SRU alumnus Atticus Ranck visited the campus on Wednesday to educate students on the transgender community as well as share his process with emerging from a woman to a man to 120 students at his “It’s A Hard Trans Life” discussion.
The gender studies program hosted and sponsored the event.
Director of the gender studies program, Cindy LaCom said the program decided to bring Ranck because she said transgender issues are often overlooked on this campus. She also said she wanted to create a safe climate for trans people on campus. LaCom said she knew Ranck had great public speaking skills as well, so she knew he would do well with the discussion.
During his discussion, Ranck spoke about topics involving issues surrounding the transgender community, such as police, jails, work, identity documents, homelessness, health care and more.
Ranck started out his discussion with educating students on transgender terminology to ensure that everyone that attended the event was on the same page.
“There’s three big ones,” Ranck said. “There’s sex, which is what two loving people do in the bedroom. Sex is the anatomy, sexual characteristics and the XX and XY chromosomes. Gender is the social construction; the thing that says if you’re born male, you should be masculine, and if you’re born female, you should be feminine. Then, there’s sexual orientation, which is the object of someone’s attraction.”
Ranck said there are three ways to transition: social, medical and legal. The social transition involves telling your family and friends of your transition, or dressing as the preferred gender. The medical transition involves hormone replacement therapy or surgeries and the legal transition involves updating legal documents to match with your gender.
Ranck said he updated his legal documents to match with his gender in Florida. According to Ranck, 41 percent of people live without IDs that matches their gender identity. Ranck said a trans person is able to change their gender marker with a doctor who’s legally prescribing their hormones. Ranck said he had the name change letter and the gender marker letter when he first went to social security to change his gender and his name.
“I was like, ‘okay, I want to change everything over,’” Ranck said. “They were like, ‘okay, we can do the name change because you have a court order, but this gender marker isn’t going to work.’ Then, he automatically asked me about my body parts. Don’t let anyone ever ask you about your body parts. It’s never appropriate.”
Ranck said he just changed his name during that visit, and he didn’t update it again until November of this past year.
“It makes a difference when you pass as the male you are,” Ranck said. “I looked more male the second time I went, and they changed it with no problem.”
Ranck recalled a time when he went to the gynecologist after four years of putting it off. He said often times, transmen put off going to the gynecologist to reduce the risk of embarrassment.
“So, I’m there and filling out paper work, and I didn’t have my girlfriend with me to pretend that I was just there supporting her,” Ranck said. “This woman goes up to the front window and knocks on it, and then she starts whispering to the receptionist, and I know it’s about me. She turns around and gives me a cheesy smile, and says, ‘I’m just making sure I’m in the right doctor’s office.’”
While at Slippery Rock, Ranck said he struggled a lot with drugs and alcohol. He said he was using them way more than he should have, and it only got worse when he started his horomones.
“It was part of the culture of Western Pennsylvania,” Ranck said. “At the time, it was like this is what you do in college and nobody is an alcoholic until they graduate.”
He said the drinking got worse when he started his horomones because he said he was doing everything he could to be seen as a man, and no one was seeting it yet, and he finally hit rock bottom. Next week, Ranck will be two years sober.
Ranck said his parents struggled for a long time with his transition, but now, he said he is proud of how far they came with accepting his emergence. He said although his parents took it kind of well, his sister had a hard time with it.
“I had to come out twice,” Ranck said. “First as a lesbian, and then as a trans guy. When I came out as a lesbian, my parents said this was a sin and they split me and my girlfriend up.”
When he came home for Christmas one year, Ranck said his sister said she can tell that he’s happier and that he still feels like the same person, but said that she missed her sister.
“I understood,” Ranck said. “To her, maybe she felt liked I lied to her or that I kept her in the dark, or I wasn’t always being completely honest with her. Whenever someone transitions, the whole family kind of has to transition too. They have to mourn the loss of who they thought they knew and welcome this new person.”
Ranck said he wrote his sister a letter for Christmas, saying that it was okay to miss her sister. He told her that Atticus is the best version of Ashley (Ranck’s name, pre-transition) she’s ever going to have. He said without Atticus, Ashely would have killed herself drunk driving, drank herself to death or committed suicide.
“The options are either have a dead Ashley, or have a real, alive Atticus,” he said.
Ranck said his family now calls him Atticus, but they sometimes still get the pronouns confused.
“When I came out as trans, I was like, ‘you prayed for me to be straight, and your prayers are answered. You’re welcome,’” he said.
At the end of his lecture, Ranck showed the audience pictures of his emergence.
“If you take away nothing from this training, I want you to understand that trans people are not born messed up,” Ranck said. “The world has no place for us. Society hates trans people, so trans people hate themselves.”
LaCom said she thought the event went very well, and she thought Ranck was very informative and poised. She said she also learned some things from Ranck’s discussion, such as the problems transmen face when going to get gynecological exams.
“I’ve been a mentor to him ever since he was a first year student,” LaCom said.
Ranck now lives in Florida, where is the Director of Transgender Services for SunServe Social Services, an LGBT nonprofit organization.