As a cisgender woman, I am in no way speaking on others’ experiences with or regarding transgender identity positionally. Despite this, this is my experience and exploration when one of my friends started dating a transgender male and how I approached the conversation with her (cisgender woman). In my identity positionally, I had a lot of questions. Instead of hiding these questions, I used my interpersonal communication skills and engaged in conversation with my best friend to become more knowledgeable on things I do not know- that being questions about her relationship and her partner who a transgender male is.
Before coming to James Madison University, I lived in a small town that is primarily white, cisgender, and extremely conservative. These characteristics foster lots of biases, hatred, and neglect of differing identities that I experienced while growing up. There are behaviors from my 18 years of living there that I find myself still engaging in, but that I am working to dismantle them to grow and become more accepting of other people.
When I got to JMU, I began to learn more about people and how the exploration of identity is an important characteristic in maturation and what it means to be YOU! So, when my roommate and best friend started dating a trans-man, I found myself curious and driven by a desire to listen, communicate, and foster both growth and knowledge in this situation. Now, in no means was this situation about me, but I have found that when I suppress my curiosities, they then form biases. Instead of forming biases I wanted to learn and so, I asked questions.
“Instead of forming biases, I wanted to learn and so, I asked questions.”
I asked my roommates her feelings about dating someone who is a trans-male, what that meant for her in terms of her sexuality and identity, and some of the hardships her boyfriend had to go through to get to where he was. This conversation opened up a safe environment to talk, where I could ask questions and she would answer them honestly. I will not give information about her boyfriend as that is private, but I can say my roommate was respectful and kind. She embraced my questions with love, knowing that I had never been exposed to this identity before. She acknowledged that I was not coming from a place of hatred, disrespectful, or bias, but of one of love where I wanted to learn more about her and her boyfriend.
This conversation gave room to many others where we discussed social, political, racial, and differing thoughts and ideas. To me, this was the start of my exploration with differing identities and showed me how much I did not know. It allowed me to explore myself but also come to terms with empathy, understanding, and social location and standpoint. From this moment freshman year, I went on to study gender, racism, and a variety of different identities to gain more understanding about people and their experience they go through.
This was an amazing, focal point in my growth as a person, but it also came with a lot of questions for and about society. Why did other people not have the same want to understand and care about others? Where were people’s conversational skills that allowed them to have the type of conversation I have? It was these questions that dove me further into my study but also understand myself and how I engage with society.
The answer lies with privilege. I have had the advantage and access to education and a community that I can engage with to understand people more. Not everyone has access to these resources to allow for this kind of identity growth I had for myself and in understanding differing identities. So as of right now in my education and want for the future, I plan to continue to understand people and their identities more. I am looking to dismantle the system of privilege so equitable identities can be understood, heard, and accepted…
I am growing and helping society to grow.