Kling said, however, a memory from middle school serves as a sign that he knew he wasn’t cisgender, meaning his gender at birth didn’t align with his identity. He said he was studying biology and looking at intersex conditions.
“I kept hoping one would apply to me and give words and a rational causal explanation that told me how I felt different,” Kling said.
Kling, a 23-year-old post-bachelor’s chemistry major, said he still doesn’t know if any of the conditions would apply to him and that he would need to undergo genetic testing to find out. He said he feels ambivalent about being tested.
“I think I’d see it as valuable but I also haven’t taken steps to get that information because I don’t want to have my experience as intersex diminish my queer background,” Kling said. “To reduce it to my biology is like reducing anything else to someone’s biology.”
Kling was one of nine speakers on the Ask a Trans-Person Anything Panel held Tuesday night at CU’s Center for Community. Around 40 people attended to hear the speakers talk about their personal experiences and answer questions.
Jane Elvins, the coordinator of graduate student support services for the Center for Multicultural Affairs, helped organize the event. She said she wanted to host a transgender event for students.
“I learned this week was Transgender Awareness Week and we wanted to do an event targeting students because most of them target the general community,” Elvins said.
|Four quick ways to be an ally|
1. NEVER ASSUME you know someone’s sex or gender or sexuality because of how they look. Sex/Gender/Sexuality are different.
2. RESPECT people’s self-identity. They know who they are. You don’t.
3. DON’T ASK what someone’s given name, sex or gender were. DO ASK what someone’s name, gender and pronouns are.
4. GET OVER IT! The best way to be an ally to a trans person is to simply be a friend and not make a big deal about their identity.
|Information obtained from a flyer handed out at the event|
Elvins said she also wanted to help clear up misapprehensions.
“There are lots of misunderstandings about what transgendered means and so we wanted to get people to clear that up,” Elvins said.
Though the panel was called the “Ask a Trans-Person Anything Panel,” not everyone on the panel said they identified themselves as “transgender.” One member of the panel defined the word “transgender” as an umbrella term that encompasses anyone whose identity or presentation doesn’t match what they were assigned at birth.
Kling said he has used the word genderqueer to identify himself since he was around 19. Kling said the terms “male” or “female” do not describe his identity well.
“What genderqueer means to me is, and not everyone uses the term the same way, I don’t feel like ‘male’ or ‘female’ adequately describes my experience or identity,” Kling said.
Kling has no physical characteristics that convey he is genderqueer and he said he feels no need to externally show that he is.
“A lot of people don’t know how to react because there is no way for me to be obviously out,” Kling said. “Sure I could wear female clothes but at the end of the day it’s not about clothes or hair or speech mannerisms; it’s about a deeper psychological phenomenon.”
Kling said the only people who know he is genderqueer are the people he has told.
Ben Lee, an 18-year-old freshman math and philosophy double major, was one of the nine speakers. He said he thinks he is the newest person in CU’s transgender community; he came out as transgender three months ago.
“Everyone I’ve met has been really accepting,” Lee said.
Gracie Tomczak, an 18-year-old freshman Spanish and communications major, said the event was educational for her.
“I learned that not everyone had the same story and woke up one day to realize they were transgender, and that everyone did not consider themselves to be transgender,” Tomczak said. “Everyone just wants to be treated like a human being.”
Kling said he decided to be a part of the panel because he thought it would be a valuable experience for him and others.
“I think it’s valuable for society to have visible advocacy and personalizing examples of gender diversity and it’s a valuable challenge to try and articulate my perspective,” Kling said.
Kling said gender identities are very oversimplified.
“Part of the problem with the language is we have A, B, then everything else but there’s a lot of diversity in genders,” Kling said. “ It’s like genderqueer is the Hufflepuff of genders, just all the leftovers.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Jon Tattum at Jonathan.firstname.lastname@example.org.