The Truth About University

Whilst doing my A-Levels all my teachers would say ‘University will be the best time of your life!’ Well here I am half way through my second year and I can tell you that it’s not all what it’s cracked up to be, at least for me.

Making friends is hard. It’s not like in school where you were mostly stuck with the same group of people for five plus years. Where you had to form friendships because it was sink or swim. When I attended my first lecture it was as if everyone already knew each other, and I was the outsider. Obviously, that wasn’t actually the case, everyone was most likely feeling the same inwardly but were able to project confidence. The trouble was, even when you made friends in a seminar, by the time you got to know them and actually managed to find them on Facebook, it was the end of the semester and after Christmas you were in a room with a whole new bunch of people. What I’ve learned from this, and it’s a tip I think everyone can use – be nice to everyone. If someone needs a pen, lend them one. If someone missed last weeks lecture, send them your notes. Extend an olive branch sort of speak.

Learning at university is nothing like school. At all. Whatsoever. Firstly, who knew that a guy actually sat in a room and wondered why we call a tree a tree? I sure didn’t, and when learning about it for my English degree I thought I was completely wasting my time. I wasn’t. Eventually all these ideas that seemed silly whilst you were learning them can be applied to actual work – your essays/exams etc. To make you appear like the smarty pants you probably don’t feel like 95% of the time, and get you that grade you need for uni to pay off.

Feeling dumb. I can honestly say that I have never felt so stupid in my entire life. Other students in my seminars have studied Latin and Greek and have gotten A*A*A* at A-Level, making my three A’s which I was really proud of feel like nothing. You have to remember that a lot of these students have received a high quality private education that was paid for. Just because you don’t know Latin or haven’t been privately tutored, doesn’t mean that they are any smarter than you are. I’ve learnt to believe in what I know and to go with that, even when I feel stupid.

Grades. Feedback in uni is different to school. You aren’t mollycoddled here. You submit your work and you get feedback, usually shredding the piece of work you spent the last three weeks working your ass off for. Read the feedback, don’t just throw it to the bottom of your drawer. I’m terrible for getting bad feedback and ignoring it, but that isn’t going to help me. Some tutors will go the extra mile for you, some won’t. I had one lecturer palm me off to the writing centre and another sit with me herself and help me with my grammar. It depends on the person, and if you find a tutor that will work that little bit harder with you then you’re in luck, take advantage of it.

The feeling like if you aren’t joining every society the university offers that you aren’t getting the full university experience. I didn’t join any societies when I came to uni, in all honesty I was trying to settle in with living by myself and getting to know the people in my flat. I was also nervous to go and join one. If you want to join something, do it. But also, don’t feel like you have to. University is what you want it to be. If you want to be a member of six different societies then go for it. If you want to spend eight hours a day nerding out in the library then that’s fine. Whatever you want to do you can do, and don’t feel like you have to explain yourself.

Lastly, alcohol. University is a place where a lot of young people take the opportunity to become bottled most weekends. If that’s your thing that’s great, uni is a place where you can basically be an alcoholic and not be judged for it. However, if you don’t like drinking THAT IS FINE. So many people I know feel like they can’t have a social life because they don’t like to drink. I know it’s hard to go out with a load of people who eventually get so wasted you end up having to carry them home. You can go to pre-drinks (this amazing British idea to get drunk before you leave for the club to save money) and have a laugh and then go back to bed when they all pour out singing in the street. You can find other people who don’t like to drink either and go grab coffee together. Never feel bad for not wanting to consume alcohol, your liver will probably thank you for it in the future.

These are a few truths/realities I found when attending university. It can be the best time of your life, or maybe you’ll stumble over a gold mine when you’re thirty and become insanely rich. Who knows. Life is only what you make of it.

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2018

A new year. Most people imagine a whole new reinvented version of themselves. Not me. I’m interested in furthering what I’ve already started. A clean slate isn’t what I’m looking for, instead, I want to mark and scratch mine. Each new year in another year I get to be the real me, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that. There are a few goals I do have for this year that I want to outline with this post and hopefully I will manage them (who actually keeps their new year’s resolutions?)

