TK Pritchard, a recent graduate of Queen’s University is our April blog contributor. Heavily involved in student government while at Queen’s, TK bravely and honestly discusses transitions and transitioning while at university.
When I was in grade 8 I came to Queen’s as part of one of the enrichment programs. I spent a week living in residence, eating in the cafeterias, and attending programming. It was during that time that I fell in love with the campus and hoped I would return one day as a student. I recently came across a picture of myself on the last day of the program, standing in my temporary Gordon Hall room, wearing a newly acquired Queen’s sweatshirt and red basketball shorts, long blond hair all over the place—a look that fit nicely into my tomboy label. Fast forward ten years, and there I am again, same goofy smile but this time sporting a bow tie and graduation gown, my hair cut short and tidy. By the time I left Queen’s, I had not only altered my clothes and hair, but I had socially, hormonally, and surgically transitioned. As a trans-identified student, my time as a Gael was a true era of self-discovery and change.
Before I came out as trans, I identified as a gay woman and was heavily involved in the campus queer community. Both inside and outside of the community, there were very limited examples of gender variant people and I struggled to find myself reflected in a way that seemed to make sense. In my third year I came to recognize my trans identity and briefly felt relief before quickly spiralling into a fear fuelled, isolated state which centred around three words: What happens now? In a city the size of Kingston, resources for trans youth are not abundant and I had no clue where to turn for help.
I found my solace in the undergraduate student government, the Alma Mater Society (AMS). While I couldn’t find many people who shared particular pieces of my experience, I did find passionate, supportive student leaders who helped pull me through the most difficult times. When I was a volunteer, it was another volunteer who compelled me to see a counsellor. As the Social Issues Commissioner, it was my boss who supported me in being part of the Human Rights Office’s gender neutral bathroom audit. He understood that my time on campus was annoyingly plagued with figuring out when and where I could pee safely. When I ran for an Executive position the first time, it was my teammates and manager who stopped the student paper from running an article on our childhoods, knowing that that would be too complicated for me then. My team was there for me again the second time I campaigned, taking care of me as my newly introduced hormone shots resulted in consistent vomiting. As the Vice President, University Affairs, and the first openly trans-identified AMS Executive member, my Council and permanent staff soothed my nerves before top surgery and supported me afterwards.
My fellow student leaders filled the gaps that existed. They understood when I had to go to Toronto for appointments or Montreal for my surgery. They were empathetic when I expressed my fears of attending classes due to the chance of being misgendered, or called by my old name. Ultimately, being involved in a community of such vibrant, dedicated leaders gave me a home, even when I felt different or alone.