5 Things You Will Learn from Being Out as Trans at University

By Jesse Ashman 

Having come out in my first year of studying an undergraduate degree in English Literature, I am about to start a new university for the second time – this time as postgraduate student, below are some things I learnt from the first time at university.

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  1. You are not alone

While it seems statistically unlikely, there are other trans people at university. I might have been extremely lucky, but I had a small support-cluster of trans friends on campus. There is, of course, no way to find out if you have a potential trans comrade without being very rude (asking if someone is trans is rude, and does not help with making friends). This extends into professional academia as well. I’ve found, especially when dealing with queer theory, you will start using more and more texts by trans academics; it isn’t just my generation of trans people in higher education, others have walked this path before. This also isn’t just confined to the arts; I particularly recommend Evolution’s Rainbow, by Joan Roughgarden, who is a biologist and a trans woman. For me, it’s comforting to know that if you do get to the higher circles of academia there will be others there who too have had to go through explaining things like ‘my pronouns are actually…’ and ‘the gender is wrong on my passport because…’ which brings me on to…

  1. People will surprise you

It’s nice to have other trans people to talk to, but it’s also good to bear in mind that people outside of the community will surprise you. If you do choose to disclose your trans status, I’ve found that you can never assume who will be understanding and who won’t. Some of the most supportive people of my experience as a trans student have been people who I would never have guessed before coming to university would be. I especially remember one member of staff was extremely passionate about the injustice of me not feeling comfortable taking part in a conference because it would mean being put in single-sex accommodation. The overwhelming majority of people, especially proper-adult people who have had more years or more life experience or both in order to become educated on trans issues, were understanding and used the correct pronouns after having been corrected a minimum of once. That being said, doesn’t just apply to people already informed on trans issues. During my time at university I found myself explaining my trans status to a hall full of boisterous high-school students – after having clumsily explained in what I thought were the simplest terms possible, the reply came back from one of the particularly loud members of the pre-pubescent audience; ‘fair enough.’

  1. You will study texts that completely ignore your existenceSONY DSC

You can explain the existence of trans people to an IRL (IRL = In Real Life, for any non-digital natives reading) person, no amount of careful explaining to a hardbound copy of Freud’s essays on sexuality will change its mind about the development of gender. As soon as you go into any reading about gender a trans person will find many texts that ignore or misunderstand their existence; erasing it or using it as an ‘extreme example’ of gender variance or worse, by implying that the existence of trans people infringes upon women’s rights. There is no easy solution for this, the only partial remedy I can offer is to write your own opinions, challenge tutors who portray outdated theories in a positive light and try to use any salvageable elements of texts like this. It is unfortunate that it’s almost impossible not to encounter academic articles and books that have no understanding, consideration or a negative view of the trans community and it’s important to bear in mind that this does not represent the view of most people. Especially now, and especially after someone has undergone a little education on trans issues – most people have prejudices based on misunderstanding and not on hate.

  1. It is Okay to challenge the institutionSONY DSC

Bearing this in mind, this goes not just for trans issues, and is definitely something that all students should be made aware of ; it’s okay to challenge the institution (the institution being academia, the university system and established knowledge). Being at university means you’re part of the academic community now – and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise, to imply that your opinion is less valued based on your age or position as an undergraduate, is a self-aggrandising moron. It’s perfectly okay to point out when a text ignores or contradicts your existence or when you disagree for any other reason. And it’s certainly perfectly okay to point out when a staff member makes a mistake when talking about gender, either as a general concept and especially when they’re talking about your own gender.

One of the problems I regularly encountered on a course made almost entirely of women was seminar leaders jovially pointing out ‘there’s only X amount of boys in the class!’ – the tally was always one short and a lot of apologies were made. Just because someone is an authority figure does not mean they won’t concede when they are wrong, and any member of staff who doesn’t should not be involved in teaching, or in academia. University is about broadening horizons and collective knowledge, not an established knowledge being passed down from on high by the doctors and professors of the university. (Although one piece of information I would like them to pass down is what actually is the difference between a professor and a doctor except that one makes me think of the bird from Bagpuss). It is often difficult to be assertive when you know or suspect authority figures to be wrong, but you should challenge them whenever you are able.

  1. There will be bad days

And lastly this one almost goes without saying – there will be bad days. There will be days when you feel entirely alone, when you feel like there is no one in the institution who would even scrape the tip of the iceberg of understanding trans experience and as if every piece of study was designed without you in mind. The best thing to remember is that this is natural, and this is okay. I haven’t met a single student, trans or otherwise, who hasn’t had bad days. It doesn’t mean you’re not strong enough to get through a degree, and it doesn’t mean there aren’t good days to come – and this is the most valuable piece of information I learnt as an undergraduate and if I was to choose one thing to pass down to my first-year self it would be that bad days are okay. So okay in fact that despite the bad days I chose to start it all over again within few months of graduating.

