Choosing the Right College - Advice from Young Adults

By: Gender Spectrum

Jenna: Okay. Hi everyone! Welcome to Gender Spectrum’s online panel discussion. Today’s program is called Choosing the Right College: Advice from Young Adults on Finding a School or Path that is Supportive of Your Gender. Uh, my name’s Jenna Hackman, I am a project coordinator at Gender Spectrum, my pronouns are she and they, and I’m here today with some amazing young adults who are gonna be kind of carrying this conversation. Um, I’ve been really looking forward to this program. I feel like this is kind of a broad topic, but it’s a topic that I think is really important for us to kind of talk about a little bit. Um, so we have some kind of general questions, as well as some more specific questions that folks submitted prior to the program, so we’re gonna try and get to kind of a little bit of both.

Um, so why don’t we just start with introductions, and then we will jump in to questions. Um, so if each of you want to share your name, pronouns, where you live, um and then if there’s anything else you wanna share around like your identity, or things that you’re interested in doing, um, anything you feel is important for the audience to know. Anyone wanna start? Eden: I can start. Um, hi everyone! My name’s Eden, and I’m 18 years old. I use she/her pronouns, um, I am from Los Angeles but I’m currently studying in Galesburg, Illinois.

Um, anything else. I have never ever had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Kristen: I can go next. Um, my name’s Kristen, I use they/them pronouns, uh, I live in the Bay Area, so in Alameda. Um, and I make zines around, uh, queerness and gender.

Jared: Um, can I go? No? Yes? Okay, I’m gonna go! Um, so, hey, my name is Jared. Uh, wassup? I’m from Oakland, California, um, but now I study at Salt Lake - in Salt Lake City, at Westminster College. Um, one of the things that I do currently right now is that I am a program coordinator, um, for the - one of the queer - pro - it’s called Queer Compass, um, on my campus, and um, it’s just about building, um...what is it? The LGBTQ+ community on our campus, and I think that’s mad cool.

Choosing the Right College - Advice from Young Adults

So. You know. Henry: Okay, um, my name is Henry, any pronouns work for me. I’m 19, I’m from Nashville, Tennessee, and currently I, um, am the LGBT organizer for the ACLU of Tennessee, so. Aiden: Um, howdy y’all! My name’s Aiden Castellanos, uh, pronouns are he/him/his, they/them/their, whichever one’s easiest for y’all. Um, I’m currently 20 now, [laughing] um, and uh, I’m from the Bay Area, like right by San - like, San Bruno, it’s like, right by San Francisco. Um, but now I live in Pennsylvania, uh, specifically Philly. Um, yeah! And, I don’t know, I guess, uh, and probably something that I do now is just, like, I currently work with...um, Immigration Justice, um.

I work with like, Pennsylvania’s Empower Network, which is like, a nice rad, like, um...student power group within Pennsylvania. Uh, that’s statewide, As well as Immigration Justice with [indistinct], which is Philadelphia specific. Um...uh, for queer and trans latino kids and their parents. Yeah. Jenna: Awesome, thank you for the introductions. I feel like we have a lot of really smart and, um...capable young adults in this space.

Um, so let’s start off with just kind of like, a broad question. Um, which is sort of, what path did you choose after high school? And why did you choose that path? Feel free to jump in, whoever wants to start. Jared: Um. Um, so uh, after high school - um, well, during high school my plan was to go to school for music, um, because I’m a singer. Um, and so that’s what I decided to do. Um...but also - but then, also when I was in high school I had like, two different types of, like, I guess, lives? Um, one was being an artist, one was also being like, involved in activism and social justice and things like that. Um, and so, when I went to college, I expected to go to a conservatory, which is just a school of just music. Um, but I ended up at a liberal arts college.

Um, and so then I’m now able to do, um, both! So uh, currently right now I’m a vocal performance major and a...what is it, a justice studies minor. And, um, my path right now is um, music, but then also...like, with a...I guess like social justice aspect, which is, um, making classical music, which is the genre that I sing, um, more accessible, uh, for people of color and those of lower incomes. Um, so yeah! That’s - that’s my path right now. Aiden: Alright, um. So pretty much after high school, I ended up...so I wanted, I knew that I wanted to go to a university, but I wasn’t exactly sure, like, whether or not I’d be able to afford, like, college at all. Um, but I was really lucky with being able to get, like, a really nice scholarship, uh, to the University of Pennsylvania.

