Young Transgender Nebraskans Face Challenges
March 4th, 2015
Nebraskaâ€™s population is becoming more diverse- and a large part of that diversity includes the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender; or LGBT community. NET News’ Ben Bohall looks at some of the experiences of young, Transgender adults in our in-depth report â€œTransgender Nebraska.â€ He sat down with two members of the community to hear about their experiences “coming out” and some of the challenges they face on a daily basis.
Lincoln, NE – Ezra Young is 28-years-old. Heâ€™s a University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate student. Heâ€™s also transgender, and finished coming out last June. Young said it was the most liberating but daunting experience of his life:[audio:https://kvnonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Transgender-KVNO.mp3]
â€œYou have this fear of am I going to be accepted? Am I going to be liked? Am I going to be worried about my life? Will I be threatened? There are a lot of levels to it. We have to worry about all of them. It just gets really complicated, really fast.”
Ezra was born â€œMarieâ€ Young. Biologically, a female. And although the announcement is still fresh, Ezra said heâ€™s known for the past ten years that â€œMarieâ€ wasnâ€™t who he really was.
For others â€œknowingâ€ has gone back even further.
C Balta is a 29-year-old Lincoln musician who was also born female. However, he’s identified as genderqueer- a transgender category defined as not really feeling male or female, although he says heâ€™s always leaned toward the former- even as a kid.
â€œEver since I was able to understand what dresses were and that I hated them,” Balta recalled. “I was and two and my mom fought with me- trying to get me to wear this dress. She finally called into work because she was exhausted. And then we just sat on the recliner and chilled the rest of the day because she was exhausted, I was exhausted. She knew she wasnâ€™t going to get me in a dressâ€¦ I was two.â€
According to University of Nebraska Omaha Assistant Professor of Sociology Jay Irwin, that type of situation isn’t all that uncommon these days. Irwin specializes in transgender studies and gender identity. He’s also identified as trans maleâ€”meaning he was born genetically female, but lives as a male.
â€œIncreasingly weâ€™re seeing kids 5, 6, 7 telling their parents, â€˜I donâ€™t feel like a boy-even though you tell me Iâ€™m a boy or I donâ€™t feel like a girl even though you tell me Iâ€™m a girlâ€™,â€ he explained.
â€œWeâ€™ve done a pretty good job in society talking about gay and lesbian topics. We havenâ€™t- up until the last couple of years- started to talk about trans stuff very often. I think when parents they first hear their kids say something like that it can be kind of a scary place because theyâ€™ve never heard that before.” Irwin said. “For adults it’s really dependent on age. Sometimes transfolks donâ€™t come out until much later in life.â€
â€œComing outâ€ was only the first step for Young and Balta, who have said some of the biggest challenges of being openly trans have been just dealing with everyday life.
â€œEven before we make the physical transition, a lot of us are already being questioned about gender,” Young explained. “Even as a woman I looked very masculine and people double-checked me in the bathroom all the time saying, â€˜Why are you in here?â€™ I had friends that would be asked that question point-blank: â€˜What are you doing here?â€™â€
Other hurdles have been trying to live like normal young adults. Doing things like traveling. Balta tells me about a recent trip he took to Chicago with friends.
“We stayed in a Hostel because it was cheaper, but manâ€¦ Going into that room- youâ€™re sharing a room with a bunch of other girls with the looks and fear. (You’re thinking) this is so awkward. I feel like Iâ€™m the scary thing in here. Iâ€™m just wanting to go to sleep,â€ Balta said.
Then there was the prospect of going away to college and living on campus:
â€œIt was out of the question- from the start,â€ Young remembered.
â€œI never was in a dorm. And again, I would have been this sore thumb, sticking out,â€ Balta said.
Even dating and falling in love has been a challenge.
â€œThereâ€™s always an issue of when do you disclose,” Young said. “Do you tell them before you even give them a shot to get who you are or do you let them get to know who you are and then tell them? But then are you deceiving them by not letting them know?.. Datingâ€™s hard for us. Thereâ€™s no way to sugar coat that.â€
â€œI was in a relationship at the time when I came out,” Balta explained. “I think that was the most difficult person and part of it all was dealing with that aspect.”
“And I knew it was huge for her as well.â€
As our conversation drew to a close, I asked Balta how he felt about the criticism that he doesnâ€™t have to live his life this way- that being trans isnâ€™t inherent- itâ€™s a choice.
â€œEveryone is who they are,” Balta answered. “Thereâ€™s no way you can change your personality. Thereâ€™s no way you can change someone. What the choice is, is if youâ€™re going to be genuine to yourself. Thatâ€™s where the choice lies.â€
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