Being a transgender student at CWU

Aiden Ochoa, For The Observer

Freshman Aiden Ochoa shares what it’s like being transgender at CWU.

When I arrived at college, I decided no one was going to know about me. At all. I wasn’t going to tell anyone that I was trans, that I wasn’t born a boy, and that it took some self-discovering before I found out that I, in fact, was a boy. This decision came from the fact that I didn’t have a choice who knew about me in high school. Everyone knew and everyone talked about it, never mindful that, one, it wasn’t their business and, two, telling the wrong person that I was transgender could’ve gotten me killed or who knows what else.

Fast forward to my first quarter at CWU.  I met new people and made some friends. None of whom knew I was trans at this point. It was great. Everyone around me thought I was cis (born as the gender that you identify as) and treated me as such.

But–there were questions and comments surrounding me about trans people.  Because I wasn’t out yet, I couldn’t participate or defend people like me without fear that I was going to get out myself.


Coming out to closest friends

I eventually realized my closest friends should know that I am trans, since it is something so integral to my being.

I came out to one person and they were the only one that knew for a week or two. Then I came out to another. A few more weeks went by, then I told another and that was all who knew for a while. Only my closest friends and the other queers from my queer studies class who I trusted to be discreet in their knowledge.


Forced outing

A few months went by when at work, another friend of mine, someone I wasn’t out to yet said, “Hey, so-and-so told me you used to be a girl.”

Of course, I didn’t take this well. It took me an hour or so but I eventually found the source of my non-consensual, forced outing. A guy I went to high school with apparently took it upon himself to inform another coworker of mine who informed my other co-worker.

Just like that, I lost the control I thought I had over my own business. Just like in high school.


No longer fearful

Luckily, now at this point in time, I’m not scared anymore. I’m pissed off more than anything. My roommate is a Trump-loving transphobe. I hear the n-word with a hard ‘R’ outside my window every other day. No one can respect other people’s names and pronouns.

On that last note… I’m lucky. I pass as a cis boy well enough that no one second guesses my name and pronouns. But there are plenty of trans people here who get the double-triple-quadruple looks of confusion or hostility, and who people love to analyze what their gender could possibly be all while still misgendering them. I’m privy to these conversations discussing and misgendering a possible trans person because people assume I’m cis and lacking in basic human decency and manners.


Transferring to WWU

Because of all instances listed above, I’ve chosen to transfer to Western Washington University (WWU). WWU is a university where people’s pronouns are respected, racism isn’t tolerated, ignorance isn’t celebrated and no one is going to yell something at me out the window of their pickup truck. WWU is a place that isn’t lacking in basic human decency. WWU is a place where I can hang my trans flag on my wall or divulge my trans status and not be afraid that someone is going to ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ me (a very tragic, true life cinematic account of the vicious assault/murder of a trans man).


CWU’s lack of exposure to the LGBTQIA+ community

There are many more transgender students than I expected at this school. The problem with a lack of acceptance and understanding that comes from the students, I believe, lies in the lack of exposure and education by CWU’s institution. There are not a lot of trans or queer kids in general advertising their identity because of fear. But, I’ve found that education defeats ignorance.

What I find more distressing and offensive than a general lack of knowledge about LGBTQIA+ people is that the people I see and observe educating other people about trans people are not trans themselves. What little education is being promoted by groups like EQuAL is not well advertised. I believe CWU’s environment of ignorance can be overcome by better efforts from organizations and the university as a whole to host events designed to educate people on the issues of transgender people. Many people I’ve spoken to personally believe they’ve never met a trans person until I come out to them. For a lot of people, I am the only trans person they know personally and, as a result, the only source of knowledge on trans issues.