Transgender at the Reunion
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 in the world will the alumnae respond when one of their own shows up at their twenty-fifth reunion as a man?
The drama turned out to be a nonstory. Of course some Mount Holyokers did initially—understandably—look to me as the presumed alumna. The worst thing to happen was that a woman staffing the registration table laughed when Marcus presented himself as 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—in fact, most aren’t. As the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey reports, 63 percent of transgender people have experienced serious discrimination: They’ve been physically or sexually assaulted, lost a job, been evicted, had to drop out of school, experienced homelessness or some other calamitous event 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. 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.
In some ways, Marcus has been lucky. Traumatic discrimination wasn’t part of his transition. Not that he doesn’t have horror stories; they just date from before his transition, when he was still trying to masquerade as female. My guy could not be a more stereotypical guy: a gadget-loving football fan, computer geek, and finance whiz who majored in physics. Now imagine a guy like that as a kid on the playground in a girl’s body. It wasn’t a pretty picture. In fact, it was a downright lonely and miserable one.
Which is a big part of the reason Marcus is so committed to being out as a transgender man. By being open about who he is, Marcus hopes to build acceptance—and thereby make his positive transition less of an anomaly.
At his Mount Holyoke reunion, Marcus’s dorm mom was so utterly thrilled to see him I thought she was going to pinch his cheek. She was probably also a little stunned. She ended up rubbing her hand across his shaved whiskers and inquiring how he got them.
“Hormones,” Marcus said, explaining that he has a prescription for testosterone injections.
Mount Holyoke has already issued Marcus a new diploma with his new name in his new gender. In 2011, his esteemed alma mater has entered the modern age.
In the end, he turned out to be just another guy with a receding hairline reminiscing at his twenty-fifth college reunion.
Jacqueline White is a Minneapolis writer currently finishing a memoir about her marriage. Visit mytransgenderhusband.com. Her spouse, Marcus Waterbury, is board chair of the National Center for Transgender Equality (transequality.org), which co-authored the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.
This is an excerpt from Jacqueline White's essay in the September issue. To read the whole essay, and the entire issue, simply subscribe to The Progressive for $14.97--that's 75% off. Just click here.
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