Ahead of Trans* Week in UCD, Sam Blanckensee talks about his experiences as a trans man
Being trans* is tough, and I won’t pretend otherwise. Because of my gender identity, I miss out on rights that everyone else takes for granted. Being trans* affects my daily life, whether it’s a day when I can barely get out of bed because of dysphoria, or the questions that people ask, like the headline of this article.
With a surname like mine, the most common conversation I have starts with, “Blanckensee, that’s an unusual name. Where does it come from?” The next most common question is about my gender identity. My choice to disclose my medical history is seen as a strange one by my peers and, when people I have met ten minutes previously decide to ask me about surgeries on my private parts, I tend to agree with them.
Humans like to objectify things. Women are judged for their breasts or their weight or some sort of physical aspect of their bodies. Men have the same thing done to them, as they are seen for their abs or their height or hair colour. Trans men and trans women are objectified in a different way.
There are times when people seem to see trans people as a surgery, or as a medical mystery, rather than as people. Ireland’s Trans* Mental Health and Well-Being Survey showed that 40% of our trans* community have attempted suicide at least once, so it’s obvious that we have a long way to go as a country until we are giving the necessary level of support to our trans* citizens.
The November 20th is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. This year, our count of known trans* related murders was 78 in April. I don’t know what the count will be next week. It certainly won’t be smaller. Trans women of colour have a 1 in 8 chance of being murdered; that statistic just shouldn’t be real.
Being trans* is a scary thing. I can’t go a day without being anxious about the reactions I might get from people when they find out that I am transgender. If somebody in a bathroom finds out, or if somebody gets on a bus that knows and happens to be drunk, I get scared of the repercussions.
If those people turn violent, I get hurt. I am constantly aware of what I look like, because if I present in slightly the wrong way somebody might find out I am trans*, and that could go badly. I see stories on my Facebook wall every day of friends of mine being threatened or having problems with people because of being trans*.
The government is bringing in a new law in the next few months, which will allow trans* people to change their the sex/gender on their birth certificates. This will give us privacy and prevent us from being required to “out” ourselves on a daily basis just to get basic rights.
Personally, I have a few problems with the law that has been proposed though, one being the fact that the law won’t cover people under the age of 18. That means that schools can continue to legally discriminate against trans* students due to their gender identity. The law also mentions the discrimination of sports teams, something I believe should never be covered by legislation.
I love sports, I have always played lots of them and soon I plan to start playing team sports again. My problem is that I may not be allowed to do so, by law. I take testosterone, which is seen by sports organisations as a steroid, however, I only have the normal male level.
I play rugby and other contact sports where I can, and love playing them, but my gender identity stops me from doing it. If the law goes through, sports teams could legally prevent me from joining either a men’s or a women’s team and prevent me from staying fit and healthy as a result.
If I wasn’t open about my identity, I could probably just not worry about people knowing and play amateur sports, but I don’t have that option because being transgender isn’t something I have chosen to hide.
All of the negative aspects aside, I actually have found so many positive things about being trans*. Having gone through such a drastic change in the eyes of all of my friends, I know that the friends who have accepted me and that have moved on from focusing on my gender identity are my true friends.
I also know which of my friends weren’t so great, but I think I am better for that. Since coming to college, I have actually made friends due to the fact that I am trans*. The LGBTQ+ Society in UCD are wonderful, and last year’s Trans* Week was an amazing experience where I learned how spectacular all of my new friends are.
I also have had the opportunity to educate. I hope that, because I have come out, I can pave the way for easier coming out processes for others in the future. Being out as transgender isn’t easy. It has so many challenges when it comes to acceptance and privacy.
Describing intensely personal things that people just wouldn’t ask about any other medical condition on a regular basis, which really gets uncomfortable in certain situations, can be difficult.
Being open has also been worth it. Being open means I don’t have to hide my history, I never have to wonder whether I would be accepted if people knew, and I have changed being transgender in my friend’s minds from something scandalous to just another medical reality.
I am able to joke about something that, in most contexts, is extremely taboo and I can help other trans* students come out. My identity has given me the opportunity to make a difference.
I understand why people don’t like telling others they’re trans*. It’s obvious that facing the awkward questions and putting yourself in a spotlight about your medical history isn’t the usual thing to do.
Sometimes I wonder about my own decision to be open. I wouldn’t have half the problems I have with my identity if I weren’t so open, but I also wouldn’t have the amazing support circles from my friends. I wish being trans* wasn’t a big deal, and that my life wasn’t characterised by it, but for now all I can do is work toward the time where it isn’t.
UCD Trans* Week takes place from the 18th to the 22nd of November and the Transgender Day of Remembrance Service on campus is at 6pm on the 20th of November on the Concourse outside the Newman building