Transgender activist shares personal struggle with gender identity
Nicole Caratas | Thursday, September 24, 2015
Saint Mary’s department of gender and women’s studies and the psychology department hosted Meghan Buell, a transgender woman who shared her experiences at Dalloway’s Clubhouse on Wednesday.
Buell, who is the founder of Trees, Inc., a non-profit organization that brings education and resources about trans issues to small towns in the Midwest, said she grew up in a small town in Indiana and she spent 35 years struggling with her gender identity.
“One of the toughest aspects of my personal journey is not finding, or not even knowing how to find someone who was like me,” Buell said. “When I had an experience or a curiosity or something happened in my life that didn’t fit in to what I was being shown around me as the binary and male gender, I kind of said ‘All right. I don’t know what that is, but I’m going to put it up in my head and not worry about it and not think about it.’”
Buell said she searched the Internet to find other people like her, and spent five years reading biographies of other transgender people before she was able to self-identify as transgender.
“I have been described by a lot of my friends and people here in the community and the area as the most out and proud trans person they’ve ever met,” Buell said. “I’m just Meghan and I’m just living my life and I’m doing it the way I feel is best for me.
“I hope other people realize it’s okay to be yourself and beat to your own drum and go about life in the best way you can and not let others push you into boxes and push you into a way of living,” she said. “Do it for yourself; it’s your life. Enjoy it and do it the way you want.”
Buell emphasized that the journey for each transgender person is different.
“For every trans person that speaks, the audience needs to remember this is just one trans person speaking,” Buell said. “The trans community is made of very diverse, very unique individuals, and every journey is their own and unique to them. I can tell you things about being in the trans community that are completely opposite of what someone else has experienced.
“Give every trans person the opportunity to tell their story and to talk about their journey, the challenges, the successes, because it’s not going to be the same as the last trans person you spoke to.”
Buell said one of the biggest questions concerning the transgendered community is the problem with which public bathroom to use.
“Everybody needs to go to the bathroom,” she said. “It really has an impact on the transgender community. … It makes choosing a bathroom difficult sometimes when your gender expression is showing the opposite of what the gender marker on your driver’s license says or is different from what the stereotypical gender expression may be. There’s this point of hesitancy when you walk up to the bathroom.”
Buell said this is dangerous to members of the transgender community because in some places, it is illegal to enter bathrooms that do not match a person’s assigned gender.
She said transgender students have started avoiding bathrooms at school altogether by not eating or drinking during the day, which can affect both their physical health and academic career.
Though Buell describes herself as an open book, she said the experience of being transgender is a hard one. She said one way to make it easier for transgender people is to not impose gender roles from a young age, and to raise children in a more gender-neutral way until they express gender on their own.
“I don’t wish this upon anyone. This is tough,” Buell said. “I’ve made a lot more out of it than I ever expected to make out of it. It’s tough. So if you have children and you allow them to express their gender when they’re ready to express their gender, it gives them a better shot of not going down the wrong path and having to reverse direction or correct direction, which is tough.”