Um, and so like...I currently study there now, um. Which - and - like, the reason why I ended up choosing that school was like, pretty much their financial aid, um, but also like, it had like, one of the friendliest like, queer and trans, like, ratings within like - what was it, campuspride.org. Or, I mean, [laughing] campuspride.com, I mean, like. Just like, really good, like, support networks in terms of like, being able to help with providing like, um, resources and like, medical care and everything. Um, so it’s like, able to like, help me support with like, transitioning, since I didn’t necessarily have that access beforehand. Um, and also just like, ended up having like, a really good psychology program which is what I wanted to pursue.

Um, but I mean like, I switched majors now, and I’m in Urban Studies, um, and I think that’s also just ‘cause of like, my pull towards activism um, and organizing that I’ve been doing for so long, um, since like high school, so it’s just something that I ended up like, keeping in there. Um, yeah. So...that’s where I am now. Kristen: I can go next. Um so after high school my plan was to go to a school for music, but um, I ended up not being able to afford the private college.

So I actually ended up at community college. Um, and I was glad that that happened because...I changed my major...a handful of times like, at least five times. Um, and then I actually ended up being able to not only afford college by going to community college, but I actually was able to get grants so I could uh, pay for my books and everything and felt like I was in a really good stable place financially for school. Uh, so...it worked out for the best that way. Um, through trial and error. It took a lot to, uh...get through the financial aid process as a first generation college student. Um.

But I wa-but I have a twin, and so we kind of did it together. Um, so I have like, a...unusual way that I went about, and I went about it with someone close to me, but um, I ended up going to Berkeley, I transfered. Um, and I was able to uh, graduate, um...in 2015. Um, and since then I’ve just been...trying to see what I wanna do with my life, and it’s kinda changed. It’s - it’s always changing.

But, um, I think like, I’ve always been centering around activism, um, so I’m from southern California, and when I was in the community college I did a lot of activism down there. And then I moved to the Bay Area, where it’s also a great place to be doing activism. Um, but recently I’ve been doing more advocacy for biking and, uh, transportation. In, uh, cities. Yeah. Eden: So, uh, I’m currently at a liberal arts college, and that’s what I - that’s the path I chose right after high school. Um, I just knew I wanted to get into a four-year school, um.

My sister went the community college route and I just felt like that wasn’t for me, so. Um. Financially it’s like...it’s at a place where it’s like, “Oh! I can do this, I can manage,” but also, could it be better? Yes. Um. I’m currently majoring in Economics with a double minor in Gender and Women’s Studies and Middle Eastern Studies, so I knew exactly what I wanted, which is why I was able to choose what I did choose, so. So I don’t feel like I’m...necessarily...it doesn’t - I mean, it’s not the best term to use, but “wasting money”...just to figure stuff out.

Henry: Um, so I took a gap year. Um, which is not necessarily like, what my parents wanted, or my grandparents wanted, or anyone wanted. Like, I didn’t necessarily think I was going to take a gap year until like...the month before I was supposed to head out to college, so that was exciting. Um, but I took a gap year for a couple reasons. One, I accepted a really good job with a really good company, so I really like my job at the ACLU, and it’s a lot - it takes a lot of time, so I don’t really have time to go to college. Um, two, I wanted to be able to get gender affirming surgery before I went off to college, especially if I was gonna move far away, because I was planning to move out to Denver, so. Uh, yeah. And three, because I had a really close family death, and there was no one really able to take care of like, my grandmother through that time, because she had to deal with a lot through that, so I decided that I would stay, just so that she didn’t have to, like, lose two people so close together, you know what I mean? So that’s why I decided to take a year of.

Oh, no. Jenna: Awesome. Um, so I think this is a good kind of lead into our next question, which some of you spoke a little bit about. Um, did your gender impact your decision at all? Uh, maybe it did, maybe it didn’t, maybe it was like, in the middle, I’m just kind of curious um, if any of you can speak to that. Aiden: Um, so yeah. I think it was mostly just like, I wanted to find a school that I knew, like - I think it started mostly with like, when I wanted to like - I really wanted to go to college. Um, like.

