Moving away to college (or university) is a huge step in life, there are so many questions from “Which dorm is the best?” to “What will the first day of classes be like?” to “Where is the closest Pokestop?!” As a trans person, there are even more questions, and you’re in luck, because I’m a seasoned college student who happens to have worked in my school’s admissions office for the past three years.
If you’re entering college this fall, you should have already contacted your housing department. If not, email them as soon as possible. Just explain that you’re a transgender student and would like appropriate housing accommodations. Some schools are prepared, others aren’t. Be patient – as difficult as it is – and work with them to set you up for the best situation. Don’t forget to mention that this is a safety issue for you. If you are in a room with someone who is not accepting, that is not safe (mentally, emotionally, or physically) and they should recognize that.
If you already contacted housing and have a roommate, make sure that they are an advocate. If you’re not on hormones, or don’t “pass” as well as you’d like, your roommate can be a great buffer for you. They can simply say “My roommate is a guy, just like any other guy.” In most cases this will deter all questions.
Ask the housing department if your RA (Resident Assistant) is aware of your trans status. My university housing told my RA without asking me. She turned out to be a great support, but she also told all of the other RA’s in the building “just in case” they needed to know. Going to such a small university, it was very important to me that the fewest people knew I was trans when I entered in case I wanted to stay stealth the entire time.
If your university allows you to change your name or have a preferred name, do that as soon as possible! It was as simple as me emailing the registrar’s office and saying “Hi, the system says my name is ___, can you change it to ___? And please change my gender from female to male.” They instantly changed everything with no questions and were very polite! You may want to ask your diversity center or pride group if you’re not sure of the policies.
When I started at my university, there was not a preferred name field. Because I receive Federal Aid (FAFSA) they couldn’t have a name different than my legal name on my account. The solution was to put my first initial. I happened to choose a name with the same first initial, so it wasn’t too much of a problem. If you have a different first initial now, just tell people that you go by your middle name. If anyone gives you crap about having just an initial for your first name, say it’s a system error. At my university it happens to a lot of international students, so professors were not taken aback. They simply would ask if “_” was there and I would say “It’s actually _____.” They would take note and move on.
I want to start this section off with saying that you need to do what is safe for you. If your school/dorm does not have gender inclusive restrooms and showers, you need to use the one that is safe for you.
With that being said, dorm showers are not locker room showers. They usually have at least a curtain, more and more dorm showers are completely enclosed. Just go in, shower (daily, please) and get dressed in the shower. Tons of people do this, so you won’t be seen as the odd one out!
There is a slight problem when it comes to using restrooms about once a month. If you can, find the most secluded restroom on campus. There is usually at least one unisex/family restroom at every school, so find that one if you can. This isn’t the best situation, but it’s better than other options.
This is the first time that most of us get to make new friends since we were very, very young. This is a great time to make friends who affirm and support you as a person! I suggest hanging out in the diversity center if your school has one. The people who frequent those areas tend to be much more open minded than the average college student, and they also tend to be great people.
If there is a pride group at your school, go to the first meeting. Be prepared though, because many pride groups still are not the greatest when it comes to including trans peers. If this is the case, meet with a group adviser, and suggest that everyone is educated on pronouns at the next meeting. It’s a small step that can go a long way.
But who do I come out to?
The trickiest question for last. This is a very personal topic and is also very situational. I found it best to be stealth when I first went to college, but this was before there was ANY positive trans visibility in popular media. I figured that if I wanted to change my mind later, it is much easier to come out than to take it back. Check out my article on being trans in a rural area on creating a support system. It is very important to have people on your side before you come out to the general campus!
If there are any other things you want to know about, comment below! I’d be more than happy to help you out!