By: Nathan Katzenberger
Editor: Katie Williams
About 18 to 22 weeks into pregnancy, the medical professionals caring for a couple with a pregnancy are able to determine the biological sex of the unborn child. Using technological advances such as ultrasounds and sonograms, doctors are able to determine the sex of the child and let the expecting parents know so they may prepare accordingly. Usually this involves purchasing gendered clothing and toys and letting friends and family know so they may do the same. Some even hold gender reveal parties, even though the gender has not been revealed yet, only the biological sex.
As studies concerning the relationship between sex and gender continue, their respective definitions continue to change and evolve. As it is commonly understood today, sex is the genetically ordained biological differences between male and female, and gender evokes the traits associated socially with a particular sex.
As one progresses through life, they may come to realize the gender that was assigned to them at birth is not correct, or does not accurately represent them as a person. They may elect to medically transition with gender affirming surgeries and hormone treatments, but they may also simply change their name and lifestyle and live as the gender they identify as, despite not undergoing any treatments. Both forms of altering one’s gender have demonstrated great success in helping an individual’s self-esteem and confidence as they mature and develop mentally.
Recently, there have been movements to establish rights for transgender people, as there are segments of society who discriminate against them for realizing their true gender identity. Landon McDonald, a man who was assigned female at birth, has since undergone gender affirming treatments to better realize himself. McDonald has a unique insight into life as a transgender individual and the fight for their rights.
“Diversity and inclusion are all about acceptance,” said McDonald. “As long as people can accept each other for who they are, there won’t be any problems. I think a lot of the problems people have with each other stem from their insistence on caring too much about people who aren’t themselves. Like, I could not care less about who strangers fall in love with, or get married to, or how they present themselves, because it doesn’t affect me at all. This isn’t to say I’m not proud of them, or that I don’t care about strangers at all, but there needs to be a serious discussion about how much people care about personal details that literally cannot affect them in any way.”
When out in public, Landon often finds himself being looked at in a discriminatory way, or having a prejudiced encounter with a stranger. He works at Biggby coffee, an environment where he interacts with strangers all day, every day. Although they aren’t all bad, he says that he routinely encounters those who recognize his differences, and choose to respond negatively.
Worst of all, though, are his encounters with his mother. “As soon as she realized what was going on, she made it her goal to bring me down at every opportunity,” said McDonald. “I hadn’t even come out to her yet, and she had made it her mission to try and change me into somebody I wasn’t. Luckily, I live with my grandmother now, and she respects my pronouns and clothing choice, but for a few years I experienced the worst abuse at the hands of my mother.”
His story echoes sentiments felt by many in the transgender community, specifically that some of the worst abuse comes from those closest to them. This abuse, coupled with the discrimination from the public, drives some to the brink. Unfortunately, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, over half of all transgender male teens and 29.9% of all transgender female teens surveyed said they attempted suicide at least once. Additionally, according to the National Institute of Health, 0.8% of trans women and 0.3% of trans men have successfully committed suicide in the past 40 years. The consequences of this abuse and prejudice are clear, yet some continue to discriminate regardless.
On a much brighter note, McDonald has said that there have been much more positive interactions between him and the public in recent years. A positive experience that stood out to him was one he had with the aunt of Chi Cheng, the bassist for the band Deftones. “I loved Deftones, and one day who walks in but a woman claiming to be the aunt of Chi Cheng,” said McDonald. “She had pictures of him as a kid and everything, and we talked for quite a while about him while I made her coffee. She misgendered me at first, but after I corrected her she apologized and continued our conversation with my preferred pronouns. Most people would have gotten mad when I corrected them, but she respected me for whatever reason and continued to converse with me. Maybe it was because I loved her nephew’s music so much. She still comes in every week or so, and continues to be the highlight of whatever day she decides to bless me with her presence.”
Although there is still a long way to go concerning issues the transgender community champion, McDonald is confident we will get there one day. “It takes time,” he said. “It may not even happen in my lifetime. I hope it does, but there’s always a chance. I think that if I could change one thing about the world, and how it works, I would change parent’s perceptions of their kids. I would ensure that every parent views their kid as an individual and respect their feelings and thoughts. Especially concerning gender, which is assigned to them at birth. I wouldn’t prevent the assignment in the first place, I would just make sure all parents are open to change and listen to their kid’s wishes. I think that every kid should be free to express themselves however they want, at least. After all, who knows you better than yourself?”
If you or someone you know is part of the LGBTQ+ community and may be struggling with thoughts of suicide please call The Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386, text “START” to 678-678, or visit their website to chat with a counselor and find additional resources.