Jesse is an English literature graduate and aquatic snail enthusiast from Essex. He graduated from Queen Mary, University of London and is currently studying for an MA in Sexual Dissidence at the University of Sussex. 

Follow him on Twitter: @JesseAshman 

Illustrations by Jesse Ashman

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Families Picnic at Primrose Hill

When: Saturday 30th August 2-5pm (meet 1.30pm at CSSD) 

Where: Entrance from Elseworthy Terrace (Map)

To celebrate the end of the summer, we will be having a lovely families’ picnic for all trans youth and their SOFFAs (significant others, families, friends and allies).  We will meet at 1.30pm at the regular spot of outside Central School of Speech & Drama, and we will walk down to Primrose Hill.  For those who wish to make their own way there we will be near the Elseworthy Terrace entrance.  

ALL ARE WELCOME.
 
Bring something to add to the picnic for us all to share - healthy food welcome! And once our food has digested we will embark on a game of rounders for those who are up for it. Hurrah! Let’s hope for nice weather. There’s no Plan B! 
  

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Trans* survivors of domestic abuse and/or hate crime need emergency accommodation at time of crisis. Current services struggle to meet the need or demand for safe/supportive emergency accommodation and leave survivors at high risk of harm. This situation cannot continue. A specialist housing project needs to be funded.

Please sign if you’re in the UK, and signal boost!

Tuesday Trans Youth Group: Reproduction & Parenting

When: Tuesday 9th July, 6-8pm
Where: Tavistock Centre, Swiss Cottage. (
Map)


Who can get pregnant? Who can be a parent? Who can have children and how?

This week’s topic explores the reproductive rights of trans people. There are many ways of being part of a family and raising children and we don’t hear enough about trans people being parents or having families. As part of this session, we are keen to find out what young trans, gender queer people and those questioning their gender identity think or want in terms of reproduction.

We will discuss: what reproductive rights mean to you? what might it include? and who might it involve? 

Our guest facilitators will be Laura Hurley, who is a Senior Project Worker from Brook (she is also a member of Gendered Intelligence Volunteer Scheme) and members of The Test Shot, a trans masculine on line platform.  
The GAP youth club are looking for a cis or trans male volunteer youth worker to help run an LGBT youth project on Fridays in Wandsworth. See the link for details.

Blog outlining the prejudice against trans people in the UK Equal Marriage Act, which is forcing trans people to disclose to partners by and law, and requiring them to seek consent from their spouse before being granted a Gender Recognition Certificate. 

genderedintelligence:

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When: Thursday 27th June 6pm – 8.30pm.
Where: Central School of Speech & Drama, Embassy Theatre, 62-64 Eton Avenue, London, NW3 3HY (map)
Book now to reserve your place by clicking here.

GI’s Anatomy is a Wellcome Trust funded project delivered by Gendered…

genderedintelligence:

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When: Tuesday 11th June 5.45pm - 8pm

Where: Central School of Speech and Drama, NW3 3HY (Map) - Not the Tavistock!
We will be visited by staff from the Roundhouse, who will facilitate a story sharing session. You will use creativity to share stories and experiences around themes…

This is tonight!

Getting to know your voice - FREE voice workshops for trans people

Gendered Intelligence is collaborating with MA Voice Studies, at Central School of Speech & Drama to offer one to one voice work. 

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Are you a trans or gender queer person of any age (over 18) who would like to be involved in this exciting new opportunity is do voice work?

Have you ever heard your own voice back on tape and said “Is that wow I sound? I like the sound of that!”
This is an opportunity to get to know your voice. The sessions will run one to one with voice studies practitioner, Margaret Mills and will take place at Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Margaret is an experienced coach who has worked in theatre and the business world. 

The workshops may involve a camera so that you can hear your voice back and study your posture.  You will carry out exercises that will improve breath, connection and control.  The idea is that you will work and develop your voice in the way that YOU want it to develop.

You may be surprised what it can do if you give it a chance.

Each sessions will run for 45 minutes and take place on a Wednesday evening (although there may be some flexibility with days and times)

The sessions will take place at:
Central School of Speech & Drama
Embassy Theatre
62-64 Eton Avenue
London NW3 3HY
United Kingdom  (Map)

If you are interested to find out more, or wish to book a slot, email jay.stewart@genderedintelligence.co.uk.  