I’m...my family are immigrants from like, Mexico? So, like, I...felt like - just - kind of like this ability(?) of wanting, of like, being able to go to college, um, because that’s why they came here, um. To make sure I got like, a good education, so. Like, this was something that I wanted to do but I was also afraid, I mean like, I’m trans and like, I’ve had like, experiences with violence before. Um, so I was like, worried about like, what could possibly happen. Um, so I chose like, only, like - like - when I was applying to colleges I think I was only looking at schools that were like gender - like again, like, trans friendly.

Um, and also like, schools that can afford, like, to be able to give me like, enough financial aid so I can make it. Um, but I think like, also just like, housing options, uh, which is what ends up coming up like, as a thing like, in college and like, um, you can have like...like, uh, dorms where it was like, you know, kind of like. You’d still live with other folks, um, there was gender neutral housing, and like, you would be able to have like, your own space.

Um, and it was still like, covered with my financial aid, so it was like, something that’s accessible for me. Um, and I’m like, really grateful for having that but I also know that’s like, not the case in a lot of other situations. Um, I don’t think like, if I had been able to go like, to San Francisco State or like, to other schools where I didn’t have that option, they wouldn’t have been...there. Um, but definitely like, a lot of fear and safety, um, was still like, on my mind...like, as I was just applying for different things, so yeah. Kristen: I think um, when I went to community college I was going to a school I could commute to by bus pretty easily, I was just crossing a county line, so, um. I was living at home and that wa - that was fine, um, and I didn’t actually start, um.

It was a long process for me, uh, gender-wise and like, figuring out that like, I’m nonbinary and all that stuff. So um, it didn’t really come into play until I was applying for, um, transferring. So uh, I was looking at a lot of Cal State schools and UCs, because those had the best financial aid packages for me. Um, and so, a lot of the UCs, like UCLA and uh, Berkeley, and uh...schools like this had gender neutral housing, so that was definitely something that was a, um...a goal of mine, and um, I applied for it, but um, I ended up getting into a school, UC Berkeley, where uh, housing is already an issue, and it’s really tough to get into housing, um. Especially when you’re...I was 22 years old, so um, I was older and I ended up in a freshman dorm. m, on an all women’s floor. Um, so...my housing situation got a bit muddled, and uh, I eventually got moved for safety. Um, from a roommate, so uh.

I kinda went through a...a little bit of a struggle the first week, but I ended up actually in my own room. Um, but I can say that for those that did get housed in general - gendle - wow, words! Gender neutral housing, um, it was a good experience for them and I know those folks and uh, there’s - there’s a...um, there’s also like, housing focused for uh...queer folks, and there’s co-ops off-campus, uh, that have different themes, so there’s a lot of options, but I will say that like, certain schools don’t have, um…enough...gender neutral housing to house everyone, so there are cases where uh, safety can be an issue. At least in my case, yeah. Jared: Wait, hold up, okay good. Um, so, when making my decision, um, to go to college, um, figuring out my gender situation - which right now I’m still figuring it out - but um, at the time, um, I was very...worried. I was very worried because um, when I was in high school, um, I wasn’t necessarily like, fully myself at that time. Um, I hadn’t figured that out, even the parts that I had figured out I was still like, not sure on actually like, performing them. Um, and so...what I was trying to do - what my goal was, um, was that I was - I was thinking okay um, first I want to go to big cities.

Big cities because usually if it’s a big city, that means there’s gonna be a large like, LGBTQ sc - Q scene. I was not like - what I, what I thought about was that like, if - if my college is like, if the college that I go to isn’t gonna support me in that way, then I can - then there will be resources outside in the city that can support me in that way. Um, and so like, that was - that was how I made my decisions.

Um, and then ultimately it ended up being like, more of a money problem, rather than...rather than um...you know, a gender problem, when it came down to making choices. Um...and so, when it came to making my - making my choice to - to come down here, um, I thought ab - I thought about my safety, um...more...I think like, racial-wise. Um, I think that the way that I perform my gender now is more, um…it is not as...I don’t know what [indistinct] the first word that comes to mind right now is not as like, safe, um...as it used to be. Right now, you see me on camera it’s not that - it’s not that bad. But, um...and so, but back then I wasn’t thinking about that, um...and so when I - so then when I came here I was - when I made the decision to come here, um...my ge - like, my gender, I thought that um...I had to like, I had to like, put it aside for a - for a quick second, and make the decision of like, education. But luckily right now, I can say that I’m - gender-wise, I’m like, very happy in expressing myself in that way, um. I’m on a very like, safe campus, um...and so that’s really really good. Uh, so yeah.  Shane/ Candice (20:00-40:00) Henry: Uh, so I think I’m the only person outside of California, so gender played a huge role in how I was raised, and, like, my college process.

