Locals offer insight into transgender life

On Transgender Day of Remembrance, locals share their stories

Aydin Kennedy leads a panel discussion about what it means to be transgender.

Aydin Kennedy leads a panel discussion about what it means to be transgender.

Photo By MEredith J. Graham

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For more on the Transgender Task Force, go to www.csuchico.edu/ttf.

When Connor was in the third grade, he asked his teacher, “Why can’t the girls take their shirts off during flag football? It’s not fair—it’s hot!”

On the first day of first grade, when Aydin and the rest of his classmates were asked to split up to go to the bathroom—boys on one side, girls on the other—he found himself strangely conflicted, not knowing which line to join.

When Suzanne was 4 years old, her parents submitted her to electroshock therapy to “cure” her of her desire to be a little girl.

And when Kyle, as a teenager, asked his mom for some money to go shopping, he used it to buy a boy’s shirt—not music or magazines like his friends might do—because he didn’t have any, and that’s how he felt most comfortable.

These were just some of the stories shared Tuesday night at Selvester’s Lounge on the Chico State campus. Connor, Aydin, Suzanne and Kyle were part of a panel discussion about their experiences being transgender/transsexual.

The panel was coordinated by Aydin Kennedy, a founder of the Transgender Task Force and member of Chico’s Stonewall Alliance Center, and was part of Transgender Day of Remembrance to honor victims of anti-transgender/sexual violence. Telling their stories was a way to invite the community to get to know them, and to get people talking about transgender issues in a more educated way.

All of the seven members of the panel knew quite young that they didn’t fit into the traditional boxes that people put themselves and others into based on gender, and as they got older, they took steps to appear on the outside how they felt on the inside.

For some, that has meant something as seemingly simple as changing their names. Kyle, whose family has not yet embraced his new name and new identity—he wears men’s clothes and has a men’s haircut—is looking forward to going to court next month to get his name legally changed. He hopes to then go through the process of hormone therapy and, eventually, surgery.

Currently in the state of California, in order to legally be able to change your gender on your driver’s license and other documents, surgery is required. For those making the transition from female to male, that means, at minimum, chest surgery. For those going from male to female, genital surgery is required. Getting the go-ahead to have gender-reassignment surgery—which also carries a hefty price tag, as insurance companies won’t cover it—is no easy task, however, as several on the panel attested to.

“I had to say I have a mental illness in order to get gender surgery,” said Aydin. Gender identity disorder is considered a mental illness, but its diagnosis is required before getting surgery. “There are a lot of mixed messages in that.”

While he’s optimistic about upcoming changes to state law that will require no surgery to be able to change your gender on legal documents, he said people will still need a doctor’s sign-off. “It’s still not giving us the power,” he said. “It’s still requiring us to rely on you all to affirm us.”

What it comes down to, many of them agreed, is being seen by others the same way they see themselves.

“Nothing has changed, except maybe my voice,” said Connor, who started taking testosterone in August. “But now I’m able to express myself on the outside as I see myself on the inside.”