– To try and stick to a fitness routine.

– Hopefully have top surgery this year.

– Stop worrying about other people’s opinion’s of me.

It’s not a lot that I want to change, like I said, I’m more interested in developing myself than any sort of fresh start. I think it’s important to remember that we’re not all bad, even when we feel the need for a clean slate.

Boy’s Don’t Cry

If you asked me what the hardest film I find to watch is… there would be one immediate answer.

Boy’s Don’t Cry

The true story of Brandon Teena (played by Hilary Swank) who meets a horrible end due to the fact that he was transgender – actually, due to the fact that people could not understand or accept that he was a man. The narrative itself is almost impossible to digest, you have to fight through it, especially towards the end. Now, this could have been a review of the film but strangley enough it’s not the film that I have the problem with.

I thought the film was very good, it’s one of the very few films that covers the topic of transmasculinity (most cover transgender women). It had a great actor at the healm, and a director (Kimberly Peirce) that won a dozen awards for her film (although most credited to Swank’s performance). However, despite the film representing the life of a transgender man in a positive way (in the sense that the audience are positioned to understand him and sympathise with his situation) outside of the film I felt that this understanding fades, especially on Peirce’s part.

The interview I watched: Interview with Kimberly Pierce and Hilary Swank

Throughout this interview Pierce constantly refers to Brandon with female pronouns and when asked what it was about his kind of story that drew her in she replies, “On the deepest level, I was a tomboy as a kid (…) somebody says start acting like a girl, and you just say, what’s that?” I have a great respect for any person, especially in the public eye, resists norms; whether it be gender, race, class etc. There just seems to be such a lack of understanding running throughout this interview (it is just this interview that I am addressing) from a director who put together a film that I connected with passionately as a guy who was born with the wrong set of instruments. A tomboy (according to the dictionary) is a girl who enjoys rough, noisy activities traditionally associated with boys – not a boy who was born in a female body and has to deal with this fact probably for his entire life. I felt disappointed, upset even, that Pierce’s production made me feel understood – that the judgement of transgender people is wrong, and what happened to Brandon Teena was a tragedy, and yet her point of view, or at least the way she articulated herself in this interview made me feel rejected, especially on behalf of Brandon.

To make matters worse, on reading about the true case of Brandon Teena and skimming over the public case films I came across the words…

“Teena is buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Lincoln, Nebraska, his headstone inscribed with his birth name and the epitaph daughter, sister, & friend”

Brandon stood for who he truly was and what he believed, and despite losing everything because of it, even in his death he could not be acknowledged as the person he was.

 

Trying To Find ‘Me’

In my last post, I said there was nothing else for me to say. To be honest, I didn’t think I’d be back, at least for a while. Yet, here I am.

For me, being ‘transgender’ is the hardest at uni, especially considering I keep that to myself and no one knows. Sometimes I feel as though I’m keeping this dark secret, but most of the time I think that people don’t need to know what’s in my trousers.

The hardest part I find, is constantly comparing myself to other guys – it gets to an obsessive level. I catch myself looking at what shoes other guys where, if they wear skinny jeans or regular, how they have their hair – sometimes I do it so much I feel as though my head is going to explode. I’m constantly thinking that I’m not like everyone else, that I’m different. If I could click my fingers right now and have anything, it would be to have been born biologically male. There’s nothing wrong with being transgender, I don’t understand why people have a problem with it, but I don’t like being this way. Every time I beat something I’ve been struggling with, I stumble onto a different struggle. Each time I think to myself that I’m comfortable and content, something happens to snap me back to feeling uncomfortable in my own skin.

I try and be authentic, transitioning is all about finding who you are. This is me, but I find myself trying to change things all the time, things about myself, even little things. Like my style, or my writing, or something – it’s like I can’t just stand still and be me, like I’m constantly looking for ways to improve, or be better, I don’t give myself a chance.

 

I Don’t Have Anything To Say

I’ve sat at my computer to type a few words only to delete them almost as quickly as they appeared. I’m suprised that these words have made it.

