Given the disheartening rates of depression and suicidal behaviors associated with the transgender school-aged youths in grades K-12, the prospect of furthering education in college can present those approaching college consideration with equal parts excitement and trepidation. There are many things to factor into you or your child’s decision about going to college that can allay your fears and encourage a healthy transition to adulthood.
Every student, trans and otherwise, first determines what it is they want out of life. Everyone has to determine if there is a drive to study towards a career or take some time off. Many people decide to work and put money away before university. They also use that time to think about what they hope to study.
Determining your college or career timeline can be especially tricky for youths hoping to transition during this time. They will also have to assign time and money towards whatever procedures or surgeries that entails.
Balancing these decisions is a bit easier to conceptualize when the family is on board, both financially and emotionally. With the college being so expensive and health insurance only covers a fraction of what it used to, the days of finding yourself while attending classes are becoming a thing of the past. No one wants to accrue debt towards a degree that will prove useless in everyday life.
For those in the LGBTQI community that can afford to go to college, there are still many issues in which they need to contend. There are issues related to pre- and post-transition, deliberations regarding career choice, where to go to school, and when to start.
Of concern to the LGBTQI community is the opportunity to thrive in an environment that is both welcoming and safe. Violence against the transgender community is something we see every day on the news. Frankly, we don’t even know the half of it. Many colleges have policies and practices in place to protect the rights and safety of their transgender students, from gender-inclusive bathrooms to allowing students to identify themselves on ids and in classes according to their gender identity.
Websites like Campus Pride Index break down which colleges and campuses are doing their best to protect and encourage young adults in the LGBTQI community.
For every human being, this is a time of transformation. Regardless of gender identity or sexuality, or any other challenges that manage to separate one individual from their peers, this is a period of change and, ultimately, of vulnerability. The concept of adulthood can be so overwhelming that many become lost. Suicidal thoughts are pondered by many during this time as a seeming remedy for a perceived lack of opportunities and loss of hope. Maybe your folks don’t support you, or your grades weren’t good enough to get you into school, or school isn’t even a possibility for you.
You can feel like you are drowning or that you have no future. Some may be homeless, as parents who don’t approve or understand gender identity can absolve themselves of legal responsibilities once their transgender offspring legally reached adulthood.
This is also where the community can be the most help. Like the two emotions of hope and fear that accompany graduation, so to are there two possible roads to travel for our trans youth. They can go down the path of despair, homelessness, mental illness, and all those horrible consequences of an uncaring world. Or they can seek and receive assistance to realize their most true potential—and no one can suggest that the second path is easy by any means. It takes a village, they say, and that village doesn’t walk away after a high school diploma is given.
If you are a kid reading this blog, you must know that we want you to succeed, be happy and healthy, no matter what that means to you. Success doesn’t just come as a result of attending college. Being a successful adult can be measured in the number of friends we have, how much we give of ourselves to others, being and feeling safe, loved, and connected—all of the things that come from a robust and supportive community. Get counseling. You aren’t weak for being scared. Bravery is doing something about that fear.