Living as a transgender person while studying at university comes with unique challenges. I know.
Even though your classmates may be able to support you in your studies, they may not always be able to help you with personal concerns. To try and help those who are struggling, here’s a list of things transgender students can do to get through their uni years peacefully:
1) See a Mental Health Advisor.
Sometimes just talking someone outside your social group about your troubles can help, especially if someone within your circle is causing the problem.
Regular university counsellors or supervisors are not always well-informed on issues like Gender Identity Disorder, or anxiety and depression (common amongst all students), but in these instances, did you know you can ask to see a Mental Health Advisor instead? Seeing an advisor will allow you to talk to someone who is better-informed on the stresses of transgender life.
If you’re not comfortable seeing a university advisor, you can find a counsellor through your GP instead, who will arrange regular appointments for you.
2) Email your tutors about your situation.
Now that you’ve left home, it’s a prime time to come out the closet and be open about who you are; any of your less-accepting relatives will be left at home. Of course, this is easier said than done. Even transgender people who are out of the closet and on HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) often have to remind people of their sexuality and preferred pronouns.
One thing you can do that will help this process run more smoothly is email your tutors before term starts.
University tutors are there to support all students regardless of their differences, and if you email your tutor about preferred names and pronouns before class starts, they are obligated to support you, because this will help you with your studies.
Once your tutor starts using your preferred name and pronouns, then your classmates will pick up on this and follow along. In addition to this, if your tutor knows about your situation before term, they can be more lenient and understanding once you start HRT or any other medical process. They are professionals and will appreciate the honesty. You won’t have to go into too much detail at all about your treatments.
3) Take a “Social Media Diet”
While social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr have their benefits, they can also be a breeding ground for negativity and social stigma for transgender people and other minorities.
Instead of letting yourself get wound-up over a few ignorant individuals, try to go easy on the social media and instead, appreciate the supportive people around you.
It’s been proven that week-long breaks from social media improves not only your average mood, but also productivity and concentration. So, taking a short break from social media is good for any student who struggles with keeping on top of their studies.
4) Join a society that has nothing to do with your gender.
Just because you’re transgender, doesn’t mean you have to join the uni’s LGBT society (although if you want to, that’s great!). Not every trans person becomes an activist, some of us just want to live life for the fun of it and not focus too much on a subject that’s sensitive for us.
If you enjoy writing, art, sports, or acting, chances are your university has a society for it. If not, then why not make one? It’s a good idea to look up societies that have nothing to do with your gender. Instead, choose a society that encourages one of your interests.
Clubs can create a support system for you that comes from people who share a passion that you do. The skills you learn can also go towards your CV, as well as take your mind off your daily trans struggles.
If you have time to spare, then joining a club or society is a great way to spend it at university.
5) Meet other transgender students.
People from all walks of life attend university. It’s estimated that nearly 1% of the world’s population have an “alternative” gender expression, which means that the chances of you meeting another transgender person when you go to university are quite high.
If you meet someone who is farther along than you in their treatment (they may have been on HRT longer, or had surgery you haven’t yet), then you can talk to them about their life experience and ask for advice. Some transgender people are very private about these matters, so be respectful if they decline, but don’t feel bad about it.
On the other hand, if you meet someone who is not as far along as you then you can offer them support yourself. Even giving something as small as your phone number and telling them they can text you whenever can be an amazing show of love and support for that person’s journey, especially if they’ve only just begun, or come from a not-so-supportive background. Remember: being transgender in the UK is much more socially acceptable than it is in some other countries.
Showing and receiving support from your transgender brothers and sisters is great for your self-esteem and can also be an educational process for you.
As long as you are vigilant of accidentally outing others, and offer your empathy and understanding, then even if you aren’t transgender, you can become a terrific ally!