Trans student gets scholarship to attend university

September 22, 2023

A second-year university student has requested their lecturers not to refer to them by their birth name, as they embark on their journey as a transgender man. Born female and assigned a girl's name, this 20-year-old student has now embraced a male identity.

"I reached out to all my lecturers at the beginning of the semester, asking them to avoid using my legal first name, and, so far, they've respected my request by not 'deadnaming' me," the student said.

Deadnaming, the practice of using an incorrect name for a transgender individual, has been an issue for this student. Some individuals persistently ignore their wishes and continue to address them by the female name they were given at birth, which they find deeply disrespectful.

"I believe some people intentionally use my legal name, which feels malicious. It's important for people to understand the impact it can have on someone when they insist on calling them something they no longer identify with," he explained.

This trans man is the proud recipient of the 2023 Neish McLean Scholarship, an award exclusively granted to transgender and non-gender conforming students in Jamaica pursuing higher education. However, he has chosen not to share this news with everyone, especially his family members who he describe as "transphobic".

"I haven't revealed my gender identity to my parents, but I sense they may know deep down because I've always felt uncomfortable identifying with femininity. It's never truly represented who I am," the student disclosed.

Th 20-year-old told THE WEEKEND STAR that he knew from an early age that he was different.

"During primary school I knew that I was different from women. For a long period of time my whole friend group was male and I was more like them than the girls. When the teachers asked for boys to do things I volunteered," he said.

"And even during puberty there was this deep confusion as to why my body was changing in ways I didn't want."

He said he never knew how to express gender as a trans man until the teen years. He said that he has become more open about his social transition which comes with its own set of challenges.

"I don't necessarily walk around and advertise it but being transgender, this semester especially I have tried to be more open with my social transition in order to make myself more comfortable," he explained.

In the meantime, McLean, the visionary behind the scholarship, revealed that he initiated the fund to support trans and gender-nonconforming students throughout the Caribbean. He firmly believes that many trans individuals face obstacles in pursuing higher education due to a lack of family support, discrimination, and violence. Through a successful GoFundMe campaign, McLean raised US$2,500 (approximately J$387,000) to establish the scholarship programme.

"I want trans people to show up authentically and know that there is space for them in this world. I envision that the recipients of this scholarship will feel supported, seen and do their own part in paying it forward in whatever way they can," McLean said.

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