Working in Higher Education gives me an incredible opportunity to work with college students at such an important time in their lives. I find myself looking at ways to challenge their thinking and help them become the best versions of themselves. I appreciate opportunities to have difficult conversations with them and let them know that some of these sensitive topics are great to talk about while opening their eyes on new perspectives.
Tonight we ran a program on gender. A friend of mine who is a transman came and did a presentation on his life and his journey to find his path. His presentation was incredible. He spoke openly and frankly about his experiences and gave real life stories about the challenges that he has faced as he has worked to live his truths. He has no idea that I am transgender as well.
I was experiencing a pretty tough day gender wise and the presentation made it worse. It is always so exciting and inspiring to see others who are living their truths and finding their best lives but on this day, it was just hard. I heard his stories about the excitement of growing facial hair or how much he hated the clothes he was forced to wear and I thought about how I felt so much further the other way – I can’t stand how dark my facial hair comes in and the clothes that he shunned were the ones I felt so at home in. Every story of his successes made me question myself. It was inspiring to hear his stories – to hear that he came out as trans and the young people around him were all cool with it, the important people in his family embraced him and the ones that didn’t just didn’t matter. There are so many similarities in our stories but I’m too scared to find my own truths.
Today, I was the ally. I was the person reiterating that you could be a football loving white guy and still be supportive of trans issues. You could be the straight white guy who works out constantly and be an ally. In my community that is a valuable lesson to teach – to allow people to feel safe to come into my office and talk about these difficult things, to know that they have a safe space. We talked about statistics – about suicide, about homelessness, about discrimination – and I sat there and listened. He spoke about how the statistic about suicide speaks to him and how he was part of that statistic. The room was somber but the message was so powerful. I wanted to share that I was part of that statistic as well. But I was too scared. Instead I held back tears as we talked more openly about how difficult it is for transpeople and why programs like this are so important so that people can be more open and inclusive to people different from them and so people can understand a little more about the troubles we go through. I was commended for being willing to sponsor the program and help get the message out. Commended because I KNEW it mattered – but if people knew just how much I knew they would be truly shocked. Perhaps they would be just as supportive and encouraging as what my friend had experienced – I just don’t have that courage.
I have tried for so long to lead by example. As Ashlee, I want to change people’s perceptions and stigmas about a transperson and appreciate me for who I am and recognize that I don’t want any trouble – that we don’t want any trouble – but that we just want to be happy and be our truest self. As a male, I want to help the conversation continue – I want people to know it’s ok to talk about this and that we can use our privilege to better the world. I’ve been praised countless times for my support for the LGBT community but on days like today I feel like I’m living a lie. There is a real benefit in getting this information out there and for someone who looks the way I am currently presenting to be someone leading the charge but sometimes it feels rotten.
I caught myself hearing his stories – talking about all the little anxeities that creep up and the stresses that you feel jut knowing that things are right, that your body isnt right, that you hate who you see in the mirror. The way that it feels to be told that you are an attractive male. It’s not me. I think of myself answering some of those Q&As and how some of my answers would be similiar and how some might be so different but just how much I wanted that moment. Maybe some day.