Transgender Student Finds Acceptance at UofA

Chris writes a poem Nov. 2 dedicated to the first time he realized he was transgender.

Chris remembers telling a friend while playing on the playground in the third grade that he wished he could be a boy. 

“They looked at me all weird and I was like ‘Nevermind. I'm not talking about that anymore.’ And then I just forgot about it,” said Chris, who is only identified by his first name because he has not come out to his mother.

Chris, now 18 and a freshman who lives on a girls’ floor in Holcombe Hall, has identified as a man for two years, he said. 

Before his freshman year of high school, Chris told a few friends that he was questioning his gender identity, and they told him they just wanted him to feel comfortable. 

“I was like, ‘Man, I want to feel this way every time someone talks to me.’ So I started telling other people,” Chris said. “And it ended up being okay.”

When Chris told his mom he was gay in 2014 and tried to come out as transgender in 2015, his mom’s reaction made him question his identity, he said.

In high school, Chris was careful about who he told about being transgender because his mom worked at his school, he said. 

“It was really taxing mentally because I was like ‘Damn, I can be who I am, but not really.’ It’s like I have this big secret, and I feel like I’m doing something wrong,” Chris said. 

All of Chris’s friends at the UofA have only ever known him as Chris, he said. 

Sarah Quinomes, a freshman and Chris’s roommate, has known Chris since Quinomes’ sophomore year of high school, so living together felt natural, she said.

Quinomes thinks the people who live on Chris’s floor are accepting of him being transgender, she said.

Rooms are assigned based on the genders students indicate in the admissions process, Alisha Gilbride, associate director for administrative services, said in an email. 

If a student wants to move to the floor of their preferred gender, they can fill out the Declaration of Gender Designation Change on the Office of the Registrar website.

Despite feeling comfortable living on his floor, Chris still struggles with being physically comfortable, especially when wearing a chest binder, he said. 

Chris began wearing a chest binder in 2019 after his friend gave him one, so he would not have to wear two sports bras everyday, he said. 

“Wearing binders sucks,” Chris said. “I couldn't wear it (Oct. 30) because I was going hiking with my friends. We walked six miles, and I would have actually passed out because it constricts respiratory function a little bit and I already have asthma.”

Wearing a chest binder can result in bruises, rib fractures, back pain or overheating, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Chris hopes to receive gender confirmation surgery and start hormone replacement therapy (HRT), he said.

To qualify for this surgery and start HRT, Chris said he has to go to a therapist that specializes in helping people understand their gender identity. Chris would have to talk to his mom about going to a therapist, and he is not ready to do that yet.

Although Chris feels accepted by his peers, he is still hurt when his mom refers to him using feminine pronouns, he said.

“I still kind of cry about it sometimes because she’ll refer to me as feminine things and I'll just get really sad because I'm like, ‘I can't be your perfect little daughter. I just can't,’” he said.

Chris said that he is comfortable in who he is now and is happy that he can be himself while attending the UofA.

“I can’t sit here every night and cry myself to sleep because I can’t lie about who I am anymore,” Chris said. “And that’s why I told my mom, and then when she freaked out, it was just more confirmation that I was wrong in who I was. But I know different now. There's nothing wrong with being who I am.”

Abby Zimmardi is a staff reporter for the Arkansas Traveler, where she has been a staff reporter since April 2019.

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