The problem is, I’m stuck in this constant rut of, I want to write something that means something. You hear a song, you read something, you watch something – and somehow, it connects with you, it makes you feel something that you haven’t felt in a long time, or maybe even, that you’ve never felt before.

Artists, photographers, musicians, writers; they have a way of capturing something in a moment, that means something, maybe to everyone, maybe to one person. When people can’t find the words themselves for a hard time, or a happy time – they look to others, to inspiration, to the movie, song or book that made them feel something; that gave them a tingle somewhere that almost made them consider if the soul was truly real.

I like to be inspired, by all these different forms that I’ve mentioned. Which is why I want to be able to create that same affect, for someone. I have come to the realisation that maybe I just don’t have anything left to say, for this blog at least. In the beginning, my hands moved faster than my thoughts, to record my journey, my transition. Now, when something happens, I find that I have to drag myself to my computer so I can record the next step.

Reading back, the main topic this blog covered was my transition, I guess that’s what it was for. A safe space for me to express what I was thinking or feeling, but everything has a filter, there’s nowhere I can write that I can be one hundred percent honest. Maybe that’s why we look to others, why we repeat the same song that has lyrics which reflects things we are too afraid to say.

I said somewhere that being transgender wasn’t the most interesting thing about me, and I think now that I’m more comfortable with myself and I’ve moved forward with my physical transition that I can focus on what else I’m about. So for now, I will stop writing here. I didn’t have a massive following, but I’m greatful people, even if it was just one person, did read what I had to say. In a time where I felt that no one really understood, there were people who did, and that was invaluable to me at a very difficult time in my life.

Thank you for being my safe space.

Dear Mr President

You’ve done it again, tweeted your worst and caused uncertainty and fear in thousands of individuals across America. Did you stop to think before you pressed the enter button on your phone? Did you think of the soldiers that had been shot at, in your name Mr President? I would take a gamble and say that every single transgender soldier would still take a bullet for you, for America, because they have honour and integrity, something you might take a lesson in.

I’m not an American, or a soldier; you might label me transgender – but if there is one thing I am, if there is one thing that all of those soldiers are; is human, and they should be treated as such, not as second class citizens.

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“Tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail”

There have been various arguments against your reasonings for this decision, comparison to prices of prescription viagara etc. There is just one point that I have to make. These men and women who you would see out of the military, thrown from their livelihood, deserve more than this. If their presence in the military costs ‘tax payers dollars’ then those taxes should continue to be paid – these people are dedicating their lives to the protection of their country, a job that doesn’t come with a comfortable pay check like yours.

For once in your presedential recendency you might take in upon yourself to be a human being.

Fitness

Over the last three years, I’ve tried to ‘get fit’ – I had a burst of loving running for a month or so, 4km every day on the treadmill, I tried lifting small weights in my flat at University (3.5kg max). Every time, I’d say I’ve ran out of inspiration, or I’ve just given up. Sometimes, I would try and exercise and I would just cry, because in the back of my head there was the constant voice telling me that working out was never going to make a difference if I wasn’t on testosterone. I listened to that voice too often, and I would always give up. Even though working out made me feel physically and most importantly, mentally more stable, I let the troubles I was having take over something that was really good for me.

I told myself that when I came home for the summer, I would join the gym, I put it off for two or three weeks, but eventually I joined two friends of mine and we all went together. Since then I’ve been going three to four times a week, and even though I’m only on my third week, it feels different this time – it feels bloody damn good.

Although I pushed myself to go before I had my first T shot, having that injection, at last, has put my mind at ease in a way I can’t explain with words. Without sounding totally stereotypical, I do feel as if a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. Now when I go to the gym, and I work out, all I feel is excitement for the changes to come, and determination to better myself.

That’s what I’ve learned the most from going to the gym this summer – it isn’t about how much you can lift, how far you can run; it’s about bettering yourself. The gym allows me to feel better within myself both physically and mentally – I feel stronger as a person, and that is a feeling I’ve sought after for almost three years.