April 19 is the National Day of Silence, where students take a vow of silence to call attention to bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students. To draw attention to this important issue, NIOS is publishing blogs with the voices of LGBTQ students, teachers and community members weekly through Gay and Lesbian Pride month in June. Please share these stories on Facebook and retweet them for everyone to join the powerful movement of equality that crosses all races, religions and nationalities.
To begin, we share Adrian’s blog. As a transgender high school student, Adrian has shared a small taste of what his life has been like, while educating us about trans issues. Transgender members of our community are targeted and murdered at an alarming rate. Adrian’s courage inspires all of us.
My name is Adrian. Okay, my name isn't Adrian. It isn't even close to Adrian. However, I don't want to use my real name for this, and Adrian seemed as good a name as any.
Why the secrecy? I am transgender. It may not be a big deal to you, but it is a big deal to some people, so I am doing this in stealth mode. Technically I am a female-to-male transexual, but I prefer the term transguy because it sounds less clinical and isn't a mouthful.
High school as a transguy isn't a walk in the park. I have known I am trans for around three years now, and have been out to at least one person for about two years. Obviously it would be easier if I were cis (not trans), but after awhile I grew a thick skin and learned what reactions to expect and how to respond.
I came into high school not knowing anyone, so for a while people just saw me as a cis (not trans) guy, which was great but nerve-racking.
For the first few months of freshmen year I was terrified people would find out I was trans. I didn't use any bathrooms on campus, or if I did, I went during class when they would be empty. I wanted to keep people seeing me as a guy forever, despite the fact I knew it was impossible.
The thing about being stealth—living where people see you as the gender you identify as but not being out as trans—is that you never know how people will react when they find out.
In the third month of school, it seemed like someone sent out a memo that I was "actually a girl." People weren't really jerks about it or anything. People asked me if I had a penis or if I was "like that guy from Silence of the Lambs," but I wouldn't say I was bullied. Even now not everyone knows I am trans, nor would I want them to.
I have kind of gotten over the fact that people will whisper, "Is it a he or a she?" behind my back, or have bets about my gender sitting in the desks behind me. Random people will come up to me and ask if I am a girl or a boy. People who think I am weird or a freak just stay away from me, and I don't have a problem with that.
Most of the issues with other students stem more from ignorance than from cruelty. Almost none of them want to be mean, they just don't get it. They don't know what the “T” in LGBT stands for, let alone what the word "transgender" or "transsexual" means. Being transgender is seen as inappropriate for children, even as old as middle schoolers. When students reach high school, they often don't know much more than the fact some people are gay and lesbian.
My school administration has been really good about it and is starting to make some of the single-stall bathrooms gender neutral and even before then (since there aren't gender-neutral bathrooms yet) I figured out how to use bathrooms without being seen and got over being glared at/yelled at/sworn at/told I am in the women's room if I failed to be stealthy enough.
If I could magically have every student in my high school know and understand the basics of what it means to be transgender, I think things would be simpler. Maybe it wouldn't stop people from discussing my gender behind my back when they think I can't hear them, but at least I wouldn't be a complete mystery. I wouldn't have to answer the same questions over and over again. Not that answering them is a big deal, but by explaining what the word "transgender" means, I am basically outing myself. That means I have to risk the reactions I will get in order for people to not be baffled by my existence. More understanding would make me less weird, and that would be nice.
I could go on about me, or about being transgender, or about any number of other things, but I have no idea what you want to know. So, ask me questions, I will do my best to answer them, or explain why I can't/won't.
So what is gender? Societal gender roles are things like women and girls wearing dresses and makeup and men and boys being expected to enjoy sports. They are cultural. Gender identity, which is more innate than gender roles and potentially (though not proven to be) physiological, is what makes someone trans.
Transgender is an umbrella term. It includes transsexuals, cross dressers, drag kings and queens, agender people, bigender people, genderqueer people, and other types of (more extreme) gender non-conformity. I realize that I have just explained a term with more terms, so here we go.
A cross dresser is someone who dresses in clothes that are traditionally assigned to people of a different gender. People who wear clothes that do not align with their sex based on societal standards may or may not see themselves as cross dressers. They could just like that particular type of clothing and not care which section from the store it came from. A drag king or queen is someone who portrays a different sex/gender as a form of performance. Drag kings and queens will generally dress in very over-the-top clothing. Both cross dressers and drag kings/queens are not always included in the transgender umbrella. Both have more to due with presentation than gender identity (which I will get into soon.)
Someone who is agender has no gender, someone who is bigender is two genders, and a genderqueer person is more or less in-between genders. Genderqueer is a very broad spectrum, so it is impossible to define it as just one thing.
Finally we get to what I am, more or less: Transsexual. Put simply, a transsexual person is someone whose gender is opposite the gender that traditionally corresponds to their sex. It isn't that simple because reality is never simple. For example, if someone is intersex they could still be transsexual despite the fact there is no "opposite sex." Someone could be transsexual and genderqueer. For example, if a person was born male, and feels mostly though not entirely female, they could be a genderqueer transsexual woman.