And, so I grew up in a really conservative town in Tennessee, so I was the first transgender student, like, in my county. And so, given that experience, and it was just awful for me in highschool, I really needed to take a break from school, cause, I like, I suffered a lot my senior year just trying to juggle gender identity issues, being bullied, and, um, school, and everything like that. So yeah, gender played a huge role foe, and just how like, I experienced school, and why I was like, not ready to get back into it.

Jenna: Um, I think, this next question speaks a little to Henry what you are talking about. I’m curious kind of, how you all found communities sort of in these new settings that you are in. Was it easy to find communities? Was it difficult? And kind of how did you navigate that? Cause I think you do kind of go, it’s like if you’re coming from high school, you’re in these sort of weird structured settings, and then you have this kind of abrupt shift, and I think that can be very positive- that can also be very hard, so I’m just curious if anyone can speak to kind of how that was for you or how it currently is for you? Jared: Um, so, uh, when coming to Utah, which is where my school is, um, my first, like the biggest concern that I had was racially how I was going to find people who are like me, people of color, how am I going to find those people, and then once you came to that, if I find those people, how am I going to find you know, the queer folks who are like me, who I can fit in with.

Um, and so like when I come to the school and my first maybe two weeks or so I just didn’t I didn’t find anyone I really connected with and the way that I found community just happened to be through chance it really had to be chance. Now that I am more involved in my college and how things works I could recognize how I was able to. If i hadn’t met a certain someone whos connected socially how I was able to figure it out myself but how I found my community now which is really a black queer femme group of people which just so amazing. Ah just so awesome! So social justice activity folks that are also just really smart and just down to earth...anyway! So I found that community through finding just one person who I vibed with who knew other folks but now if I was speaking to anyone else who came to my campus or who was going to another campus...I can just speak to my campus but where I met other folks like me or where we normally hang out is where we are really invited which was the diversity and inclusion center at my school. And so that’s where all the POC’s hangout that’s where all the well I can’t say all of them but that’s where some of the LGBTQ folks you know come and hang. I also work there so that might mean they are there for me. I don’t know! So yeah that’s where I found my community.

Henry: Um so when I was living in my small Tennessee town that I grew up in my entire life I had a really hard time finding community just because yeah like I said it’s really convserative so when I came out I lost a lot of friends but then when I moved into the city of Nashville I was able to find more community. So I started going to this community space for young LGBTQ people and I found a lot of friends there. And also beginning my job at the ACLU with like all of these affirming and wonderful people gave me a sense of community even if they are years and years older than I am it still gave me that sense of community with people that were like actually affirming me for once instead of hating me and kicking me out of their church. Eden: I definitely have to say that I have struggled with the specific community that I am looking for at college.

I mean yes there are communities of people of color and yes there are communities of queer folks but I am yet to find a QTPOC of just queer and trans people I’m yet to find that and what I’m looking for it took me like a full term to find one person who I could connect with who happened to be a queer person of color. And now I just don’t ever let go of him. We always hang out because we connect and we vibe. I think you know my school just recently turned into a majority minority school and that’s still a work in progress you know. I see potential in it because when you look at stuff like the student newspaper and student run organizations and what they do I think that kind of gives you a sense of where people are at. So when I look at the newspaper of my school I feel like those communities are out there.

If community is an important aspect of someone’s college decision I think they should definitely look into student resources likes student newspapers and student blogs and stuff like that. Aiden: Just for more experience specifically regarding finding community in terms of you know there’s definitely spaces for folks of color for Latinx folks on campus and definitely spaces for non cis folks on campus but being able to find something that was an intersection for me...but wait sorry should I repeat myself. I just want to make sure everyone can hear you. Thank you so much. But yah just being able to try to find a space that could actually able to let both of those identities could exist together is just really difficult. I’ve been able to find a few people connections with folks that wouldn’t necessarily join either the QPOC or the non cis so like there was just a weird thing regarding my identity in these spaces and I didn’t necessarily feel like I could find that on campus. It definitely got a lot better once I started moving off campus and I feel like that’s why i ended up joining so many different organizations within Philadelphia and Pennsylvania as a whole. Just because I couldn’t necessarily find what I wanted within my school.

