Transgender students can often feel isolated, anxious and endangered during their time at Mount Allison, where the vast majority of students are cisgender and the concerns of trans students can often go unheard.
From questions of wanting to transition to wondering which bathroom is safe to use, university can be incredibly difficult for trans students who also deal with the issues that all students regularly face.
Mareya Julia Faline Salazar, a trans woman who attended Mt. A for the 2014-15 school year, said that her experiences here were mixed.
“I had just graduated from high school, moved out and wanted to transition. I struggled all year with trying to figure out how I wanted to tell my Jehovah’s Witness family that I was about to embark on a journey that would change me forever and that they probably couldn’t approve of,” Salazar said in a Facebook message to the Argosy. “This, of course, distracted me from my studies.”
“I knew I didn’t want to go home any time soon, but I had absolutely no drive to apply myself to my studies. I didn’t really know at the time but looking back at it now I can say I was really depressed,” she said.
While Salazar was not “out” as a trans woman except to some friends and family during her time here, she did not feel as though there was institutional support for students to transition.
According to Salazar, if Mt. A could provide more accessibility “to the things trans people need, it would make a lot of students’ lives a lot easier.” She added that these changes need to happen outside of universities as well.
“[Information on] medical supplies such as hormones, chest binders for trans men, access to literature on transitioning and some means of contacting a doctor who has knowledge of and experience with transgender patients” were some of the accessibility options that Salazar would have liked to see.
Jesse Macmillan, a Holland College student who attended Mt. A for the 2014-15 year, echoed sentiments about institutional inaccessibility for trans students. “[Transphobia is] actually why I left Mt. A,” he wrote in a Facebook message to Argosy staff.
Although he made inclusive friends, had a supportive nurse to administer testosterone shots and was given a single room in Hunton, his experiences were not all positive.
“The administration put me through hell. They wouldn’t change my name in the system to Jesse and only used my birth name, so I lived in fear every single day of people in my classes finding out and treating me differently because my deadname* was on class lists, Moodle, and my student ID.”
While this was a significant obstacle at Mt. A, other schools he attended were more accommodating to a name change.
“I’ve also been at Ryerson, UPEI, and Holland College and I’ve never had a problem [getting my name changed] at any of those schools,” Macmillan said.
According to Mt. A’s sexual harassment advisor, Melody Petlock, the issue has since been remedied through adding a “Preferred Name” field to Connect.
Rogan Porter, a trans man who attended Mt. A from 2013-16 and transitioned during his time here, said he often felt tokenized. Since there are so few trans students in Sackville, he felt like the poster child for trans rights issues.
“We’re treated as a special category that isn’t really relevant, or that there aren’t enough of us to justify actual change. I feel like a commodity here,” Porter said.
*A deadname is a name assigned to someone at birth that does not fit their gender identity.