19 March 2012

Kaeden Kass: Denied For A Job, His Identity Denied

Kaeden Kass was not allowed to serve as resident assistant of a male dorm at Miami University of Ohio.

Normally, that wouldn't be noteworthy:  Every year, thousands of college students apply for such a position at colleges all over America.  Most aren't selected.  At most colleges, RA's receive free housing along with a stipend, a reduction in tuition or free meals.  That's often better, financially, than working a job while in school.  For such perks, RAs usually serve as para-counselors, answer residents' questions and enforce residence policies.  Sometimes they're referred to as the "Mayors" of the residences; more than anything, they are familiar (and, one assumes, friendly) faces for student residents, most of whom are living away from their families for the first time.

However, you probably noticed that I mentioned Kass was rejected for the position of RA in a male dorm.  You see, Kass looks and acts the part of a college guy, but according to his birth certificate, he was born female.

School officials say they offered him a like position in a female dorm. However, he feels that taking such a position, or living in the college's new gender-neutral dorm, would "erase" his identity.  That is unacceptable, he says, because, "I have to fight for my identity every day, and it's just exhausting and frustrating, and it hinders my mental health every day."

I understand how he feels.  Early in my transition, I had to assert my identity in various ways, to building security personnel, prospective employers and even salespeople who wanted to sell me men's products.  I had to argue with a security guard who admitted me into a building but later confronted me about using the women's room, just as I was about to take the GRE.  And, I am sad to say, there are people who were once in my life who aren't, and in the little bit of contact I've had with them, they still address me by my old name and refer to me with male pronouns.  So, I am also sad to say that none some of the hateful and ignorant comments that appear after the linked news story came as no surprise to me.

I have never met Kass, but somehow I think he'd be a good residence counselor.  Perhaps I am prejudiced:  After all, the psychiatric social worker who helped as I was preparing for, and in the early days of, my transition is a trans man.  He's one of the best listeners I've ever encountered. 

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