For transgender students, every day involves a struggle of some sort.
From using a public restroom to outright ridicule, Alex Millard, a senior English major, has endured a lot since his coming out a little over two years ago.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t have concepts of gender,” said Millard as he explained. “So that at which I started questioning was when I was 12 or 13.”
Millard recalls going into an online chatroom around that time and he realized that it was ‘cool’ when everyone assumed he was a male.
“I told them my name was Alexander because I’d always liked that name,” he said.
“From there, I kind of developed into learning more and learning that transgender was a thing,” said Millard.
“I was relieved that it existed, but at that point I didn’t want to be transgender,” he continued. “I didn’t want to be weird. I was always a weird kid. So I stayed in the closet for a really long time – through middle and high school.”
Millard says that at the time his only outlet was cosplay, in which he would dress up as only male characters.
“When I was in the costume it was just awesome – it was a huge relief,” he said. “In it I would have a big ego, but out of costume in my real life I was really shy. I didn’t speak to anyone unless I needed to.”
During this time, Millard also had a boyfriend.
“We dated for four years and he broke up with me when I was 20,” he said. “Before that I had resigned myself to that: that I’d marry him, pop out a few kids and be miserable for the rest of my life.
“And then he broke up with me and I was like, ‘this is the best thing ever!’”
“For me, at least, and other trans people I’ve known, it’s not a choice,” Millard said. “It’s a choice to come out and it’s a choice to go through transition. But it’s not a cry for attention. It’s something that eats you alive every single day and controls every aspect of your life until you do something about it.”
Millard then came out on January 7, 2013. With that date close to a friend’s birthday, they have celebrated every year with a party since.
Most of it is not fun, though, he says.
“They’ve been all over the board,” he said of people’s reactions to the news. “Some people think it’s weird and refuse to refer to me as anything other than my given name and pronouns. And then others have no trouble whatsoever.
“I’m pretty sure my parents still think it’s a phase. My father is more supportive but my mother doesn’t want to hear anything about it. She’s more grieving the loss of things she expected to happen, but she has my sisters.”
When it comes to people outside of his immediate circle, the situation can be even more stressful.
“Basically I’m terrified all the time,” he said. “When it comes to being transgender, there’s not one big coming out – it’s everyday. I’ve gotten some hateful words and weird looks and gaggles of teenagers loudly trying to figure out what gender I am.”
Every day does involve a different struggle.
“Bathrooms are awful,” Millard said. “They’re not fun. In one I’m more uncomfortable in general and in the other I’m more scared hoping I don’t get called out. I really enjoy handicapped toilets.”
There are more long-term problems of being transgender for Millard as well.
From getting his chosen name on his diploma to job discrimination there are things he will face as his college career draws to a close that most students are not worried about.
“I definitely see it affecting me,” he said. “In a lot of jobs there are no protections – if someone doesn’t like the fact that I’m trans they can just fire me or not hire me.”
“I know I would love to go to a bigger city like New York,” Millard said of his plans after Troy. “I think my absolute dream would be to be a photographer for things like Harper’s Bazaar.”
Millard also expressed an interest in getting poetry published.
“I’ve tried to think of analogies and metaphors, but nothing really,” he said of being trans. “In a poem I described it as being a square peg in a round hole. I thought that was a poignant image and it made a lot of sense.”
Despite any difficulties, Millard remains positive about the climate towards the trans population.
“Laverne Cox, she is a beautiful spokesperson and I love her for what she’s doing,” he said. “People need to change.”
Millard also credits the social networking and blogging site Tumblr for educating users and being a “safe place.”
“I feel so much better,” he says of embracing his identity. “I’ve changed as a person entirely since I’ve come out – I’m more comfortable with myself.
“I was trapped, now I’m not so deep in the closet that I’m not hiding under dresses and three feet of hair and a pound of makeup. I thought if I went as girly as I could it would go away but it never did.”
While Millard does not regret the journey he has made so far, it still isn’t something that he would wish upon himself.
“If a genie popped out and gave me the option to never have felt this way and to be ‘normal,’ I would do it.”