Do you really know what being ‘transgender’ means? According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word ‘transgender’ refers to “a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.” In recent years, there has been much more awareness of trans people, mostly thanks to American celebrities like Laverne Cox or Caitlyn Jenner. However many people are still unaware as to exactly what it means to be trans.
Starting my new university journey was a daunting experience, mostly because I had come out as trans a few weeks before my first day at Birmingham City University. I was born female but personally, I feel that I identify as male. For the first time in my life, I would be introducing myself as Daniel to my lecturers and classmates.
So far, I have been lucky in my experience here in the second city, because most people have met me with nothing but acceptance and support. Despite this, me and many other trans students still face numerous challenges at university. Personally, I’ve found the biggest challenge has been being “mis-gendered”. The phrase means someone using the wrong pronouns when referring to me. Let’s go back to school and the basics of grammar for a second! What is a pronoun? It is the word to describe someone’s action in a sentence. For example ‘he/him/his’ or ‘she/her/her’. I prefer people to refer to me as ‘he/him/his’, not ‘she/her/her’ even though I was born female.
I get mis-gendered a lot, and this greatly increases my feelings of gender dysphoria (discomfort or distress surrounding a person’s body). I rarely correct anyone who uses the wrong pronouns out of fear of confrontation, because I’ve actually experienced dangerous situations when people have learned of my trans identity.
My dysphoria affects the way I feel about aspects of myself, especially my voice and my chest. I wear a chest binder, which effectively flattens my chest and helps me be regarded as male by other people. This restricts many daily activities, and can mean something as simple as going up a flight of stairs leaves me struggling to catch my breath. These things often have a negative impact on my self-confidence, and can exacerbate my mental health problems.
While I do deal with some ignorance and negative comments surrounding my identity, I have also found a welcoming community at university. My friends I’ve made here help me feel more comfortable than I felt at school, where I had to keep my identity a secret from everyone except my closest friends.
I wanted to write this to let you know that if you don’t know anything about being transgender, I am more than happy for you to ask me a question or two about it. Because I think it’s really important to raise even more awareness of the issue, and help others understand and be able to accept my community.