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The transgender life looks like others

  • Article by: JACQUELINE WHITE
  • June 24, 2011 - 10:20 PM

It sounds like a great set-up for drama: My spouse, Marcus, who used to be Margery, goes back to the college he attended as a woman, which happens to be a women's college, Mount Holyoke.

How will the alumnae respond when one of their own shows up at their 25th reunion as a man?

The drama turned out to be a nonstory. Of course some classmates did initially --understandably -- look to me as the presumed alumna.

The worst thing to happen was that one person laughed when Marcus showed up at the registration table claiming to be a graduate. But he still got a registration packet.

When he took his turn saying a few words about what he'd been up to since he graduated, his classmates responded with hearty applause. And guess what?

Other than his gender transition, what Marcus had been up to was not all that different from what his classmates had been up to. He got established in his career, bought a house, served on some nonprofit boards, got married and adopted our daughter.

Not all transgender people are so fortunate. As the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey reports, 63 percent of transgender people have experienced serious discrimination. They've been physically or sexually assaulted, have lost a job, have been evicted, have had to drop out of school, or have experienced homelessness or some other calamity because of bias.

The one bright spot in the survey is that transgender people who are accepted by their families fare far better on nearly every measure. And families are more likely to support their transgender loved one than stereotypes might suggest: 43 percent of transgender people maintain family bonds.

The lesson here is a big one, even for those who are not family members: Maintaining a relationship with someone transgender can help that person have a productive life.

I know the support Marcus received from his parents, as well as his friends and coworkers, paved the way for his uneventful transition.

Of course, support for someone transgender requires an open mind, since most people have never met such a person. They'll have questions, which is fine.

At the reunion, Marcus's dorm mom was so thrilled to see him I thought she was going to pinch his cheek. Instead, she rubbed her hand across his shaved whiskers and asked how he got them.

"Hormones," Marcus said.

Mount Holyoke will be issuing Marcus a new diploma with his new name in his new gender. In 2011, his esteemed alma mater has entered the modern age. But then, Marcus is not the first transgender male graduate of a women's college.

In fact, as understanding and acceptance grows, transgender youth are now transitioning during college or even before. And schools have begun to grapple with how best to support them.

Transgender people really just want to be able to live their lives --with a job to go to and a safe place to live and people to love them. My day-to-day life with Marcus is actually pretty ho-hum.

In the end, he turned out to be just another guy with a receding hairline reminiscing at his 25th college reunion.

Jacqueline White is a Minneapolis writer currently finishing a memoir about her marriage. Her  website is mytransgenderhusband.com.

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