Post Classifieds

Identifying oneself

Transgender student opens up to The Racquet

By Becca Schnabel
On April 11, 2013

With the growing unrest of social issues surrounding gay rights, people are becoming more intrigued by sexual orientation as well as gender identity. According to scholars well educated in the field of sexuality and the discussion of human identification, there are many levels to labeling a person beyond merely gay and straight. There is, of course, sexual preference such gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer and even asexual. Beyond these there is also personal pronouns such as he, she, they or a more neutral form, which unfortunately does not exist in English besides the more derogatory term, it. There is also biological sex such as male or female, as well as gender identity, which is what gender one perceives themselves to be, regardless of bodily structure. When biological sex and gender identity are the same, it is referred to as cisgender.  When they differ, it is called being transgender.
The concept of transgender is extremely controversial in today's society. Everyone can relate with each other over the discussion of being self-conscious of our individual physique, but the discomfort as a transgender individual spreads from a psychological distress to an outward social and cultural anxiety. These anxieties can include, but are not limited to, which bathroom does one use, what clothes should one buy, what does this mean for one's sexual orientation? It is never easy for anyone to figure out who they are.
Fellow UW-La Crosse student, who would prefer to be referred to as Kai, has struggled with accepting his gender identity since as early as elementary school. Growing up in the Milwaukee County, Kai did not wake up one morning declaring, "My brain is all guy, but my body is definitely female. I need to change this." The process of discovering oneself for a transgender individual is just like any other adolescent, a gradual process of discovering what is comfortable and desirable.
When he was 6-years-old, Kai was diagnosed with diabetes and from then on yearned for nothing more than to be a normal kid. Through high school, Kai attempted to be society's image of a "normal" girl, hiding further within himself, leading to a lot of problems with depression and self-harm. It would not be until college that he began to allow himself to truly discover who he really wanted to be. Kai dated men in high school, which had simply not felt right to him. So, as a woman, Kai started dating other women, but still he could tell something was not quite right. This dissatisfaction led Kai to begin researching into the concept of being transgender and how he personally might fit into the transgender community. Though he has contemplated his gender identity and sexual orientation for many years now, only four months ago he started using male pronouns, using the men's bathroom and seeing different doctors to start his physical transition, finally "realiz[ing] that number one needs to be [his personal] happiness and comfort."
Fortunately, Kai has found transitioning while in La Crosse to be a very positive experience. Kai surround himself with a strong, supportive community thanks to the UW-L clubs Rainbow Unity and Transform. Though he would never go around telling strangers of his personal struggles, Kai is happy to talk about his experiences and educate people with a desire to learn more about what it is like to be transgender or simply to struggle with personal identity in general. When asked for his personal words of wisdom, Kai replied, "You have to think about what is truly important to you. Is your family's or anyone else in the community's opinion of you more important than your own happiness?" Kai proudly says what got him to where he is today is the simple advice that "sometimes in life you need to try to disregard other peoples feelings and opinions and focus on you."
Sadly, Kai will be transferring next year to UW-Steven's Point in pursuit of a degree in wildlife ecology, but if you have any questions, feel free to contact UW-L's Pride Center, Rainbow Unity or Transform club on UW-L's website or on Facebook.

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