A group at UPEI will hold a forum Thursday night to discuss issues that face transgender people.
'When I first heard it, I actually ran out to my mom — I was at home — [and] I said I know I fit now.' — Jay Jonah, transgendered student
The forum is designed to give students and other members of the public an opportunity to ask questions. The event was organized in part by Jay Jonah, who was born female but now identifies as a male. Jonah will also sit on the panel.
"Basically, I've kind of dressed as a guy ever since I was five," said Jonah.
But it took some time for Jonah, now a third year student at UPEI, to recognize just what his sexuality was. He did not hear the term transgender until he got to university.
"When I first heard it, I actually ran out to my mom — I was at home — [and] I said I know I fit now," said Jonah.
Jonah said he knows people have a lot of questions about people like him, and those questions can be difficult to ask.
"You're not really going to walk up to a random person on the street and start asking them these questions," he said.
The panel, made up mostly of transgendered people, will try to help with that.
Treena Smith of student services said there is already an awareness on campus that more needs to be done at an official level.
"When we apply to university, if you don't identify as male or female, there's only two boxes to check," said Smith.
"If you are transgender, it's a really difficult place to be."
Ann Braithwaite, coordinator of the women's studies program, said becoming more accepting of the different ways people live their lives is about more than just being nice to people.
"How do we make our campus community more inclusive at the level of the structures that we have around us?" she said.
This could, for example, mean having gender neutral washrooms, said Braitwaite.
For now, said Jonah, the first step is starting the conversation.