Experts on gender talk about problems, misconceptions about trans people

Published by adviser, Author: Amber Cannon - Campus Life Editor, Date: February 4, 2016

Part 1 of 3


Identifying as transgender has caused quite a lot of controversy over the past year with several celebrities transitioning and becoming more prominent in the media. Although shows are starting to show several people’s transitions on television, some people still are having a hard time defining what it means to be transgender.

Director of the gender studies program, Cindy LaCom said the simple definition of being transgender is someone who is born in the wrong body so that their natal sex doesn’t conform with the sex that they feel they should be.

“I use the term natal birth or natal sex and I use the term transwoman or transman, but the terms I actually prefer is an affirmed man or an affirmed woman and frankly, I think increasingly just man and woman,” Lacom said.

Associate professor of psychology, Catherine Massey said the sexual orientation of a trans person typically depends on the individual. She said usually if a person is female bodied and attracted to females and they’re transitioning into a male, because they feel male and they’re attracted to females, they would be considered a heterosexual male. Massey said determining the sexual orientation of a trans person can become pretty complex.

“I know a person who transitioned from a male to female, and as a male, was attracted to females and as a female, was attracted to females, but she doesn’t consider herself a lesbian, but she dates women,” Massey said. “It’s really up to the individual and how the define their gender and their sexual orientation”

Lacom said one of the misconceptions of being trangender is that it’s easy. She said she’s heard a lot of people say that someone who identifies as trans is confused.

“When I hear people say about trans people, ‘well, they’re just gay, and can’t accept it,’ I think that that’s a major misconception,” Lacom said. “I think one of the biggest (misconceptions) is the idea that this is just a fad.”

Massey said being transgender can cause some conflict because of the society we live in. Massey said our society only sees gender as binary. She said most people see society as either being male or female and that the gender they were assigned at birth should match how they feel.

According to Massey, in 2015 alone, 22 transgender people were killed. Massey also said transgender people face a lot of discrimination, physical and emotional violence, and rejection through family and society, as well as very high unemployment rates.

Lacom said she believes that society is still transphobic and that the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) can be misleading.

“Being gay, lesbian or bisexual is about sexual identity and orientation and being trans is about identity and not necessarily about sexual orientation,” she said.

Lacom also said that trans youth have a 33 percent chance of attempting to kill themselves or self-harm, which Lacom said is only getting higher. She also said a transgender youth who runs away from home is four times as likely to end up being sex trafficked. Lacom said she doesn’t think that trans youth are sick; instead, she feels that they are confused in a world where society wants to create gender binaries, meaning a person is either this, or a person is that. Lacom also said she believes that the transgender community often don’t get support and are often harassed in their communities.

Several pronouns are used to refer to the transgender community. Female to male transgenders are referred to as him, he, his and himself. Male to female transgenders are referred to as her, she, and herself.

Massey also said some transgendered people prefer the plural pronouns such as they, them and their to keep it gender neutral.

“They also use the binary pronouns ze or zir,” Massey said. “Ze is like he or she and zir is like him or her. It’s gender neutral. There are some gender researchers in blogs and they tend to use the ze and zir instead of using gender specific pronouns.”

According to Massey, the testosterone that females take to transition into a male and the estrogen that males take to transition in a women are usually given in shots.

Sophomore psychology major and transman, Morgan Scott said that he now uses AndroGel, a testosterone gel that is used by rubbing the gel over desired areas. He said at first, he started using testosterone shots.

“With those (shots), you would take (them) every two weeks,” Scott said. “My mom administered my shots to me. The AndroGel gives you a more balanced level of testosterone. The shots give you a spike right as you get it and it slowly decreases, so you’re moodier. Physically, it’s great because it stops your menstrual cycle, deepens your voice, your facial slowly grows in, your body hair slowly grows in, and you muscles mass slowly increases. Mentally, I got happier when I was on it.”

Massey said whether or not testosterone and estrogen are covered usually depends on the health insurance.

“Most health insurances do cover it now,” Massey said. “There’s a process that people go through and it’s called Gender Identity Dysphoria.”

According to, Gender Identity Dsyphoria is a condition where people feel that their gender at birth is contrary to the one they identify with.

“Gender Identity Dysphoria is listed in the DSM 5, which is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, and it’s in there because if the insurance is going to cover hormone treatments, the counseling for transitioning, surgeries and so on and so forth, you have to have a diagnosis for that.”

Student Health Services director Kristina Benkeser, said the health center can give students who are transititioining their medicine, but they are not in charge of their care.

“What we do is we assist students and their specialty provider, so if the student needs to take any of the medication by injection, we work with their physician or their nurse practitioner and the student to make all that happen,” Benkeser said.

Benkeser said testosterone and estrogen can come in many different formulations. She said in the doses that most transgenders need for gender reassignment, often the doses of testosterone and estrogen are much higher than the doses you would use to treat other things. She said in order to get the correct concentration of testosterone and estrogen, sometimes the dose is only available in a shot. She also said there are patches available too.

“Sometimes too, there’s a patch, and the patches are pretty popular as an option because in both the shot and the patch, the medicine is released over time,” Benkeser said. “If you take an oral pill, you would have to take that pill everyday and never forget. With a patch, you put the patch on for a week and then for a week, you don’t have to worry about it. When you need to achieve high doses of hormone, and they aren’t naturally occurring, in order to do that sometimes, the shot just may really be the best option.”

Massey said if she could tell students one thing about transitioning, she would tell them that it’s a difficult process and that people shouldn’t hold judgements unless they’re in that person’s shoes.

“You shouldn’t judge a person’s decision on transitioning because they’re doing it because the feel they have to make it right and they have to make their gender identity match their body,” Massey said.

Lacom also said she thinks people who are transitioning would benefit from support and greater understanding. She also said if a person is going to ask questions, to ask them in a respectful way.

“To frame a question, in terms of any way, shape, or form, ‘what’s wrong with you?’ is not good,” Lacom said.


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