A Transfemme’s Experience at BYU
by Maeve Boyack
Being trans, whether transsexual, transgender, or both at this university, is the practice of being caught in the crossfire of hyper-visibility and hypo-visibility. I am simultaneously seen and unseen, reviled and ignored, pathetic and a threat. In short, I am a living honor code loophole. Both culturally and administratively, I am put into a position where the only real winning move is not to play. Honor code policies on trans-ness and gender non-conformity are adamantly unclear and the “case-by-case” approach the university tends to employ treats trans and intersex people as an outlier rather than a legitimate demographic. These qualities of the campus environment have largely led to the impulses of self-isolation, repression, and atomization that I and my community experience as trans people. I hope in this I can describe these struggles that are so often underrepresented and left unexplained.
These past few terms, I have lived through a growing epidemic of self-isolation among largely trans-feminine people. Our identity is so heavily stigmatized on campus, on the streets, in many spaces nationwide, that many transfemme friends and acquaintances of mine, both BYU-adjacent and abroad, including myself, have chosen to shut themselves in, to catch themselves in a feedback loop of agoraphobia and depressive attitudes. I was even more subject to it in the latter half of 2022 due to having a translation job I could work from home. I was terrified of the hyper-visibility I experienced daily, the stares and scowls from everyone around me, the pressure I felt from my professors and peers to represent to them the totality of trans people, and the daily exposure to people who disagreed with my mere existence. In most buildings, I could not even use the bathroom without feeling overwhelmingly monitored. Life outside of my apartment felt like a constant punishment for my transition. Living in the physical in-betweens of a hormonal transition like mine meant being some Utahans’ worst nightmare.
This fear is compounded upon by the effects of the federally-excused housing discrimination BYU practices. While assigned male at birth, I am at a point in my transition where I appear more feminine than not and I am legally female. BYU currently does not recognize my legal sex, which means I am expected to live with men, if not alone. This is tantamount to systemic violence as someone who lives with post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from my past experiences with sexual harassment at the hands of men. There are many nights where I am unable to feel safe sleeping in my own room. Trans women are often perceived by many as sexual objects and in a campus environment that frequently affirms misogynistic notions, I am being put at risk.
Alongside these larger, overwhelming aspects of my “BYU trans experience,” I am subject to several other forms of exclusion. Trans people who choose to transition and present themselves in a way that aligns with their true self are effectively disallowed from romance under the honor code – I can't date anyone assigned male at birth, since the university would surely consider that too gay for their tastes and I cannot date anyone assigned female either, because two people perceived as female in a relationship as students of this school would also be subject to reporting to the HCO. None of this is written down in the actual text of the honor code because, again, it would rather not comment on the presentations of entire demographics. I have, however, had it emphasized to me time and time again during ecclesiastical endorsement interviews that this is not a privilege I am beholden to as a trans person. As a spiteful cherry on top, many students and professors assume they can subject the core aspects of my being to endless debate and discussion. Foolishly, I assumed all of these difficulties would only annoy me but day after day, week after week, month after month, I am worn down to nothing more than a depressive, often bed-bound husk.
What became my escape and what will hopefully be the escape of my trans brothers, sisters, and siblings, is my now-strong support network. So many people have given me a chance to build connections and friendships that I can now surely claim were life-saving. I would not be here if it were not for USGA, I would not be here if it were not for the friends who have checked in with me every step of the way. Transitioning is really scary right now, but knowing I have them and hoping my peers will have others like them, I think things will end up being alright, if not better.