The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Transgender students seek smoother transition routes

By Kat Fay/reporter

What’s in a pronoun?

Generally, a person would not think twice about whether to use “he” or “she” in reference to someone, jotting down whichever obviously fit the outward appearance of the person being mentioned. What if a pronoun was a source of respect? Would it take precedence if it meant the difference between acceptance and rejection?

For a group of individuals taking extreme steps to find comfort in their own skin, a pronoun is everything. 

Hannah Grace Arnold, a South Campus psychology student, was born Jacob Arnold. A member of Spectrum as well as secretary for the Diversity and Inclusion Council, Arnold still spends most of her time on campus as Jacob — only presenting as Hannah for [Diversity and Inclusion] Council meetings and events where she feels comfortable being herself. Although she is in the process of transitioning to Hannah full time, a negative experience that she witnessed at TCC involving another transgender student keeps her from attending class as Hannah until she has taken the legal steps to erase the name Jacob from her school transcripts.

Illustration by Alex Bihm/The Collegian
Illustration by Alex Bihm/The Collegian

Arnold was in class with a student who was transitioning from being formerly female to male.

“When roll was called, he asked the professor to call him by his male name, and the professor never made an effort to uphold the student’s wishes. It was extremely embarrassing for the student,” Arnold said. “I knew then that I needed to fix this problem with the registrar’s before I would attempt my full-time debut.”

Although on- and off-campus society has taken steps toward acceptance of the gay, lesbian and bisexual communities, one group of individuals is still fighting for basic rights.


Dealing with laws

Michelle Stafford, a former pastor who is male to female bi-gender and a current activist for the transgender community in Dallas, told a group of students at a panel discussion on South Campus April 11 that the transgender community was still 40 years behind their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters concerning legal rights and acceptance.

“In Arizona, they are trying to pass a law where you must present your birth certificate to use the restroom,” Stafford said. “These are not old laws we are dealing with.”

Around the country, a public battle is raging for the rights of the gay and lesbian community to marry their partners, but transgender individuals are still fighting for the right to simply be who they are. Every part of transition is a prolonged process, made even longer by the red tape and lack of acceptance that currently exists both legally and socially.

Transgender individuals are those men and women who inwardly feel they were born in the wrong body and are choosing to correct this. To do so, they must make changes that sometimes include a birth certificate, a driver’s license and any other name and gender documentation they possess.

They also have the option to undergo surgery to make the body they were given an accurate representation of the gender they truly associate with and accept.

According to the Encyclopedia of Surgery, the cost for male to female sexual reassignment surgery is anywhere between $7,000 and $24,000. The cost for female to male reassignment can exceed $50,000. This cost does not include hormone therapies or any other surgeries to alter the face or body of the person to what is considered socially acceptable of the gender they are transitioning to. A facial feminization surgery can cost more than $60,000.

Chrystal Teague, a male-to-female transgender woman who also spoke at the panel April 11, said the legal side of a gender change is not a uniform process everywhere.

“You can go before one judge and get your gender change approved no problem, but you go before a different judge in another city, state or even just a different building — and they will flat out say no, or that they need more,” Teague said.

Another thing that differs is the amount of professional respect someone receives in the courtroom.

“I had a friend transition in Illinois and, after the change was approved, the judge said, ‘IT is now female,’” Teague said.

Arnold said other than the interaction she witnessed between the other student and professor, she has been fortunate enough to pass well enough as female that she generally goes unnoticed in a negative way. However, since she has not been full-time Hannah while on campus, the interactions between her and other students and professors has been minimal.


Making the transition

“I have not been full-time Hannah yet because of the issues that would arise from confusion of names, among other things,” Arnold said. “My goal is to be full-time Hannah this upcoming fall semester. I am just sorting out some things with the registrar’s office.”

Arnold knew that she was not in the right body when she was about 4 years old but did not start her transition until a little over a year ago. When she informed her friends of this decision, most of them stopped talking to her. However, other than a few members, most of her family has been very supportive of her decision.

“They weren’t surprised. I have become even closer with a few of them,” Arnold said. “When I told my family, I asked my mother what she would have named me had I been born with the right body, and the name was Hannah Grace Arnold. It felt right because it was given to me by my mom.”

Next semester when Arnold transitions to full-time Hannah, she hopes she will be respected and accepted.

“I am polite and accepting. I want that outlook to be carried throughout campus,” she said. “Transition is a hard thing to do to begin with, and people should respect that. There should not be the issue of not using the correct name or gender they identify with.”

Laura Kiewicz, a male-to-female transgender woman and nurse educator at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Dallas, acknowledges that changes are being made — however slowly.

“Transgender people are everywhere. My attorney was the first transgender judge in the state of Texas. We now have the first transgender person to be appointed to a cabinet-level position by a president. We have transgender doctors, Miss Universe contestants, and even one of the beautiful women posed by the pool in a James Bond movie was transgender,” Kiewicz said.

Although things are improving, and the universal attitude is changing toward the transgender community, Stafford fears that for every supportive parent and friend, another 10 will not be supportive.

Arnold wants students to understand.

“Transgender is an umbrella term. It covers all aspects of non-gender-conforming people,” Stafford said. “We are not drag queens. We are not cross-dressers. We see ourselves and feel like the gender opposite of what we happened to be born with. We do not do this by choice. It is a necessity to our health and even our lives.”

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