In order to illustrate how difficult it is for transgender people to make the transition, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and That Gay Group! held an event for Transgender Day of Remembrance.
A panel discussion took place in Hubbard Hall, room 211 from 1 to 3 p.m. yesterday and featured a group of transgender people, including Elle Boatman, a WSU student.
Before the panel began, Boatman talked about her experience in transitioning genders.
Boatman said she started cross-dressing as a child and she did so in private.
“I felt ashamed for doing it and being who I was,” Boatman said.
To prove to herself that she was, in fact, a man at the time, Boatman decided to join the Air Force, which she said was the “least manly branch of the military.”
She was in the Air Force and married with children for 10 years. However, she said she was not happy.
“I hated every minute of my life because it was a lie,” she said.
Boatman eventually came out as transgender to her then-wife on Christmas Eve 2009, while they were living in Japan. By New Year’s her wife had moved out and taken their children with her, back to Ohio. She experienced some of her darker times then.
“Not only was I miserable, I was alone,” Boatman said.
Eventually, Boatman came to Wichita and slowly adjusted to life. She attempted suicide a few times because of all her pain. She said the only reason she is alive today is because her roommate, at the time, found her passed out from a Loritab overdose, and called the police.
With counseling, Boatman was able to heal and start taking the steps to transition.
She was also able to come out as transgender to both parents, which she said was not easy to do.
When she told her mother, her mother accepted her and told her to tell her father slowly. Boatman eventually told her father, who said his other daughter had seen photos of Boatman on the Internet dressed in women’s clothing.
“He said, ‘I can live with two daughters,’” Boatman said of her father’s reaction.
Five days after she told her father, he died of a stroke. Since then, her family has been supportive of her choice.
Today, Boatman is an advocate for transgender people in the Wichita area.
“My hope in sharing my story… is more than to remember the trans people who died, but remember that they were people,” Boatman said.
After Boatman shared her story, a panel she was on, started, with three more transgender people speaking.
Another transgender supporter, a gay male named Evan, who is a WSU graduate, joined the group.
Isaac, one of the speakers, said despite churches seeming to reject the idea of transgender people, others are more accepting.
“There are a lot of accepting churches in Wichita,” he said.
Evan added that the times are changing with attitudes not only against transgender people, but also gays and lesbians.
“The attitude of the whole country is changing,” he said.
Natalie Toney of OMA attended the talk and said she was pleased with the overall event.
“This may be one of the best panels I’ve sat on and I’ve sat on several,” Toney said. “Elle’s story was special because she’s gone through trials and so has everyone else. The panel discussion was very real because they were honest. I was moved and impressed.”