Transgender student’s road to self acceptance, struggle to fight norm
The concept of femininity is constantly changing.
It’s a subjective term that society has dressed with voluptuous curves and puckered lips, but to junior communication Cordelia Wannemacher, femininity is all about self-perception.
“It really wasn’t a defining moment, but a cohesive time period that I slowly accepted it,” Wannemacher said. “I’m a woman.”
When you first get a glimpse of Wannemacher, she makes her presence known when she enters the room. Other than being taller than most of the women on campus, her style speaks composure. Her journey to acceptance shows otherwise.
“I wish I’d come to terms with myself sooner,” she said. “I’ve lost some part of my childhood by not being allowed to try on makeup for the first time or falling in love with a boy and telling your friend about.”
Sophomore Kalairn Keaton, a sign language interpreter, first met Wannemacher when Wannemacher joined UH Kappa Chapter’s Gamma Rho Lambda last semester and didn’t know much about what transgender women faced.
“Before Cordelia, I never heard much of the issues that surrounded transgender women, (such as) transmisogyny,” Keaton said. “A lot of spaces are more open to transmen than transwoman. I hate using the term ‘passing’, (but) it is easier for transgender men to pass then transwomen, so they are less likely to be called out.”
Just last month, a self-proclaimed Saint Jesse came to preach his controversial beliefs in front of students at Butler Plaza, when Cordelia stepped onto the scene.
“There were a lot more people listening to him than I expected, which caught me off guard,” she said. “But people I know were getting hurt by his words. I don’t like being the passive bystander who just brushes things off. So, I stood up.”
LGBTQ Resource Center Director Lorraine Schroeder said transgender women are the most discriminated against in hate crimes. That could change based on the result of the elections this week if enough people vote in favor the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.
“Transgender people in general get harassed in the bathroom if they don’t completely pass as the gender the restroom is labeled,” Schroeder said.
Some of the targeted aims at transgender women have recently come up in commercials, breaking out the scare tactics.
“Any man at any time could enter a women’s bathroom simply by claiming to be a woman that day,” the ad, paid by Campaign for Houston, said. “Even registered sex offenders could follow women or young girls into the bathroom.”
Schroeder said the “bathroom ordinance” is completely misleading way to refer to HERO.
“There are so many minorities the ordinance protects; military veterans, minorities, females and the ads concentrate on this one thing,” Schroeder said. “Transgender women already use the women’s restrooms and you might not know it.”
Cordelia defines being transgender woman in a liberal, non-binary way. She said it can be used to describe someone who is assigned to be male at birth, but does not identify as one.
“I wouldn’t put on these clothing items to ultimately define myself as a woman, but that’s how society sees it,” Wannemacher said. “It’s just what it is. You can say one thing, and the world would tell you otherwise depending on what you wear and how you act.”
One word she doesn’t like is “queer” — a term which has been used previously as a slur for against LGBT individuals.
Despite the slur being reclaimed by many in the community, Wannemacher stresses that it can be insensitive to use it as an umbrella term for all LGBT individuals, as they may not be comfortable with it.
“I know people who use the LGBTQIA or some other acronyms, but that’s a personal thing,” Wannemacher said. “And I personally don’t like the word queer. I don’t like how it is used liberally to define us, unless someone defines themselves as one, I can respect that.”
According to the Massive Millenials Fusion poll, which surveyed 1,000 millennials, it shows that 50 percent of millennials define gender as a non-binary spectrum, the highest number yet.
Wannemacher said LGBT acceptance has increased in a monumental way this year, but it’s not ideal yet.
“Society is slowly changing its norm,” she said. “People just really need to get informed and open their eyes, maybe they’ll get to learn something they have not known before.”
When Wannemacher accepted herself as a woman, she found it to be hard for society to accept that. She’s no stranger to long looks and invasive questions about her appearance and who she is.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it,” she said with a shrug. “I don’t think I ever want to.”