1) Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you do – whatever practicalities you’re willing to share with readers.
I am a 27 year old graduate student studying materials science and engineering in North Carolina. Other than time spent living abroad in England for a year and a half, I have lived my entire life in North Carolina. My gender was assigned male at birth and I made the decision to transition at the end of 2014 when I was working as a high school math teacher.
2) What is an accomplishment that you are proud of? Why are you proud of this particular accomplishment?
In December of 2016 I committed to learning how to use the Linux operating system. After months of failures and frustrations, having rendered my personal computer unusable more than three times, I now enjoy a very thorough proficiency with Unix operating systems, running i3 on top of Arch Linux on my personal machine. The experience taught me a lot about the nature of success and failure and I continue to enjoy Linux system administration as a hobby.
3) Do you feel that your gender (however you self-identify) has contributed positively, negatively, or neutrally to your current life situation?
Living life as a transgender person has affected different spheres of my life in different ways. In most ways it has been neutral but in others it has been moderately negative.
3a) Please elaborate on your above choice.
When I made the decision to live within my genuine gender identity I made a conscientious choice that it would not change my life and by-and-large that has been true. I continue to pursue my goals, enjoy my routines, and engage with the family and friends that have continued to accept me. Only superficial changes such as the clothes I wear, the pronouns I prefer, and the name I use have changed. Unfortunately, I was not able to maintain contact with half of my family with the revelation of my transition.
4) Can you tell us a little bit about your understanding of gender-based violence? What does that term (and what it describes) mean to you? Has it affected you and your life in any way?
Gender-based violence is violence that is incited against other motivated by the attacker’s prejudice against the victim’s gender or gender-identity. I have never experienced nor witnessed first-hand gender-based violence so my understanding of it is very abstract. However, I do understand that gender- based violence is a very real experience for many with one in two transgender people experiencing sexual abuse or assault in their lifetime.
5) Can you also tell us a bit about your understanding of gender equality? What does this term mean to you?
Gender equality is the state in which an individual is afforded an opportunity without consideration of their gender or gender-identity. This opportunity can exist in any arena such as purchasing a home, pursuing professional promotion, enlisting in the military, receiving unbiased judgement under the law, etc.
5a) Do you think gender equality exists? If not, what are a few ways that you think your life might change by the existence of gender equality?
We do not yet live in a culture where we can enjoy universal gender equality. Where gender equality may be present in greater or lesser degrees in some arenas, there are still many facets of personal and professional life where gender discrimination is still deeply entrenched. I am among the very few fortunate enough that if universal gender equality became a reality, my life would not change very much. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be surrounded by people that support me and to have found myself in a career where my gender-identity has not yet been an impedance to me.
6) If you answered ‘No’ to question 5a, what is something you could do to contribute to a society that is more equal for all genders?
I believe that the absence of universal gender inequality has a root in the skewed perception of gender-nonconforming people as fundamentally different. To me, the best thing that I can do for the transgender people is to be transgender and to strive to live a successful happy life. By living my life with poise and with my head unbowed, I hope that I can be a small part of the normalization of gender nonconformity.
7) Ending on a lighter note, do you have a role model who identifies as female? If so, why do you look up to this person?
I greatly admire my mom and see a lot of myself in her, especially after the transition. She has not had an easy life growing up in poverty without a father and has faced discrimination as a non-white woman in her time in the military and in her time in the workforce. Nevertheless, she has always remained steadfast for her children and her family and has been my greatest ally and cheerleader before and after my transition.