“I’m starting college in September and I decided to live in a single this year because I’m just starting to transition. I’m worried about living alone and missing out on the social scene. I know I want a roommate in the future, but how should I go about finding one and talking to them about my identity?”
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Liam Lowery as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
Let me start out by saying how excited I am for you! Congratulations to you for making the tough choice to room in a single and not let the FOMO get the best of you. You deserve this time to focus on all the changes in your life—transitioning into college life as well as your gender identity— and trust that friends will come.
First and foremost, when you talk about your identity with folks at school, be patient with yourself. You are new at this. You will make mistakes. Sometimes you will wait too long to tell people, other times you will say something sooner than you wished. Especially when you are meeting new people.
But part of the goal of college is for you to meet new people, of all sorts. You will, I’m sure, be one of, if not the, first trans person many of your classmates have met. And they will, likely be one of, if not the, first _____ (insert any type of person) you have met.
To that point, in order to make sure you don’t miss out on the social scene: make yourself do things. Living in a single room and transitioning, it’s natural to isolate yourself a bit—so just be aware of that and stay plugged into events at school, attend club meetings, try things out. Make a calendar and get yourself out there.
As far as finding a roommate next year, I would recommend trying to live with someone you feel comfortable with—this might mean someone from the queer community, or it might mean finding someone who is super into Dr. Who and likes to silly-dance to old Ke$ha songs while cleaning the floor.
The biggest thing to remember is that your unique needs as a trans person are of equal worth (if not greater) than any other preferences you may have.
When I first roomed with someone in college, a randomly assigned cisgender straight woman, I was nervous my identity and the correlating needs I had would be taken less seriously than, say, her allergies. I was pleasantly surprised when, after I came out, she suggested we come up with roommate policies to address my concerns.
For a while, this included a blanket policy against nudity (dysmorphia was rough), scheduling time for us each to be alone in the room privately (a.k.a. when I would take my binder off and sit in front of a fan), and a policy limiting room-visitors to those who were pre-screened as non-transphobic. (Yes, in case you are wondering, this person was the best and we are tight to this day).
Your room or apartment is your home, and you deserve to feel totally comfortable. For me, that meant being out to everyone who walked in the door. For you, that could mean being stealth, or not talking about this aspect of who you are unless you feel safe and know your roommate is cool. Whatever it is, you deserve it, and you should find a roommate who will respect your needs.
This year is a really good time for you to figure out your boundaries, and find someone who you like and think is a good fit. Trust me, it is easier to figure it out on your own and let someone now than to try and figure it out with another person.
But this same principle relates to making friends in college more generally. An absolute base-line is that the person not be transphobic, but good friends will support and love you, and be extra tender and listen harder to your needs relating to being trans.
Recently, I was in that time period where a cool acquaintance was becoming a friend. You will be experiencing this a lot, once you are in school. This person seemed really cool— though she identified as straight and cisgender, I was able to talk with her about being trans and it was not weird.
Then, one day, as often happens when you are trans (even after you transition, wait and see!) someone did something transphobic. It was one of those micro-aggressions that typically roll off my back, but for whatever reason, on this day, it was too much. I had a lunch date with this new friend, though, and sat picking quietly at my lunch when she asked, “You seem upset, what’s up?”
I told her what happened, and not dispassionately. She nodded, shook her head, and said “what in the actual f“ when appropriate. And, as you’d think, it felt much better to have talked to someone. Most of all though, it felt good to know my friend was as cool as she seemed.
“Thanks for letting me talk about this stuff,” I said, suddenly embarrassed and looking down at my feet while we walked back from lunch “And like, being an ally or whatever.”
She scoffed and raised her eyebrows. “I don’t need a title,” she said, cocking her head at me, “I’m not doing anything, I am just not being an actual pile of garbage.” I laughed, but she turned and looked at me dead in the eye, “That’s pretty much the absolute least you deserve.”
And that is how I knew she was not just a friend, but a good friend.
In school, you will meet many cool acquaintances, friends, and if you’re lucky, some good friends. But remember that your trans identity is not a negative, and that you deserve to be listened to and respected. As you meet more people, look for the ones who treat you that way—those who do so without fail, and without you having to ask—and keep them close to you through college and beyond. These people also tend to make very good roommates.
Good luck and have a great first semester!
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