No matter how different, we’re all people: Seton Hill and the transgender community

The Safe Zone symbol is hung by various staff and faculty on their doors to show that they are LGBTQIA+ allies. The safe zone symbol is a message to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex students and colleagues. Photo by P.Walczak/Setonian.

Everyone who does not identify as cisgender (one whose gender identity aligns with the gender they were assigned at birth) is faced with their own unique challenges and difficulty as we live in a world built for cisgender individuals. 

Still there are many unifying struggles which most trans individuals face daily. Things like housing, bathrooms, pronouns, clothing and transitioning are all tumultuous elements of the transgender experience. 

There are many transgender identities represented on the Seton Hill campus in our student body, and a couple students agreed to share some of what their experience at Seton Hill has been like. 

“I came out in June so this is my first semester with a variant gender identity. I identify as non-binary, but express more as gender-fluid,” said junior English major Luke J on their idenity and experience. “I get stares and whatnot, but I haven’t received any outright hostility. In fact, I feel decently welcome on the SHU campus.” 

“Sometimes I do feel confined to the gender-neutral bathrooms in Reeves, and sometimes it feels weird to walk in to the men’s bathroom elsewhere when I wear a skirt, for example,” Luke J said.

“At this point in my transition, there just isn’t a right answer as to which bathroom I should use.  I’ve had confrontations in both female and male restrooms. I use gender neutral bathrooms when I can, but that just isn’t an option in most places,” said senior English Major and staff writer of the Setonian, J Schatz on his experience.

Gender neutral restrooms, also called all gender restrooms, are becoming more common across the country, however they are not in every building and are less popular outside of major cities. 

“I think that adding more gender neutral bathrooms is a great idea for campus,” Luke J said.

Trans students can also experience discomfort in the classroom when it comes to informing professors about their name and pronouns. 

“Sometimes, a student can be afraid to express their pronouns to a teacher, out of fear of confrontation or embarrassment,” Luke J said.

“Even if I know the professor is more accepting, it’s still a tough conversation to have, just like any other time I have to come out to someone. It’s hard to predict how people will react,” J Schatz said.

There are many positive forces and allies around Seton Hill University’s campus despite the discomfort many trans students may encounter.

“We [Setonians] have come a long way at being more inclusive toward people in the trans community and need to continue trying to learn and grow as people to make this a safe and welcoming space for everyone,” said Dani Hegyes, head resident assistant and contributor of the Setonian.

Elise Michaux, Director of Student Leadership and Involvement, is a vocal ally to the trans community.

“It is so important that we respect one another no matter where we’re from, how we talk, or what we look like. One of my favorite ministers Joyce Meyer’s says, ‘Love God. Love people.’ Ever since I heard her say that, I have really taken hold of that phrase. Trans folks are people too and we should recognize that although their struggle may be different than ours, their existence and presence matters as well,” Michaux said. 

Published by Caitlin Srager 

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