The struggles of being transgender are immense. There are an estimated 700,000 people who identify as transgender in the United States, according to the Williams Institution National Transgender Discrimination Survey. According to this survey, 41 percent of 6,450 trans people interviewed had attempted suicide in the past predominately due to sexual assault. The survey also found that 26 percent of these individuals lost a job due to their identity.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, only 18 states in the U.S. have clear laws protecting transgender individuals.
In this interview, Assistant Opinion Editor Alex Myers sat down with junior communication studies and international relations double major Athena Beleauxn, an openly trans student at LMU. Athena leads a life of integrity as she aspires to be the first openly trans woman to become the editor of Vogue.
Beleauxn did not come out as transgender until summer 2017 while she was conducting a student undergraduate research project over trans homelessness. During her research, she found the courage to come out because she was inspired by homeless trans women staying true to themselves regardless of their circumstances. Her story is inspiring to many and highlights important points on how society has much more room to progress before it can proudly boast about equality for trans people.
This following is the account of her lifelong journey to discovering her womanhood and the daily struggles:
Growing up I always felt more feminine than masculine and I felt more comfortable and accepted by women. I found a community within femininity, and it was always there for me.
LMU is a great school in some regards and I feel that if I was anywhere else, then the struggles would be greater. However, one of the daily challenges I go through as a trans woman that can happen anywhere is people staring at me in public. When you’re being put into the box of Eurocentric beauty, it’s kind of hard to embrace the femininity in the appearance that I already have.
I also struggle with being misgendered. I feel like there’s no education on being trans at LMU and I know that no one here is trying to be ignorant towards trans people, but sometimes it comes across that way.
I don’t understand why it is difficult to address someone as the pronoun 'she' if the person tells you so. It’s just a respect thing that you have to note in your head, just like memorizing someone’s name. The disrespect comes from people's worldview where they think you should look and act a certain way and they’ll subconsciously impose their beliefs on you.
The social struggles for trans women are just as daunting. The arm’s length prejudice makes it harder for me to make friends here at LMU. I think it comes from not being able to relate to a lot of students here, just because I can not complain about how there was no bottomless mimosa service going to Cabo last weekend.
For those of you who don’t know, arm’s length prejudice is where you’ll be like ‘oh we’ll hang out and we’ll do this,’ but in reality, you have no intention of hanging with that person and just want to look good or progressive in public.
I think it’d be easier for me to be white and trans because LMU is majority white. You can’t help it that the community here is based on the shared experience in whiteness, whether we like to believe it or not.
Even with hair, most white trans women don’t have to wear hair extensions because they can grow out their hair. I think that a lot of times ... it is easier for white trans women to find commonalities within their own white-dominated community. It has made a space where white beauty standards and cultural norms are at the forefront of the campus.
I think that LMU has a great system in terms of helping any minority student body in trouble, but I don’t think that they have been supportive in my transition. In terms of housing, it can be expounded upon as I was roomed with all biological males.
Objectively if you look at LMU, it’s a great school because it is so small and isolated from everything else and that gives small groups a voice. And I know that when I try to accomplish something at LMU and if I don’t succeed, it is not because I am trans.
For trans people in the closet, my advice would be to take pride in who you are and how you choose to express your gender. We live in an age where gender is extremely fluid and it’s regarded as an action rather than an assignment at birth, and people are truly beginning to realize this.
If your transphobic family is the only thing supporting you, then wait till you are in a safe space where you can fully come into what you truly are. Though, if you do have the opportunity to educate your family, do so, and don’t write them off if they don’t understand you off the bat. Just work with them because coming out is a process.
If your family is not accepting, just know that you have a family in other people because family is made, not given.
I want to also give advice to people who encounter trans people: in private conversations, use the right pronouns and don’t write yourself off when you do misgender because it will eventually bleed over into a conversation that you will have in public that could make you look ignorant. Also, don’t judge a person just off them being transgender because we are so much more than that.
As we can see with this interview, we as lions have light years to come in terms of an all-inclusive campus that values each student’s experience regardless of gender identity. What I’d like everyone to take from this interview is to look at those who fall between the cracks in society and ask yourself if you’re truly being a progressive lion by helping them.
Chances are most of us are not aware of the daily struggles of trans people, but after reading this article, you can take this information and use it to better your own community.
By Athena Beleauxn, as told to Alex Myers, Assistant opinion editor
To see this article in the context of a larger feature about the queer experience at LMU, visit laloyolan.com/special_issues/queer_lions/.