 

Puffball Project - Creative workshops for trans, intersex, queer & LGB youth!
When: Monday 8th to Friday 12th of July, 11am - 4pmWhere: The Roundhouse, NW1. Near Chalk Farm station. (Map)A unique workshop residency for 16 – 25 year olds who identify as Trans, Queer, Intersex, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and / or Questioning (LGBTQ). Working with award winning performance artist Mark Storor and professional Circus Artist Lina Johansson, you will use creativity (storytelling, art, theatre and circus) to share stories and experiences around themes of love, acceptance, joy, loss and people’s gender identities and sexuality. We are looking for participants with an open mind and a willingness to get involved. No previous experience is necessary.
This residency is part of a longer project that will platform the voices of young LGBTQ people across the UK.
This project is FREE and lunch and travel costs will be provided.
If you would like to be a part of this exciting project, please download & complete an enrolment form and return it to josephine.bamford@roundhouse.org.uk.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please call Josie – 0207 424 6794.

Puffball Project - Creative workshops for trans, intersex, queer & LGB youth!

When: Monday 8th to Friday 12th of July, 11am - 4pm
Where: The Roundhouse, NW1. Near Chalk Farm station. (Map)


unique workshop residency for 16 – 25 year olds who identify as Trans, Queer, Intersex, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and / or Questioning (LGBTQ). Working with award winning performance artist Mark Storor and professional Circus Artist Lina Johansson, you will use creativity (storytelling, art, theatre and circus) to share stories and experiences around themes of love, acceptance, joy, loss and people’s gender identities and sexuality. We are looking for participants with an open mind and a willingness to get involved. No previous experience is necessary.

This residency is part of a longer project that will platform the voices of young LGBTQ people across the UK.

This project is FREE and lunch and travel costs will be provided.

If you would like to be a part of this exciting project, please download & complete an enrolment form and return it to josephine.bamford@roundhouse.org.uk.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please call Josie – 0207 424 6794.
Tuesday Youth Group - Puffball Project Taster Session

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When: Tuesday 11th June 5.45pm - 8pm

Where: Central School of Speech and Drama, NW3 3HY (Map) - Not the Tavistock!
We will be visited by staff from the Roundhouse, who will facilitate a story sharing session. You will use creativity to share stories and experiences around themes of love, acceptance, joy, loss and people’s gender identities and sexuality. 
You do not have to be a creative type to attend this session!  No previous experience is necessary.
As usual, travel bursaries up to £7 will be provided. The building is wheelchair accessible.
If you’re interested in getting involved, check out the Puffball project which will take place in July.
Saturday Youth Group - ‘I’m OK, you’re OK’ - 25th May

When: Saturday 25th May, 1.45 - 5PM

Where: Central School of Speech and Drama, London, NW3 3HY (
Map) Nearest tube: Swiss Cottage (Exit 2)

Let’s look closely at our friendships and relationships - or the ones we might want to have. How can I find the right friends and relationships for me? What’s OK and not OK? How can I deal with all my feelings of jealousy, insecurity or simply fancying someone? How can I be safe and how or when do I come out as trans?
 
This session is for all of you - whatever your age, whether you’re having relationships or not – this session will help you think about yourself and feel better about being you and doing the right thing for yourself and others.
 
The session will be very interactive, with lots of games and activities. It will be a safe and supportive space – it won’t be embarrassing and you won’t be asked to say anything you don’t want to.
 
The session is being run by Catherine Bewley from Galop. Galop is a London-based LGBT anti-violence charity that has worked a lot with GI over the years. Catherine does lots of outreach and development work with trans* people, works with lots of individual trans* people who’ve experienced sexual abuse, and helps run cliniQ, the new sexual health service for trans* people at Dean Street.
 
They’ll be a chance to ask questions, meet other young trans people and socialise. Light refreshments will be provided. Travel bursaries of up to £7 will be provided with a receipt. Our spaces are wheelchair accessible, but please contact us if you have any access needs we may need to take in to consideration.

Pride sports are holding a FREE basketball taster session for trans guys in Manchester on the 6th of June.

To check it out and reserve your free place, click here.

'Trans Guys Are…' Film screening on Friday 17th May

TRANS GUYS ARE….’
A film by Tom O’Tottenham & Serge Nicholson

Made in partnership with Galop

When: 9pm on Friday 17th May 2013

Where: Unskinny Bop, Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, Pollard Row, London E2 6NB (Map)

Cost: £1 (and free entry to club afterwards at 10pm)

Tom and Serge, two London trans guys enlist their extended queer family of friends and community allies to share a playful, joyous, affirmative message. Trans guys are… hot.

The film shows a message held close to the hearts of London queers and trans people. Set to a steaming soundtrack, Happiness Train by the Jessica Lauren Four (www.jessicalauren.com), the film is an extended family album shot on location on the streets of London and in queer nightspots. Tom and Serge’s aim is to celebrate that trans guys are very much part of the wider community, as friends, allies, activists and… hot lovers

For more information see http://transguysare.com/