And so that’s kind of what’s been able to help me in confirming the work that I do and also my personal identity just because I didn’t realize how much more conscious I would be of like my intersecting identities being a first generation low income queer and trans person of color before I actually was in that space. So yah that’s what ended up happening. Kristen: So when I went to community college the first thing I did was find the GSA on campus and I hadn’t even come out to myself as queer so that was something I really struggled with so I joined the group and it was not what I was looking for at all and I really struggled with that to try and be comfortable with myself and try to find a community but it wasn’t the community I felt I needed to support me in what I was going through so I was fortunate enough to go to community college in the same city as a cal state so I actually joined the queer straight alliance at cal state Fullerton and like I mentioned before I had a twin so we kind of did this together and that where I found all the people I needed. They were community focused they were into activism I will say I think it goes along with the climate of the school and the resources that you have like people have mentioned earlier.

The cal state had a lot of not alot but hand funding for queer organizations and there was a place to meet where all these queer groups could meet and talk with one another all this stuff. At my community college there wasn’t that and that’s just because you know when it comes to state funding for community colleges it’s really tough to get funding. The campus climate at the community college was really tough for queer folks. And this is in 2010 so a lot of people were struggling to survive on campus so to be out on campus and ot be open about your identity was to put yourself in danger on campus so it was really tough. So i looked to the community.

And then when I transferred to Berkeley I was 22 so I was bit more comfortable with myself and my gender and queerness and all of that. So I was able to find organizations on campus because there are student centers on campus but I think for me I’ve always been looking outside of school for community and in the Bay area I’ve been organizing and finding really good support networks through zines and zine making. And that’s something I started in Southern California but the Bay area it’s just a really big hub for zines and that’s where I’ve been able to find a community of people that are just really great and they are doing radical work and was actually the reason I was able to fully accept being not only queer and non-binary but also being disabled so the list was growing and I needed to find the community and I found that in zines so that was really great. Jenna: Awesome. So I want to jump to a few questions that were submitted from folks prior to this program. So we have one question from a parent but I think it’s about a teen. The question is “What is the most important thing to consider if you plan to start to transition with hormones four months prior to entering as a freshman and living in the dorms.

Would it be better to take a gap year after you’ve had a chance to adjust to transitioning?” I don’t know if anyone wants to speak directly to that question or if you have thoughts around the general theme of that question? That’s from a parent. STOPPED AT 33:25 Aiden: So yeah as I mentioned before I wasn’t able to start hormones until I got to Penn I think there was mostly stuff regarding like I didn’t understand what my health insurance would be able to cover I was on affordable care act and also I wasn’t sure how my mom would be with me wanting to do hormone replacement therapy so I ended up finally having some more agency when I got to college and I was able to start doing it and I think there was just a weird thing I had with how much I would talk about being trans and I think I had like a lot of comfortability with it more so because I was just so used to having to constantly come out. There was some stuff going on with my high school also there were instances when I would feel really scared so I go over and like out myself just because I was so afraid of my safety and I didn’t want to put myself in dangerous situations before I got into them. That’s where I would just constantly out myself as I was going hormone therapy. When I got to Penn first off they thought I was 14 years old cause I just looked like I just seemed like a little boy I guess I don’t know just funny stuff there. But I ended up kind of just moreso doing it during there and I think it was just a lot more harder than I thought.

But also if this is starting about 4 months before going to school I might say it’s a little bit easier. I didn’t necessarily adjust to hormones completely until like two or three months actually where you know the whole thing with just like voice changing and weird just up and down bouncy energy levels everything that came with hormones. Sex drive all that stuff I didn’t necessarily fully adjust to it until around that period. But that’s like my personal experience and the thing is hormones doesn’t work for everyone like that so I don’t necessarily know how that is going to impact someone else but I know that my personal feelings on it was enough where I was able to kind of work through it while being at school. But also it’s definitely different for everyone and that’s just my personal experience with it. Henry: So I was fortunate enough to be able to start testosterone my junior year of high shcool and actually my two years on testosterone is on Thursday! That’s exciting yay! But I guess I also adjusted to the amount of changes that were happening to my body it took me more like six months thought to like fully adjust but things to consider if you are like transitioning before school I would think.. What your schools will cover because a lot of schools will cover HRT and gender affirming surgeries and their insurance plans. I used to be a college mentor so I know a little bit about it.

