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Home Casestudy Trans student: Kai’s experience

Trans student: Kai’s experience

Published: 07/07/2014

Kai's experience as an undergraduate student at Central School of Speech and Drama.

Background >

I began my course at Central in October 2010, having registered with a female name. I had been diagnosed with depression several years before starting my studies and I’ve had medication in the past.

I gained access to support via the student centre and the learning centre for a range of different needs over the course of my first year, including mentoring. I soon disclosed to staff that I wanted to transition and live as a man.

Changing records >

I changed my name by deed poll and a plan was put in place at Central for the academic registry to amend my details. IT services issued me with a new email address, keeping my old one active for a specified period of time.

Informing peers >

The learning centre team approached Gendered Intelligence, an organisation that works with young trans people, to think through some of the logistics of communicating my self-identified gender identity to all students across the three-year program.

A representative from Gendered Intelligence met with the head of student support services and other staff, including a member of my course team, to talk through disclosure of my trans status to my peers and the specifics of my request. I also felt it would be appropriate for him to be present at a large meeting with my year group when the announcement took place.

The worker from Gendered Intelligence and an academic member of staff informed the group that I identify as transgender and am now living my life as a man. They stated my new name, that my preferred pronoun is ‘he’, that I will use male facilities and be treated as male.

The student group were reminded of Central’s policies relating to equality and diversity, which include a policy statement on transgender equality. The link was distributed for those who wished to access that information from the website.

It was also stated that I was happy for people to ask me questions that were deemed appropriate and relevant to my being supported through my studies. Students were reminded that they were able to find out more about transgender experiences through other means, and they were directed to various useful organisations and sources of information. The course team member also stated that they would be happy to be approached by any students if they had any questions.

After the first day of telling everyone, everything was going really well. Teachers and students were using the right pronouns and it felt amazing. Every hour I was flooded by Facebook messages, texts, emails and personal comments from people saying how much they respected me for this.

Housing problems >

In early 2011 I came out as trans to my family. My life had become more strained due to highly negative responses from my family and they had told me to leave home.

The student centre at Central along with other organisations, played a part in supporting my immediate housing crisis. However, because I was not prepared to leave my full-time study in higher education, I did not qualify for housing opportunities provided by the LGBT voluntary sector.

At the beginning of the second year of my degree (2011/12) I was stressed about my financial situation. I continued to have no relationship with my family. In November 2011 I suffered from another housing crisis and was rehoused in a hostel. Here I was also offered a support worker.

Mentoring >

The university contracted Gendered Intelligence to be part of the learning centre team as a mentor for the period of time of my transition. This started in July 2011.

During initial sessions, discussions centred on my medical transition, approaching the GP and accessing gender identity specialists. There were also discussions about the effects of taking the hormone testosterone, and what the various methods of administration of that hormone treatment are. The mentor also liaised with various medical practitioners to ensure they were receiving the right information and documents in order for the process to be as smooth as possible.

At the beginning of the academic year 2011/12, I entered the second year of my degree. I had commenced my hormone therapy. However, I continued to feel anxious and emotional, added to the stress of financial and housing worries.

My physicality was changing, but I felt frustrated by the long process for desired effects of the hormone treatment such as voice change, facial hair growth etc. In sessions with my mentor I talked about the advantages and disadvantages of passing as male and explored whether there were other things that could be done in order to ‘look’ older. I was alert to what other people (students and staff) would say about my appearance, as well as what I felt were patronising attitudes towards me as someone who looked younger than my actual age. My moods continued to be up and down.

Options around chest surgery were also explored during sessions. My mentor and I researched some of the various surgeons and procedures that would be available to me in the future. I asked questions about the time it takes to recover, time needed off work, the pain that I would have, my care needs as well as the expected results of such surgery.

A positive experience >

My course and my learning experience is a very positive aspect of my life. I have come out to more people at university and I find it hard during holiday periods when I’m not on site and among my peer group.

Through my studies, I have also been introduced to theatre companies who work with black, Asian and minority ethnic as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans identities and experiences. I have also enjoyed being on placements in different settings as part of my course.