SERIES: Being transgender in college: the classroom

Photo courtesy of Signature Reads

Disclaimer: this series only represents my own life as a trans man on campus. This issue focuses on experiences impacted by my gender identity in the classroom and other academic spaces at Xavier.

I’m fortunate I don’t face outward hostility on a daily basis for being open with my gender. This doesn’t mean I’m immune to the ignorance of my peers. Please don’t take this as an attack. Instead, I want you, especially if you’re not trans, to take this article as an educational experience and a how-to on not being disgusting, rude and privileged to the trans people in your life by seeing Xavier through my eyes.

One common experience with classmates and peers has been people assuming they have the right to interrogate me on my identity. I may be a smart-ass, but I wasn’t born to be a personal tutor for strangers wondering what being in the wrong body feels like. Assuming that trans people are expected to educate and minimize the insecurities their cis peers feel stems from cis privilege, which I do experience daily. If you wouldn’t ask someone you thought was cisgender about their genitals/sexual orientation/entire life story, don’t ask me. There’s a fine line between education and curiosity for one’s entertainment. That line is different for every individual! Stick to Googling all your weirdo questions before coming to me or any other trans person. My free time is not office hours for Trans 101.

When I’m not being asked rude questions, I mainly get stared at. A. Lot. After I wrote “Being Trans in College,” I noticed more turned heads (and longer, angrier stares) in class, the caf, walking and sitting, you name it. Don’t look me up and down after you figure out my identity, then blame your obvious discomfort and disgust for my existence like it’s an issue I created for myself. I don’t deserve to have my life put under a microscope by strangers who think intensely staring is the 21st century handshake. Maybe it’s because I dress better than they ever will or maybe they think I’m a monster, I’ll never know. I am so deeply insecure with being trans that I try my best to forget I’m a real person, but feeling like a circus act doesn’t help. I do know I feel more seen, and I’m truly unsure if it’s because I’m openly trans or not.

Just because a trans person doesn’t necessarily correct you for using the wrong pronouns doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt them. Constantly being referred to as “she” makes me feel as if I’m drowning in cement. Ignoring my pronouns because I’m not passing as male tells me my identity is invalid to you. I feel invalidated on a daily basis, which only keeps my mouth shut more. My internalized homophobia/transphobia keep me paralyzed when it comes to demanding respect. This means my pronouns are ignored by family, friends, teachers and 99 percent of classmates. When they’re ignored, I blame myself for not being “man enough” to look how I see myself.

Dealing with cis discomfort is difficult when you don’t even feel like a genuine human who deserves recognition by others. While I feel obligated to make those around me feel more comfortable by remaining silent and unbothered, why should I have to? Why should I have to minimize myself for the comfort of the ignorant who only see things in black and white, pink and blue? If you didn’t know I was transgender, would my life, pronouns and name be at the top of your debate list? Would you still treat me like a sideshow freak who has others answer for them?

To summarize, being trans is already complicated. If you know someone’s trans, be respectful. Figuring yourself out in college is hard for everyone, and we all must work on self-awareness to avoid alienating our peers.

Toni Carlotta is a junior communications studies major and a staff writer for the Newswire from Cincinnati.

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