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From an interview with Sasha Max Tscheltzoff, Trans Officer

What does it mean to be trans?

Transness is something which is infinite. There’s no concentre definition to describe what it means to be trans and that’s because every trans person will have a different experience. Some might choose a transition socially or medically or they may choose neither option. I would define being trans as anyone who doesn’t partially or entirely identify with the gender they were assigned at birth - basically, anyone who isn’t cisgender (someone who is completely comfortable in the gender they was assigned at birth). 

But even being cisgender is quite complex because a lot of people assigned a gender at birth can be gender non-conforming, meaning they might not exactly relate to the social or cultural norms that are attributed to their gender. I think a simpler way to put it is to make a distinction between gender identities and gender expression. Someone’s gender identity is the way they internally experience their gender and gender expression is the way someone externally experiences it. For example, someone might identify as a man but their gender expression can be more feminine or masculine or neutral. There’s really all kinds of trans people. 

At UCL, I’ve been quite privileged, and even in London. I haven’t faced that many forms of discrimination because people in London and at UCL are normally aware or have heard of what it means to be trans. There have been a few awkward situations like in the bathroom with people not knowing if I’m in the right bathroom or not. The main thing I face is cisnormativity and people assuming I’m a cis - assuming things about my past and history of my gender which isn’t really something I can relate to. I think normalising transness and gender fluidity, in general, is good. There should be more of a conversation between people and their ideas of gender. 

Within the LGBTQ Network, we have a trans group where we organise trans socials regularly. We also have a group on Facebook for all trans students at UCL and it functions as a support group and a way for people to keep updated on events. 

There’s also Gendered Intelligence. A charity which has been training UCL departmental staff on trans issues. As the Trans Officer, I’m working on making this more extensive at UCL. We’re also starting to have more gender-neutral bathrooms (there’s some already in the Union building) as often the bathrooms are the places where trans people face the most discrimination at university.

In the trans community, we don’t expect CIS Gendered people to know everything about us. We just need their social and political support. It’s just having them there to support us as an equal human being - that’s the most important bit. Listening and asking everyone for their pronouns is also good. I’ve noticed that some staff members have pronouns in their signatures, I know it’s a small thing, but it makes a big difference. It helps start a conversation, for people to reflect on it - normalising the idea that someone’s appearance might not show their gender. Just talking about gender and having a conversation is good.