You would not know unless I told you directly. My gender identity is something as basic to me, to who I am, as the lines on your hand are to you. My journey does not need to be shared with every person I meet, but I deserve respect as much as anyone else. My identity does not presuppose any set of core beliefs or ideals. It does not determine my interests or hobbies, nor does it explain my personality or behaviours.
I am genderfluid.
The reason I share this is twofold. Firstly, it is because all of my friends here have accepted me, proving to me that the world is changing for the better and that I am able to feel safe and welcome. This is surprisingly true even in large groups of people, who come from all over the world, with diverse backgrounds, perceptions and understandings.
The second point is that life must continue to shift and progress. There is no reason for one to become complacent. Complacency, although it may feel comfortable, is not comfort. It is the avoidance of discomfort only. It is a lack of action when action must be taken.
Transgender recognition and visibility is, for many, an issue that is not at the top of their priority list. I want to try to express my feelings from my own experience and hopefully help any cisgender person reading to get a better understanding of why this is so important.
It is exhausting to be in a class and to be misgendered by my classmates and my professors. It is exhausting to have to write emails; have meetings with professors, faculty and house staff; and constantly remind friends, classmates and professors what my pronouns are – mine are they/them, by the way. It is exhausting to hear in sociology, psychology and philosophy binary terms such as “male” and “female” or be told that a certain experiment is, for example, “for women only” when they simply mean “only for those with vaginas.” The constant feeling of non-existence, of subhumanity, that I and many of my friends experience is difficult to deal with on top of all the regular, culturally understood problems and dramas related to university. At some times it’s a constant nagging feeling and at others an unbearable sense of brokenness, a fear of how others will react when I out myself. I wonder sometimes what the world would be like if I didn’t have to experience this.
Unfortunately, my ideal solution to this is vague. The majority of students here are cisgender, and I have yet to meet any transgender faculty. I believe that if we are to achieve solutions that last and actually really work, there needs to be a continuing series of conversations, both within the trans community and between trans people and cis allies. We need allies to listen to our stories, since most policymakers and other individuals in positions of power are cisgender. Perhaps the heaviest, most in-depth discussions will happen in the future, but they must happen soon, and we shouldn’t wait to start talking. I understand that things are not always easy, and change sometimes must be painfully gradual. But the effort to create change should never be cast aside at the expense of students who need support and deserve to feel complete, whole and worthy.
Of course, this is larger-scale thinking. On the smaller scale, I implore cisgender students to be open and accepting, and I encourage them to research on their own. Look up definitions, look up histories, look up significant historical and modern figures in the community, look up the significance of LGBT2Q+ flags. It is, of course, important to talk to your trans friends, but I believe it would be easier on them – on us – if you came with information and requested clarification or assurance rather than simply asking your friends to explain everything to you. Advocacy is strongest when you take action yourself. I believe in my heart that the population of Mount Allison is capable of that love, of that strength. I trust in that, and I trust all of you.