The first Friday of my freshman year, I walked out of class and noticed a new voicemail from my school’s housing department asking me to head to the office. My roommate sat waiting for me as I arrived. “Great,” I thought. “I’m being kicked out of my dorm.” To be honest, the fact that I’d probably miss the comedy show that night, and was dripping sweat after biking under the hot sun, upset me more than anything.
I knew I’d be moving out before setting foot in the office. I knew because I’m transgender. I had come out to my three roommates just four days earlier, and the one I shared a room with happened to be the one who called this meeting. In retrospect, I failed to see the signs. My roommate made every effort to not call me by my name after I revealed it and habitually came home late at night, probably to avoid interacting with me.
The hostile response to my coming out didn’t surprise me, but my roommate’s decision to wait so long to speak to me threw me off. After initially rallying my roommates to announce that I’m actually a guy, all of them seemed a bit stunned, but calm. They asked no questions—not even any juicy, invasive ones that trans people deflect all the time. This same roommate even witnessed my intense, vocal relief about the fact that I didn’t need to switch rooms immediately afterwards.
My roommate let the housing administration do the dirty work telling me, in a sterile office setting, that she had no interest in trying to understand me. Someone needed to leave, and it wasn’t going to be her. She had leverage over me by having my parents number (after a move-in day number swap), who I’m not out to. I wasn’t left with much of a choice. I’m not ready for the inevitable emotional fallout coming out to my family would cause.
Little did she know, I left myself some room for this worst-case scenario. Long before I even chose a university, I knew that I needed to come out the moment I hit campus ground. College was my chance to finally break free from years of repressing my gender. I didn’t want to screw it up, so I subtly prepped my parents about potentially moving out before even moving in as insurance. “I have a bit of a bad feeling,” I told them after my roommate first started texting me in June.
Anxiety came over me after the meeting as I gathered my belongings and moved into a single dorm. Standing in a sea of hastily-packed bags, I practiced my poker voice in a phone call to my mother as I BSed a fake rationale for the move. She believed me.
Luckily, my new single dorm seemed like a glamorous upgrade after a week’s worth of sharing a bathroom with three other people. The ordeal’s not-so-lucky core lay in the threat of suspicion it created: If I faced another failed coming out experience, I couldn’t believably use the same false excuse again. This year, my only option involved removing that risk by living in a single again, upping my rent fees significantly. The safety is worth it, but many (if not most) trans kids don’t have the ability to pay more for their guaranteed survival.
Sadder than my other roommates (both women) seeming generally supportive, is that I would’ve gladly moved out if any of them felt uncomfortable sharing space with a man. Based on my roommate’s palpable disgust towards me, I don’t think that was her reason for wanting me gone.
Getting kicked of my freshman year dorm room out marked the first of many experiences of transphobia I face in a college setting. From the time my ex-roommate looked into my eyes and misnamed me to the times callers chuckle in confusion when I tell them that Vincent is speaking, I’ve inhabited a world that hates people like me. And as a trans man, I’m not even dealing with the half of it. Trans women have a double dose of transphobia and misogyny to brave every single day, often with deadly consequences. When you throw the effects of racism in the mix, the experiences of trans people become more traumatizing.
I made it out of my roommate horror story relatively okay, but other trans people aren’t lucky enough to have access to lifesaving resources the way I do. My advice to cis (non-trans) college students is to learn more about trans people. Understand our struggles. Treat us with respect. Don’t ask us what you wouldn’t want someone to ask yourself. And if you can’t handle being around us…realize that’s your problem, not ours.
To my fellow trans college students: If everything sucks right now, I can’t promise things will get better today or even tomorrow, but I can promise that you’re not alone. Find support in community groups or online. You’ll realize how many people walk in your shoes. We are here. We are everywhere. And even if we’re rejected, kicked out or worse, we’re never going away.