And two like I would call res life the residence life of the college you plan attending and seeing how they feel about it. If they have a plan in a plan in place for trans housing then that’s probably a good place to go but if they don’t work that out with them if you really want to go there if they have a program that really interests you. I think the unfortunate thing about transitioning in college is that most of the colleges that are most affirming are also the hardest to get into. So they have the lowest acceptance rates and it’s awful because like my grades weren’t perfect by any means like I didn’t get into Upenn so...haha but those are the things I considered. And I think taking a gap year was the best for me and my medical transition but most colleges lean pretty liberally and can affirm trans people for the most part so I wouldn’t be to worried about it. Jenna: Thank you for sharing. So looking back kind of on where you are at now versus kind of where you were at when you were maybe in highschool thinking about making these decisions.

Has anything come up that’s been surprising to you? Or something that you weren’t expecting that you wished you would have known? When you were maybe that senior in highschool when you were trying to map out what path you were going to choose. I see a lot of thinking happening. Eden: I think that personally, I wish I would have known more about the lack of stability in the current political climate. Sorry, I had to bring it up. But I think I wish I would have known how hard it would have been for me to study abroad - how difficult it was just going to be to go about my day-to-day life in college, you know? Going to classes, doing this, doing that, but also resisting and surviving every single day, against all odds. So I think I did definitely underestimate how hard it was going to be as a low income, (not sure about this word?), queer person of color to be in college so far away from home in a very white, not necessarily conservative but not as progressive as I’m used to, town and I wish I would have known all these things.

I wish I would have known how difficult it was going to be for me. Not that I would have changed my decision, but I would have been definitely more ready. I would have brought more tea. Kristen: I guess looking back to when I was a senior in high school, I would have wished there had been more talk or prep about how to afford school. No one in my family went to college so I had no idea what a Cal grant was, had no idea that if you’re at a community college you can apply for a bog fee waiver that pays for your units.

I had to do the research and I was lucky enough to have the ability to research and like, learn all of this stuff. And everything I learned I tried to pass on to everyone I knew on campus. I guess at community college I sort of had community because I still had my family, but when I transferred to Berkeley I wish I would have known what it’s like to leave a support network. I guess looking back at my high school self, I wish I could have had some sort of way to prep for mental health. I think that when you leave and when you loose your network and you’re trying to find it but at the same time you’re trying to take 20 units of classes and you’re trying to get on day-to-day but also you have all of these questions about gender and all of this stuff and it just seems overwhelming. I think that for a lot of schools, mental health resources are not there and I think mental health and financial aid and all of this stuff is intertwined, of course. So I think it’s like really...yeah.

I wish I would have had time to prep for this sort of stuff. Henry: I think all of the things that I didn’t know my senior year of high school, I learned. Like being able to take a year off and being able to put more time into my college process.

Because I took a year off I was able to look more into scholarships and just what college climate I wanted to be in. I’m not saying that you have to like, take a year off to find yourself and find out what college is best for you. But it took me a little longer than it took most people to learn exactly what I needed from a college. Everything I needed to know my senior year of high school I learned through my gap year. Jenna: Okay, I have one question that was submitted by a teen that’s kind of specific. And they asked: “When and how do you talk to your professors about name and pronoun changes? I read on Tumblr that most people send emails to professors before class starts to avoid confusion but I’d love to hear about people’s actual experiences doing this, especially for people who use they/them pronouns.” I don’t know if anyone wants to speak to this question or has experience with anything related to this question. Kristen: So some schools are..at least I know recently, Berkley has a way in the student gateway so that you can actually change your pronouns on like, your student roll or whatever it is. This happened after I graduated so I’m not sure what the process is but there are some schools that are trying to make sure that you can put this somewhere already because there are professors that don’t ask these or it’s not something you can do.

So I mean...I was in 2 programs at Berkeley. I was in the Gender and Women’s Studies department so I was asked often. And then I was in the Anthropology department and it kind of wasn’t asked there, in most cases.

