Gender queer speaker Shane Whalley discusses the transgender community and its struggles in an open session

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Shane Whalley, education coordinator of the University’s Gender and Sexuality Center, said progress has been made in accommodating the transgender community both on and off campus, but there is a long way to go.

In an open seminar Tuesday, Whalley, who prefers the personal pronoun “ze,” gave out a pamphlet which defined a transgender person as someone whose self-identity isn’t traditionally male or female. Whalley said the label should only be applied to people who self-identify with this category.

Whalley said ze began forming a gender identity that wasn’t exclusively feminine from a very young age.

“I tried to get my mom to let me wear boys’ shirts when I was little,” ze said. “The message I got was that I shouldn’t wear other genders’ clothes.”

Whalley, who today still prefers to wear men’s clothes, said since ze came out in adulthood ze has experienced pressure to conform to sexual norms, or at least choose one identity. However, Whalley said, ze believes it should be accepted for people to remain in the middle.

Whalley said even young children with mixed identities face pressure. Boys who are too feminine, ze said, often face assaults and bullying. Ze also said young girls who present a more masculine appearance face a high rate of sexual assault. However, Whalley said ze thought some things had begun to improve, such as parents allowing their children to explore their gender identity in small ways, letting them wear the clothes and play with the toys they want. 

Ze also believes UT has taken positive steps.

“We have gender-neutral bathrooms, but we don’t have them everywhere,” Whalley said. “One of the conversations … is about gender-neutral housing.”

Zachary Frye, Austin outreach liaison for the Queer Students Alliance, said his organization was working toward this goal by pushing the issue on campus and through legislation.

“The goal is to have gender-queer housing incorporated on campus,” Frye said. 

Ultimately, Whalley said, accepting people who are LGBTQ is a question of accepting the identities they choose.

“If people are happy on the poles [of the gender identity spectrum], good for them,” ze said. “But there is a lot of pressure … because it’s hard to have people constantly misgender you.”

This article was corrected after its original posting. Zachary Frye is the Austin outreach liaison for the Queer Students Alliance.