On Wednesday, February 22, 2017, the Trump administration revoked the federal guidelines specifying that transgender students in public schools have the right to discretion when choosing a restroom.
I asked MCTC student, Andy Champagne, an individual that identifies as transgender and prefers he/him pronouns, about his thoughts and opinions on this decision. Along the way, I learned a bit of what it means for him to be transgender in today’s society.
My first impression of Champagne is that he has an air of calm that envelops him, and has no problem sharing his thoughts and feelings.
“I’m sad that they took [protections] out because I think that since more people are talking about it, there’s more attention brought to it. Unlike before, where you still weren’t protected before Obama put [protections] in, but nobody talked about it. So there wasn’t the negative lash,” said Champagne. “When people are uncomfortable with something, they tend to either hate it, or they’re curious about it. And sadly, most people are taught to hate against something they are unfamiliar with, versus wanting to figure it out. So I think they need them now, more so than anything,”
Champagne goes on to share his experience of occasionally being able to use the men’s restroom undetected.
Champagne shared his experience of gradually realizing his gender and sexual identity. I asked him how early he started to become aware of who he was.
“Well, when I was four, I would always try to dress up as my stepdad, and my mom would ask ‘What are you doing?’ And playing house, I was always the male or dad,” said Champagne.
Champagne had his first girlfriend when he was seven, saying “I didn’t know what that meant, I just knew I didn’t want a boyfriend.”
As the years of puberty set in, he tried to fit into the social norm but couldn’t bring himself to fully commit.
Champagne went through the years claiming different labels that better fit him, adopting new ones that fit better than the last. At 16, he finally came across the term FTM (Female to Male), finding this fit the best.
“I was 16 before the year 2000. People still didn’t talk about being trans [then]. You had to dig for it if you wanted to find it. I found Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg, and that book just identified with my whole life. I found who I was in that book at 16,” said Champagne.
He was initially overwhelmed by this identification, and decided to identify with being butch-lesbian for a number of years. Eventually, the gradual building of his masculinity apexed in his intense anxiety at using the restroom in public.
“I would shake, I would literally be traumatized and stuck in the bathroom, going through an anxiety attack if anybody walked in.”
Champagne finally decided enough was enough.
“I need more. Just butch wasn’t enough, I need to transition,” said Champagne.
In terms of a support network, he has a group he affectionately terms his “chosen family.” They have been with him since his days in high school, and have always supported him. His brother also encourages him in stressful situations.
“Knowing how much of society completely hates you, without even knowing you, is terrifying,” said Champagne.