PHOTO CREDITS: LANDYN PAN
Story by Emmy Gyori
Imagine feeling you were born in the wrong body. Waking up every day not seeing flaws, but wishing you could change your anatomy entirely. Landon Pan, a freshman at Chapman and a trans student who identifies as binary male, knows how that feels:
“I knew pretty early on that I was different.” As gender identity has been proven to be formed by age six, a transgender person might spend the majority of their adolescence, a time when we don’t understand the majority of things about ourselves, not wanting to be their assigned gender.
With the insurgence of trans issues in the news, film, and television today, including Bruce Jenner’s recent announcement of his transition from male to female and Laverne Cox, a transgender actress and activist on the show Orange is the New Black, the transgender movement is becoming more prevalent in the media than ever before. Sarah Meyers, a Chapman grad who identifies as female, feels that trans characters played by trans people is what really hits home. “When you have trans roles played by trans actors and actresses, there is a certain vulnerability and authenticity that is stunningly beautiful and really hits home, at least for me. I think more importantly having trans roles played by trans characters allows for the larger populations of cisgender people to actually learn about the realities of trans life experiences and dismantle a lot of the stereotypes and preconceptions out there that are incredibly harmful to trans people.”
In a 2013 interview on the Piers Morgan show with Janet Mock, a transwoman who had recently written a book and become a public figure in the trans community, Morgan asked her questions with what he thought was sympathy and mere curiosity, without realizing how offensive he came off to her. They also put as the headline under the interview “was a boy until age 18”, meaning the year she got a sex change. In Mock’s mind though, she hadn’t been a boy since she realized she identified as a girl at the age of 5.
When asked what someone should do if they don’t know how to address a person who identifies as trans, Pan says it’s completely ok to ask someone what pronouns they prefer. Meaning, he/his, she/her, they/their, etc. You also shouldn’t ‘out’ someone as trans without permission. “That happened to me once,’ he said. ‘I’m pretty open but sometimes there are creepy people and you don’t want them knowing.”
Pan is doing his part to educate the campus. “I’ve never faced any blatant discrimination here, but people could definitely be more educated,” says Pan. When choosing a school, he was looking for a place that had gender neutral housing, an option that he didn’t believe Chapman had, but after doing some digging he realized that we do in fact have it, it’s just not very visible. It’s a common theme according to Meyers and Pan, Chapman does have an outlet, but it’s perhaps unintentionally swept under the rug.
When Sarah was attending Chapman, she was the most publicly out trans student at the time (before more students began to come out in 2011). “I had worked with Erin Pullin in order to bring things such as Name Changes on student records and classroom lists, start working on advocating for gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, and see if the student health insurance could cover hormone replacement therapy and other trans-related medical issues. To that end, I owe Erin Pullin everything for working so hard to advocate for me and to make my transition easier on campus.”
Chapman has started a student diversity panel, which includes the LGTBQ advisory board that Pan holds a position on. Currently, Chapman does not cover insurance needs such as hormones at the Student Health Center. Pan believes that this isn’t really Chapman’s fault, though. “The state of California can no longer discriminate against trans health insurance needs, but it’s complicated to update that.”
In regards to gender neutral bathrooms, Erin Pullin, the head of Diversity and Equity at Chapman said, “Chapman has single stall gender inclusive restrooms in buildings across campus and there's a map of them on the Cross-Cultural Engagement website. There is still more we hope to do to expand gender inclusive restrooms in the future here at Chapman, and this is currently a topic of conversation within several of the groups that make up the Chapman Diversity Project.”
Pan does believe that the school and the transgender movement as a whole is moving in the right direction and gaining momentum. Pan, Meyers and other trans students are looking forward to seeing what’s to come at Chapman and with the Transgender movement on a national scale. As for what cisgender students can do, according to Meyers- “The best thing to do though, all in all, is to listen to what trans people have to say about their own experiences, and the joys and fears we have to face and deal with on a near daily basis. Empathy goes pretty far.”