University is an exciting time that is all about learning, growing and having fun. For many students, especially those in the LGBT+ community, starting university can be daunting at first.
So here are my top tips you if you’re transgender and starting university this year.
Now go ahead and buy binders, prosthetics, and a new wardrobe if that helps ease the dysphoria. But, before you splash out, make sure you have a plan so you can still afford rent, food, and travel expenses.
I didn’t learn the art of budgeting until the start of my second year. I started by writing notes on my phone, recording everything I bought, until I found out there is an app that can do it all for you. Monzo gives you an analysis of how much you spend in one month, a breakdown of what you spent it on, and how much you have left - it’s one way to save up for that new binder or chest surgery.
Take advantage of student deals. You can use your student card or the Unidays app to get a free Greggs sausage roll or a free cheeseburger from McDonald’s, both ideal hangover remedies.
We live in a diverse society with people from all backgrounds, religions, beliefs, ethnicities, sexualities, and genders. But the harsh reality is that sometimes we don’t always live peacefully alongside each other. When you come out as trans, you have to prepare yourself for the fact that other people might not understand or agree with you.
We all have the right to our opinions but if you ever find yourself a target of transphobic behaviour, harassment, or violence, do not hesitate to call the police as being transgender is a protected characteristic under UK law.
If you don’t want to contact the police you can speak to your university’s student support services. No UK university will put up with ignorance towards transgender people.
I met one of my best mates in first year by just saying ‘Hi’ at the bus stop. So try to take every opportunity you get to meet people. First year can be orientated around drinking. But if you don’t like alcohol, you can meet people by joining societies, getting a job, or volunteering for a cause that you’re passionate about.
If you don’t have a lot of confidence, Tinder is a great way to find new people around you. You don’t have to be looking for a relationship to use it, lots of people use it to meet friends as well. I once saw a girl’s profile on the app who was just looking for new flatmates.
Students at university are usually well-educated, open-minded people. Remember, you don’t have to disclose your trans status to anyone if you don’t want to. I only tell people I’m trans if they bring it up or if I’m going to sleep with them.
Distract yourself by doing things that allow your mind to escape. Developing structure and routine will help you stay organised and manage your time. Throw yourself into your degree, take up a new hobby, join a sports club at your university.
I prefer doing independent exercise that’s not separated into gendered teams such as skateboarding, free climbing, going to the gym, or doing yoga.
Going to university often means moving away from your support system. You can always find support at your university through the counselling services they have on offer. If therapy isn’t your thing then join your university’s LGBT network to meet other transgender people. Don’t be afraid to speak to your tutors, especially if you have an appointment at the gender clinic. Don’t just miss class, let them know what’s going on, they are there to help.
To make things easier and so you can start the academic year with the correct name on the register, email your university in advance and send them your change of name documentation, etc.
For many transgender people going to university is a golden ticket not only for an education but to escape a transphobic home life. You will finally be able to live in a new city where no one knows your dead name, or ‘pre-transition’ stage. Maybe this is where you will finally be living independently and be safe enough to come out and start living authentically.
University is a time to explore yourself. Try new things, give yourself space and time to find out who you are.