So I found myself, when I was at Berkley, trying to be okay with the fact that some professors were never going to ask pronouns and were going to misgender me, which isn’t fun. Like, at all. But I have a lot of friends who’ve sent emails. Emails do work in certain cases but there’s other cases where some departments just...are scary, I don’t know. But I know that some schools are really trying to make it easier for you to put it on your student gateway, that way when they print the student roll you can have that ability so then the professor doesn’t get that choice over you. Eden: I think this is a really specific question but like, in a good way. During my art class we all got asked our pronouns but when it came to certain classes I had to be the one or other people had to be the people who brought it up. So if you’re going around the classroom introducing yourself, especially if you’re at the beginning of the line, just go ahead and say your pronouns and everybody...and if the student body is supportive will follow along and say that.

Some professors who are on the path to being more inclusive will say stuff like “If your pronouns are something other than what I would assume, let me know,” which is terrible because it puts you on the spot and creates this hostile environment that you might not want to be a part of! So I would say yeah, emailing before the class works but also initiating that conversation. Or if you don’t want to do that: if someone’s speaking and you want to hop off of what they said, say “Hey, I’m not sure what are your pronouns are. [What are your pronouns] so I can refer to what you said properly?” and that’ll also initiate a classroom discussion/conversation about that. Jenna: I like that idea of like, saying your pronouns in a line. I’ve definitely done that in some work settings and sometimes if you’re at the front of the line then people just start doing it and it’s a great way to set that norm from the beginning! Alright, so another question we have from a teen on the Gender Spectrum Lounge is: “What was your level around disclosure? Did this change over time and how did you decide who and when you disclosed to?” Aiden: So yeah, I talked a little bit about this already.

So pretty much there was just a lot of trauma that I faced with not necessarily talking about my gender identity before things, before like, talking with some people. So I just found a lot of my anxiety really acted up with this and so I just started doing it more and more often. But even then, it wasn’t necessarily...even though we have a campus climate that wants to say “There are policies there in order to protect trans students,” it doesn’t necessarily reflect on the student body. So I still had a few threats, even around campus and stuff, and I think it’s something where I have people close to me that I feel safe enough to be able to talk to them and say like “Hey, something’s happening,” and be able to receive aid if needed. But also it’s just like... there’s just been a lot of weird feelings that have always come up with me just disclosing who I am, just because it’s like, “Oh, I’m not safe if they end up like finding out later and then they get angry at me. I’m not safe if I like... I guess I might as well just say it now, regardless if they’re angry at me because they won’t feel like I lied to them or something like that.” There’s just...again, a lot of anxiety that comes with this and it’s definitely affected my mental health, which is why I can’t really talk about this with people.

It’s just at the point where I just need to say it right away and when it comes up I guess I feel just...more safe being in control in the situation. At least I won’t have a connection with them; I won’t have spoiled a connection...and I’m like, “If we break off later in the future it’s just gone now.” And again, this is all just like, safeties, fear, all that jazz, so it’s pretty much the way that I kind of...that I just currently am, now, with how I talk to folks about being trans. Kristen: I guess when I was in community college I didn’t disclose gender...any of my gender stuff to anyone, and that was for safety. I know it’s not always the case, but I just feel like I don’t owe it to anyone to have to disclose but I also know that I do have some privilege in being able to “pass” in certain situations and environments in a way to be safe. It was different when I was in southern California and I found myself having to not disclose stuff, even about being queer, just in order to kind of survive on a day-to-day basis.

When I got to Berkeley, it was a different climate. People were more accepting and it was actually really nerve wracking being able to disclose. I was like, “How do I do this? Like, I know this person will accept me fully but like...what?” And I mean, that wasn’t always the case. I definitely had moments, even in Berkley, within certain groups where I knew I would be supported and people would be there.

Yeah. I guess it’s the way I’ve dealt with it is on a case-by-case basis depending on my safety. And it took me awhile to be able to tell myself I don’t owe it to anyone. And so that took awhile to learn. Yeah. Jenna: Thanks for sharing! So we have just a few minutes left and I want to kind of open up the space for you all if there’s anything you want to share that maybe wasn’t asked in a specific question, if there’s anything on your mind that you’re feeling like you really want to share with people that are going to be watching this.

