The first time someone described transgender to me, my response was, “So… gay?” But I was a lot younger and more ignorant back then. Now, I understand what transgender means: a person of one sex who physically, emotionally and psychologically identifies with the other sex.
When I came to college, I was never too interested in Greek life, but I always wondered how a transgender person would fit into the equation. Granted, there are coed societies, but let’s say a transgender wants to join a fraternity or sorority. How does that work? Does being transgender even matter in this situation?
Marty Timperio, a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon at Plattsburgh State, said “it’s a complicated subject, but our fraternity is pretty open and accepting. We live in a day and age where things like race, sexual orientation and other stuff shouldn’t matter.”
I commend that statement. Looking past differences and trying to make people feel comfortable with themselves is what college is supposed to be all about. No longer are we in high school where peers look at us and judge us more and more as the years go by. We can be who we want to be at college, and certain Greek organizations respect and encourage our individuality.
Jamie Tyler, a transgender member of Alpha Epsilon Pi at SUNY New Paltz, said he wanted to join a fraternity because he “wanted a solid group of male friends, but it became so much more than that. They changed my life.”
Growing up, Tyler said he always knew he was male. “I kind of just tried to ignore it, but the older I got, the more I realized that my life was not going the way I wanted it to because I wasn’t the real me. That’s when I knew it was time.”
Initially, Tyler said he felt nervous about joining a fraternity, but his brothers always offered a welcoming environment.
“At first, during pledge, I was really self-conscious. But as it progressed, the more I learned that I was the only one judging myself,” Tyler said. “My brothers only see me for the person I really am, and they never bring up anything at all about being transgender and go to programs in support of me.”
Tyler currently serves as the new member educator for Alpha Epsilon Pi, among other fraternal positions.
“The fraternity has become my life,” Tyler said. “The sense of family that I have when I’m with my brothers is unlike any other feeling that I’ve had before. I really love my school, but they make me feel like I’m finally home.”
Some people aren’t full-fledged haters of transgenderism, but they are indifferent, so to them I offer an example of transgenderism in famous musicians.
One of my favorite rock stars is transgender. Laura Jane Grace, formerly Tom Gable of punk rock band Against Me!, recently identified as a female. Many fans thought Gable was going to lose his kick-ass attitude and powerful vocals when he made the transition to Grace.
I attended an Against Me! concert last winter and stood in the front row. By the end of it, my ears were ringing, and Grace’s singing shook my body to its core. It was nothing different — still the same old Against Me! I’ve always loved. Grace was still kick-ass.
Acceptance is an important part of society in our modern world. Normally, when a person doesn’t accept someone for being gay, transgender or not of the same race, I get offended, but I also get confused. The fact that hate or intolerance still exists in these matters astounds me. It almost doesn’t make any sense.
Email Griffin Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.