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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

My transmasc experience at Carleton: Is a fresh start always a good thing?

When I sat down with my guidance counselor in the spring of my junior year of high school, he asked me what kind of environment I wanted in a college. “Something that isn’t like here,” I responded. And I got my wish. The only real similarity between my high school and Carleton is the approximate size. Only one person from my hometown is a student here, and no one from my high school has gone to Carleton since 2018. 

While there are many reasons for a student to want to break free from their high school’s environment and move halfway across the country to a college where no one in their incoming class knows them, I had only one goal in mind. I wanted to go somewhere where no one knew who I was before I came out as trans. 

I came out as trans to the very first people in the summer of 2019, before my freshman year of high school. I continued to come out to select friends (and teachers, to get a good score on a personal essay), but I never really lived openly as male at school. I didn’t go by a new name or change my gender in school systems, and while I did technically come out to my parents in the fall of my freshman year, we haven’t really talked about it since.

I was desperate to go to college from the moment I submitted my first application. I tended to gravitate towards smaller schools, which naturally meant that fewer students from my high school would attend. I would subconsciously cross a school off of my list if I knew my classmates were planning on applying. When I got in early decision to Carleton, I was counting down the days until I would finally be free from my past and have the fresh start I always wanted.

And in some ways, I did. My teachers and classmates don’t have




the opportunity to use the wrong name or pronouns for me because they simply don’t know my birth name. I live on a co-ed floor, so I can’t be questioned as to whether or not I’m in the right place. My favorite Writing Center assistant waves and says “Hey man!” whenever I see him. My gender is affirmed on campus because most people don’t know I’m trans unless I tell them. 

But that leads to another problem: no one knows unless I tell them. Carleton is an incredibly accepting place, but I constantly feel the need to keep up my identity as male to not cause suspicion. I intentionally lower my voice, I make sure no one sees me walking around without a binder, and I try not to let anyone see my OneCard, which still has my deadname on it. 

The thing is, I’m not trying to hide the fact that I am trans, or “go stealth,” which would be pretty much impossible after this article is published anyway. But in the back of my mind, I feel like I don’t want to take this fresh start for granted. If people see me as a guy, I want to let them keep seeing me that way, and I don’t want to distort that image.

This raises another question: Do I fit into the trans community here at Carleton? I came to Carleton after moving through high school while keeping my experiences to myself. Sure, some people back home know I’m trans, but I never really talked about it. Because of this, I don’t know myself as a trans man enough to truly feel like I fit into a lot of trans spaces. I have met a lot of people that have come out to their parents and had experience living as their true self before coming to Carleton. I also know a lot of people who haven’t come out and are experiencing life as an out trans person for the first time. But I exist in a liminal space between the two, and that makes it difficult for me to articulate what I am going through.

I was asked why it was hard for me to remember how I felt during difficult memories after I read what I had written during an A&I writing exercise. “I’m not an emotions guy,” I replied jokingly. But it really is true. I just don’t talk to anyone about my experiences, especially not adults or authority figures. That A&I discussion, as well as the Carleton Transmasculine Group, were some of the only times I have ever talked to other queer people about what it is like to exist as an openly trans and queer person. A short conversation with the chaplain has been the only time in the past four years that I talked to an adult about being trans. There are so many resources and people around me that share similar experiences and are willing to help, but I have emotionally constrained myself, and it is hard for me to loosen up again. 

All in all, my fresh start at Carleton has been pretty awesome. Everyone from back home, from my friends to my extended family, say I look like I’ve never been happier, even though only the former know why. Living as who I was meant to be is incredible, and besides the odd looks I get from mail services when they check my OneCard when I pick up a package, I haven’t had any experiences with being read as the wrong gender. But I would be lying if I said that trying to adjust to being read as male all the time wasn’t exhausting. Carleton is an adjustment for every first-year, but I feel like being newly able to express myself 24/7 is just another thing I have to balance. And while I really need to get in the habit of talking about my feelings more and putting less pressure on myself, I’ll just enjoy the “hey man”s from my writing center guy for now.

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About the Contributor
Isaac Kofsky
Isaac Kofsky, Viewpoint Editor
Hi there! I’m Isaac (he/him) and I’m a first-year prospective religion or geology major. I’ve been described as “the chapel’s press liaison” and I love eating dinner at 4:45pm, reading non-fiction, wearing sweaters, and drinking two cups of black coffee at every meal. When I’m not in Carletonian pitch meetings or in religion class, you can normally find me doing homework in the chapel or drinking tea in the religion lounge.   Isaac Kofsky '27 was previously a Beat Writer.  

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