the housing office via email to request the change into a boy’s room. He needed to live in a space that fit his gender identity, which he already clearly stated on all recorded documents. The process was unsurprisingly painstaking – not until late July did the housing office respond to his email and a search for his new room was started, but in a patience-stretching way. Not everyone was willing to share a room with a transgender, or a pre-operative transgender, except for most people in the same community as him. He eventually found a gay friend who was also looking for somebody in the LGBTQ community to share a room with.
A at least had a shelter that gave him a sense of security, but obviously he could not stay inside around the clock. Using public restrooms was no longer a basic human deed for him, but an act of bravery that he would not bring up in everyday conversation; peers stared at him as he entered the male bathroom – some with curiosity, some with judgment and some with even aversion.
“Most of the times, I try to use the bathroom in my dorm and the one where I work. It’s a unisex one.”
“Why? Are you afraid?”
A hesitant head nod splintered my heart deeply.
A plans to have his first testosterone hormone injection in a couple of months at the Sun Serve clinic in Wilton Manors, Florida. Even though his NSU health insurance did not cover this treatment plan and this decision may drive a permanent wedge between him and his family, this was everything that mattered to him.
“It’s just extremely mentally disturbing and damaging to have a physical life as a female and I don’t think I can carry on living as I am right now. This is a change that is meant to happen in order for me to live the rest of my life.”
I no longer saw a reserved and timid A, but a person of determination striving for his desired life. I had no idea how much struggle and courage it took to have such a beautifully strong person in front of me.
“If you can make three requests to NSU for better protection for transgender students, what would they be?”
“First, I’d like to be able to use my preferred name on Canvas, my school email, and school ID instead of my birth name. Secondly, it would be much appreciated to have gender-inclusive bathrooms on campus. Lastly, I wish transgender resources could be more accessible, especially in terms of healthcare, because the clinic on campus does not have the medication I need.”
After my long talk with A, I still saw the beauty of fall upon the sky. I just wondered if the sky looked the same in the eyes of A and other transgender students.
Photo: T. Mossholder