SERIES: Being transgender in college: health and wellness

Photo courtesy of Signature Reads

I’m sitting in my hospital room for the fourth day in a row, typing this article on my phone.  I didn’t expect to be in this exact hospital room again, but a lupus flare-up that attacked my liver sent me here. Because of this, my third and final article for “Trans in College” will focus on health and wellness. My journey as a trans man means I have to navigate my time at Xavier to the best of my abilities in different ways than non-trans students, even when I feel overwhelmed by every aspect of my life. Being comfortable with yourself is hard without everything else in the world, but it is possible to maintain your sanity, be in college and be trans at the same time.

As my idols/drag queens Katya Zamo and Trixie Mattel once said, “Health is not the same as wellness. Wellness is your health and your spirit, your mind, your emotions. It’s the overall, all-encompassing picture of you as a fully realized human being that’s happy.”

Health is far more than physical. It includes mental, emotional, financial, spiritual and relational needs, regardless of identity. Not everyone is granted the resources they need to maintain all aspects of their own well-being. Going through the upkeep when you don’t even feel valid to society can make health and wellness seem like a false reality, especially for fellow trans people. My greatest weakness is not being able to admit that I need to pause whatever I am doing in order to put my well-being first. This year was the year I truly learned how important it is to prioritize not only myself but also specific aspects of my personal and trans health.

I want to put my needs ahead of my other responsibilities, but I don’t know which one to focus on. My autoimmune disease? Mental health? Relationships? It’s easy to get overwhelmed when your plate is already full, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Taking life day-by-day instead of year-by-year was the first step toward me prioritizing myself.

Mental health is chronically overlooked, but without it we all fall apart next to one another. Regardless of identity, everyone should be able to pull themselves out of situations that are damaging to mental health without stigma. Coming out as a gay man, going through chemo and lupus, losing my sister to addiction three days before my 20th birthday and average student issues kept me unsure of my own well-being this entire year.

I was spreading myself too thin for too long, and it was finally creeping up on me. To maintain my own sanity, I knew I would have to limit myself to people and situations I could handle in the moment. At first, admitting I needed to spend time alone was difficult because I never wanted to accept that anything was wrong, especially when it came to panic attacks that were directly caused by my gender dysphoria and being seen as a girl. By acknowledging my own stressors and comfort level, I am better able to handle situations that feel like a downward spiral of self-doubt and self-harm.

College is the real world, where every aspect of your person is constantly under fire. Trying to keep everything together is a process for all, and there is no rulebook on wellness. I cannot act as if I know everything or I always handle my health in the most effective way, but knowing I am actively trying is the first step to being a fully realized human being who is, most importantly, happy.

Toni Carlotta is a junior communications major and digital media minor. He is a native of Cincinnati.