Because I know that sometimes certain questions don’t speak to what you actually want to share and so I just want to open it up for you all if there is any kind of last/closing things that you want to share with the group. Eden: I would like to share some tips on how to find some accepting colleges. I think one of the...Sorry, there’s background noise. I think one of the most important things to do, like I mentioned, is to look and at the student body and what the student organizations are doing. If you go to the school newspaper website and look up stuff, keywords like “trans” and “trans rights” and stuff like that, you can definitely get an idea and form an idea of what the school is about and what the students are about. You can also go on the school’s website and look up any mission statements about recent executive orders or stuff like that that have come up, or stuff on (acronym I don’t know) or even Affordable Care Act. Schools do those things, they put out those statements, to show support for their students. Even looking into sanctuary campuses, that is something you may do if that’s what you’re looking for.

But also, keeping in mind that when it comes to some legal issues, putting a name on certain things makes you more of a target. So for example: if you are...let’s say if you are associated with the GSA, you’re more likely to be a target of the violence that’s directed towards that GSA, right? So that’s an example of why you should also look out for those labels. Not only look for them and want to be a part of them, but also keep them in mind in regards to your own safety. You can also contact students from the school that you’re thinking of applying to or going to and ask them if they’ve gotten any emails because I know my school, my administration, sends us emails about bathroom rights, you know..class rights, trigger warnings, and stuff like that.

Some schools have completely dismissed trigger warnings that are necessary and needed and stuff like that. Just look into what is going on currently in the school. Jenna: Does anyone else want to share anything? I don’t want to cut folks off, but I can’t tell. Thank you for those tips Eden, those were awesome.

Yeah, Henry? Henry: I think there’s a huge stigma around taking a year off of school and there’s a lot of fear surrounding it. Like, “What if I forget everything I learned in high school?” There’s just a lot of stigma around taking a year off. But it really was the best option for me personally and I’m going to say don’t be afraid to do it. Because a lot of people are not in the financial situation where they can go to college right away. A lot of people need to work, like I do, and a lot of people just don’t know what they want to do yet, so why would you go to college if you don’t know what you want to do? Right? I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I didn’t go to college because I didn’t want to spend money doing something that I would end up changing completely, probably. So I’m going...Taking a year off was the greatest option for me. It’s a totally valid option and if you’re afraid of academic struggles, a lot of schools have like, free tutoring.

A) So the school I’m going to in the fall has free tutoring and that’s an option. And B) You can always...there are a lot of websites that have a lot of free online courses from colleges that you can definitely look into and take, just to...keep your mind working, you know? So yeah. Just don’t be afraid to do what you need to do.

Jenna: Anyone else? Okay, well I think...yeah, go for it, Kristen! Kristen: So I was just going to say that...I know that there’s a lot of ideas around community college and going to community college. But I actually think it was the best choice, I think it gave me a lot of room to grow and to explore. I was actually able to take so many classes that I wouldn’t be able to take if I was in a 4-year. I know 4-year plans are great for a lot of people, but I think if you’re uncertain...I learned a lot and I grew a lot at community college and it gave me the space I needed to grow. And I went in not knowing what to expect and I had some of the best classes and some of the best teachers and some of the most wonderful people I met were at community college and I think that they’re so important.

And I just want to like, re-affirm, that community college is a great path and it doesn’t mean that you’re stuck like so many people believe. Jenna: Aiden, Jared? You good? Okay! Well I think that’s an awesome kind of note to wrap up on. I just want to thank you all so much for not only dedicating your time to this conversation but sharing some personal experiences and personal information. I think that this is going to be a really awesome program for a lot of folks, so thank you for just taking the time to have this conversation with all of us. For folks watching, we’d love to hear your responses to this program, your feedback on this program, if maybe certain things that were shared really resonated with you...a great way to kind of continue this is in the Gender Spectrum Lounge. We have a group in there called “Trans in College” and there’s over 50 folks in there who are having conversations really around what we talked about today, from kind of gap year programs to pronouns in classrooms with professors, to finding the right housing...so if you’re really wanting to continue this conversation - it’s a really big topic and I think we could talk about it for much longer than we did tonight - I really encourage you to join the Gender Spectrum Lounge and check out that group.

Yeah! I hope that this program was beneficial to you all watching and we look forward to having more conversations about this in the future. Bye!.

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