Starting my transition from female to male at the University of Michigan was one of the best decisions of my collegiate career. Not only are the students, faculty, and staff that I interact with affirming of my transition, but the institution has also provided me with many of the necessary services and accommodations that I needed to successfully start (and maintain) my transition.
When I first arrived at Michigan, I was out to my friends and my Master’s cohort, but not to my family. For me, this set up allowed me the chance to begin my social transition, but meant that I had to wait to begin my legal transition until I was ready to be out to my family. This inconsistency between my social and legal transition meant that while I was going by Cameron to those I knew at Michigan, all of my legal documentation was in another name. This meant that my student ID card, my Michigan email, course rosters, and directory listings would all have a name I didn’t identify with on them and that I could potentially be outed against my will. Thankfully, Michigan allows students to use preferred names on campus records – so I was able to avoid any unwanted outing. This preferred name system is just one of many policies in place on campus to assist students with social and legal transitions. In addition to the preferred name system, trans* and similarly identified individuals on campus are also able to sign up for gender inclusive housing, use gender inclusive restrooms, receive transition-specific care, and have health insurance that covers transition-related procedures as well as hormone therapy.
The downside to many of these policies is that students, faculty, and staff who are actively transitioning from one end of the binary to the other are favored over those who have a more fluid identity or who are choosing not to pursue a physical or legal transition. While students, faculty, and staff can do a great deal at the university without having to legally or physically transition (such as designate a preferred name and gender), it’s important to remember that students and University employees are still required to designate a their gender as a man or a woman on official paperwork, and some sections of the University still require you to use your legal name and gender and do not offer students the opportunity to designate a preferred name, gender, or pronoun.
The Spectrum Center Advocacy Board is continually working to rectify any discrepancies in policy and ensure equity for all University of Michigan community members. In addition to working with University sections to remedy non-inclusive paperwork, the Advocacy Board is also working on issues of access with regards to gender inclusive restrooms on campus and is coordinating with the Michigan Office of New Student Programs to ensure that all incoming LGBTQ or similarly identified students feel welcomed at Michigan. It’s this drive for inclusivity and passion to continuously better ourselves that has helped the University of Michigan become one of the most trans*-friendly universities in the United States and that makes me proud to be a trans* Michigan Wolverine.