Campus ConversationOpinion

Opinion: Nonbinary student shares their perspective on being trans at Boise State

Photo by Claire Keener

Sometimes I get asked what it’s like to be a transgender student. Plenty of things come to mind in response, but the reality is that cisgender people on campus will never fully comprehend how exhausting it is to be a trans student.

The simplest way to get a peek into what it’s like is to recognize the inherent danger that automatically comes with being trans.

The anonymity on this article prefaces that perfectly; simply attaching my name to this could subject me to harassment by peers and strangers alike. The simple decision to come out or transition in any aspect paints a target on my back.

The introduction and passage of more and more anti-trans bills — both locally and nationally — targeting our rights and livelihood has only made tensions worse as people spoke out in support of these bills, making it clear that my life and safety simply do not matter to them.

Trans flag, boise state
[Photo of a student holding a trans flag on Boise State campus]
Photo by Claire Keener | The Arbiter

Being trans makes me twice as likely to experience depression, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts than even cisgender queer individuals (people who are lesbian or bi, for example, but are not trans). Unfortunately, I have experienced each of these things, and I still do. Lacking support is detrimental to any adolescent, but it is especially dangerous for trans people.

Throughout my first two years of college, I had to navigate through being a student, a part time employee, along with juggling the complicated aspects of discovering my identities. Those feelings of hopelessness and depression hit me hard, and I’m still feeling the ramifications to this day.

Realizing that I was trans relatively late in life left me confused, without somewhere or someone to go to for answers. Even though Boise State has a few queer-centered groups, getting up the nerve to actually put myself out there was terrifing, especially when considering how dangerous it is to come out.

My queer identities alone make me more likely to be a target of harrassment because some people are so upset by my mere existence that they feel the need to attack me.

In fact, there have been multiple occurrences where people have called me slurs and even thrown rocks at me. 

Most recently, traveling “preacher” Keith Darrell came to campus and proceeded to spout transphobic rhetoric (among other very offensive ideas) and tried to pass it all off as Christian beliefs.

Sadly, these occurrences aren’t limited to outside influences. One of the most exhausting things about being a trans student is getting professors and peers alike to understand and respect my pronouns and my name. 

Frankly, Boise State doesn’t help in this regard; at the start of each semester, I have to email all of my professors explaining that my name is different from the one listed on Canvas and in my student email, and explain my pronouns as well.

In the best case, professors will make note of my name and “try their best” to use my pronouns correctly. However, most of the time I am constantly misgendered in class, putting me in an awful position of either correcting them in front of 20-30 of my peers, effectively outing myself, or letting it slide. 

Canvas does have an option to add your pronouns to your name, but they only provide a set list of pronouns and it’s not customizable at all. This new addition is only effective in online spaces. However, Canvas does not allow me to change my name, or even add a display name, inevitably leading to being constantly deadnamed.

Cis people may not understand why this is such an issue. Having your name and pronouns match up with the details on your legal documentation is a privilege that many trans individuals will never be allowed to achieve. 

No matter how many times I have to remind, correct or share my name and pronouns, I will continue to be deadnamed and misgendered by peers and professors alike, especially those who are cis and clearly do not understand the importance. 

If you’re struggling to understand the impacts of being deadnamed or misgendered, consider how you would feel if every single day, people called you by the wrong name and used pronouns that you don’t identify with. Think about the ramifications that would come with that. 

How would you feel if, despite protesting and knowing fully they are wrong, they continue to call you the wrong things?

What would it be like to have your identity always being questioned in spaces that you are required to be in almost every day, or to be called a freak for something you cannot control?

For me and many others, these questions aren’t hypotheticals. These are challenges I face everyday and most likely will for the rest of my life. 

The only fundamental difference between us and cis people is our complex relationship with sex and gender; we are normal people with feelings, too. We deserve to be called by our name and pronouns correctly just like cis people. 

So instead of politicizing and attacking something that is as irrelevant to politics as my gender identity, something that affects myself and myself only, spare some sympathy for trans students.

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