When I was growing up, my parents taught me that everyone was equal, no matter what race, gender or sexuality. As I grew older, I realized that not all people were indeed treated equally, and that many of my friends faced struggles that I, as a straight cis-gendered girl did not.
“Trans” is a Latin root simply meaning across or beyond, and transgender is a broad term assigned to anyone who feels conflicted about the sex they were assigned at birth.
Working at a hotel, I run across many different people, and just a weekend ago, I met Rory, a prospective Georgia State student.
Rory is 17 years-old, biologically male and transgender. While she looks male, Rory identifies as female. However, despite her gender identification, she’s just like any other teen: excited about college, television shows and fashion.
From Rory’s perspective as a teenager, one of the biggest struggles being trans is keeping up appearances.
“A lot of people worry about how they look, but with Trans people, it’s everything! Clothes, face, hair, body type, presentation, make-up, bras, binders, corsets, et cetera… It becomes incredibly demanding and time consuming,” she said.
This makes me wonder — if people were not so prejudiced against a transgender individual, would they have to go through so much effort to prove their identity to the public?
On a daily basis, transgender individuals face many struggles. On a larger scale, one major problem is that while we are slowly progressing on a road to improving trans-acceptance, legally Georgia features virtually no rights or support for these individuals.
Certain municipal entities such as Atlanta offer domestic partnerships. However, there is no state-level recognition for same-sex marriages, furthering discrimination.
Similarly, until the Affordable Healthcare Act was passed, many LGBT couples were denied health care. However, under new laws, health insurance plans cannot discriminate on the basis of sex, gender identity, disability, diagnosis and medical condition. Plans have to provide preventive screenings for everyone regardless the sex or gender listed on their insurance car and individuals living with HIV/AIDS can no longer be denied healthcare.
Despite our university making its way to becoming one of the largest and most diverse schools in the state by adding gender-neutral housing and an additional 20,000 students with the 2016 consolidation with Georgia Perimeter College, professors and students are not as open to LGBTQ individuals as one might think.
Ariana, a current Georgia State transgender student who is identifies as female, said that while her close friends, classmates and a majority of professors are generally respectful toward her as a transgender woman, others remain transmisogynistic.
“…Administration is a hit or miss honestly, sometimes they are good and sometimes they refuse to call me anything other than sir,” she said.
Ariana also said that while the university is a welcoming place for LGBTQ individuals, she doesn’t feel that it is entirely open to trans individuals yet. Unless students are involved in the LGBTQ community, it can be kind of difficult to empathize with the struggles those individuals face.
“…The hoops I and others have to jump through just to get our professors to acknowledge our real names is kind of infuriating,” she said “They are better than other universities, but GSU has a long way to go.”
However, Atlanta appears to be more open than other areas in Georgia or Alabama for instance, which allowed for its Supreme Court to order judges to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses last month.
Still, our city is home to approximately a 12.8 percent LGBTQ population, and we also rank No. 10 on the list of cities with the highest LGBTQ identifying individuals, according to PolitiFact.
As stated by trans-identifying individuals I spoke with, they feel that there isn’t really any “safe” city for themselves to be completely open about their gender identities.
Unfortunately as of 2013, one in five hate crimes were based on either sexual orientation or gender identity, which is heartbreaking to digest and realize. Just this past December, there was an incident in Midtown where a homosexual couple was assaulted on their way home from a date. The police still haven’t identified the assailant and last year only 12 cases was the LGBTQ liaison with the police department alerted.
The reality is that this could be any LGBTQ identifying individual or couple — especially students. With Georgia State’s increasing population, I think it’s time for our administration to start acknowledging and tending to the safety and well-being of their current, incoming and prospective LGBTQ students.