I feel extremely anxious in male-dominated spaces. Going to all-boys floors scare me. Going to the gym scares me. Even going to the men’s bathroom scares me. Maybe it’s this recurrent nightmare of mine that these guys will find out my biological sex and then end up hurting me (or worse) for it. So of course, ending up in a place like a fraternity house to talk about my experiences as a trans person left me absolutely terrified.
I’m a panelist for Safe and Open Spaces at Stanford (or SOSAS), a program run by the LGBT-CRC to help educate the Stanford community on LGBT issues. The program operates mostly by panels, consisting of about four panelists and a moderator. My experience with SOSAS panels consisted of freshman dorms, where I mostly spoke to freshmen who had never encountered anyone LGBT before. This was the first panel of the school year at a fraternity house—Kappa Sigma, to be exact.
Me? I felt mostly petrified. I found that I was particularly quiet during this panel, not necessarily because I had nothing to contribute to the conversation, but because I couldn’t really open my mouth to say anything. It took me a while to realize why I felt so anxious and uncomfortable in a place like a fraternity house. There was always this insecurity when it came to my masculinity. Maybe it’s this deep-rooted trauma from my childhood, when I had always wanted to be “one of the guys” but I was never allowed this privilege, not for 20 years, not until now. And I’m still getting used to being a man, interacting with other men and interacting with women. These guys seemed to get it down perfect. They were fraternity men—men in the most traditional, mainstream sense of the word. This fraternity house was a foreign space to me, a space in which I did not feel welcome—not necessarily because of the occupants, but because of what that house stood for and what it symbolized for a person like me, who had been denied this sense of manhood for years and years. I felt that the house’s brothers had a language all their own, a language that I could not take part in simply because I was never given the opportunity to speak on the same terms as men.
Near the end of the panel, a guy raised his hand and directly addressed me. He asked about my experience at Stanford as a transguy, and asked how my transition was going. I finally managed to say something. It didn’t even seem like me talking—I just heard myself talk. I talked about how I was nervous about being here, about my anxieties about not feeling quite masculine enough, about my excitement over my transition, about my legal name change, hormones. I don’t really remember much of what I said, actually. I thought I had contributed nothing to this panel but my answer that was less of an answer and more of a bumbling ramble.
But after the panel several of the frat guys came up to me and told me they appreciated my story. Hand shakes and back thumps were exchanged. I felt—validated.
When I was at the Lou Sullivan Society’s meeting two weeks ago, I was accepted as a man as well, but it was under another context—a queer context. I was accepted as a man, but under a different doctrine of the transman. They were my brothers in the fact that we were all trans.
But in this frat house, I was also accepted as man, but I was also accepted in a space where a majority of the people there were not only men, but men who were biologically born males. They respected me, and they respected my masculinity. Although I was different, they acknowledged me as their brother too. And I’ll admit, it was a surprise for me. I never thought I would reach this point, where I would feel like a legitimate young man acknowledged and respected by other men outside of the queer community. For so long I felt like I was merely masquerading as a guy, that everyone was using male pronouns for me just because I asked them to, not because they had any inherent sense of me as a man. But that night gave me a new sense of courage and a new sense of masculinity that I never quite allowed myself to be part of, simply because I didn’t feel entitled to it. But that night, the fraternity brothers at Kappa Sig proved to me that I was an idiot for even thinking I wasn’t good enough to be a guy.
I wish I wasn’t a senior. Rushing sounds pretty appealing right now.
Cristopher thinks you should rush Kappa Sig. E-mail him at [email protected].