By Clarence Snell
When I started my time here at UCF, I was a very different person. I was a little skinnier, a big fan of wearing multiple layers in ninety-degree heat, and more importantly, I was presenting as a woman. My name is Clarence, and my pronouns are he/they. Over the past year, I have not only come out as transgender but have begun transitioning in a way that makes me comfortable in my own skin. Throughout this transition from female to male, UCF and the community surrounding it have been a defining factor in the process.
To start, I should explain what it means to be transgender. At the core of it, “transgender” is an umbrella term for people who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. Because this term is so broad, it can range from people who identify within the gender binary (male and female) as well as outside of it (non-binary). Transgender people come in all shapes and sizes and identify in all sorts of different ways. I myself identify as genderfluid, which means my gender changes. Sometimes I feel masculine, and sometimes I feel I have no gender at all. However, for the most part, I identify on the masculine side of the gender spectrum.
The first step to my transition was to come out to the community.
For many people in the transgender community, this is an incredibly stressful step. Not only is it difficult to gauge how our friends and family will react, but change can be a scary thing no matter how necessary it is to move forward with our lives. Coming out to the community, also means that I needed to change my preferred name in the school system itself. UCF offers an incredibly easy avenue to do this! All a person needs to do to change their preferred name in UCF’s system is to change it in MyUCF. Once you log into MyUCF and go to Student Self Service, you scroll down to a section labeled Personal Information and click on Preferred Name. It is there that you can change your name within UCF’s system! The greatest part about this is that it almost immediately changed my name in Webcourses, prompting my teachers to call me by this name as well. Not only that, but the school will also print this name on your Student ID. Despite the fact that this amazing resource is available, as many of the things UCF does to help people within the trans community, it wasn’t until I spoke with another trans friend of mine who had already changed his preferred name with the school that I actually learned this was possible.
It is here that we can find an underlying theme when it comes to this college and its trans outreach. While there are many opportunities for help and guidance within the trans and wider LGBTQ+ community here at UCF, it takes a bit of digging to actually find them. Although the UCF LGBTQ+ Services webpage hosts a lot of wonderful information and guides, (my favorite of which being the “T” Guide) which has information on topics ranging from inclusive dorms to finding endocrinologists in the area), when it comes to taking part in the community on campus information is a little harder to come by. At first glance, the Lavender Council seems to be the only option if a student is looking to interact with the LGBTQ+ community, whether that be for outreach or to make friends. Essentially, the Lavender Council is a student-led advisory board that seeks to make UCF a better, more inclusive campus.
However, if someone decided they wanted to be involved on a more personal level, the initial UCF page would lead a curious student to think that there simply isn’t an organization that would be for them.
Thankfully, as it turns out this is not the case. After a great deal of looking into the different clubs and services UCF has to offer, I stumbled upon the LGBTQ+ Services Instagram page. In the description, there is an unlabeled Linktree. Out of curiosity, I clicked on it and was surprised to find all the information I was looking for.
Not only are there links to inclusion and therapy resources, but there are Discord links listed here as well. These Discord links, specifically the Pride Commons Discord link, were precisely what I was looking for, offering me an avenue to not only make friends but also learn about the community here on campus. This Discord community really does have it all. Between friends sharing memes, game and music recommendations, and even its very own roommate matching channel for those who would like to find roommates before coming to campus, there’s a little something here for everyone in the LGBTQ+ community. Now, if I ever have a question or concern, I can just say something in the Discord and be met with overwhelming support. It’s a comforting thing to have what feels like an influx of so many family members all at once.
As for our allies, those of you who may not identify with the LGBTQ+ community but wish to educate yourselves and help out, all the same, there are resources for you too! UCF actually offers something called the Safe Zone Series. As it says on the website, “The UCF Safe Zone Series (formerly known as Allies) is a program for UCF students, staff and faculty members interested in showing visual support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) persons at the university.” In essence, if you’re interested in knowing more about the LGBTQ+ community but might not know where to start, this is a great jumping-off point! I highly encourage you to sign up for their workshops or at the very least take a look at their resource page listed on the website. This site has good resources listed for both allies and those in the LGBTQ+ community alike, including resources on gender and sexuality vocab as well as how to make a coming-out plan.
While these resources are incredibly helpful, they should not be hidden behind so many different pages. If someone were to take the UCF LGBTQ+ Services page at its word, they would miss out on what could potentially be life-saving information, communities of fellow students, and opportunities to help those around them. However, I am hoping that this article reaches someone who could use this information. As someone who started their transition here at UCF and began looking for an inclusive family within this college, knowing that this information is getting out there makes all the difference.