Some of you may know that I’ve returned back to university to complete my 4th year for a Bachelor of Psychology. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) when I was about to turn 21. So that was a good decade ago.
Needless to say, I was nervous, excited and happy all at the same time. It’s a mixture of not knowing what to expect from other students and lecturers, my brain has been collecting dust for a while and of course, presenting as male for the first time to a whole new community.
Today was the last uni day of the semester, I still have one assignment and two exams to complete before I can say that I’m officially done with this semester but I needed a break to take care of myself so I decided I should really write a post to document this. I’ve decided to compile my experience over the semester in three categories.
Experience of being a mature aged student amogst younger students
While I was not the oldest student in the course, I was indeed one of the oldest. But I don’t look my age so I kinda blended in. Though it was only my appearance that did. In my group projects, I was a decade older than the youngest member – that meant that when I graduated from my first degree, they weren’t even in high school.
Yep – if that wasn’t enough to make me feel like a grandpa, I got bamboozled with their lingo. Apparently it’s a thing to just abbreviate when you talk. Like instead of ‘sorry’ it’s ‘soz’. Which I can understand, not that I attempted to try it out. I also didn’t share their same interests like partying and drinking at the campus tavern. I’ve done my fair share of partying in my younger days, now all I want to do is Netflix and chill. But I’ve actually started using Snapchat often and liking it. I didn’t understand the appeal when I first started but it’s cool now – all the cool kids use it right? (my username is rkodoku)
As much as I’d like to have been able to blend in better, I guess this old dog just doesn’t want to keep up. Though it would’ve been nice to make a few new friends – my groupmates and I are Facebook friends but that’s just how we communicate regarding groupwork (social media FTW!). But I have made the attempt to talk to new people through the Curtin Queer Department so I’d call that a win and brings me to the next category.
Experience of presenting as stealth
Being on testosterone for almost 6 months before university started has really changed my features and voice. Not to mention I had completed top surgery so I was more confident and did not feel dysphoric when out on campus. While I would not deny that I am transgender, I did not want to come out either.
I’m doing my own ‘social experiment’ just for kicks. This was sparked by something I noticed amongst my first few interactions with my group members. It could be just in my head, but here’s what I observed: women tend to look at me and see me as male, whilst men were on the fence or not very certain. I say this cause one of the guys in the group has used the ‘she’ pronoun on me several times. It wasn’t until he saw me entering the men’s when he started using ‘he’ without being wary. And again, it could just be in my head, but it was still interesting to note.
For my ‘experiment’, I will see how well I get along with them by the end of the year (my dissertation group is for the whole year) and if I feel comfortable enough to reveal to them that I was transgender and see how they react. I’m also keen to find out if my observations were accurate or just me being extra sensitive because I was stealth. However, if you’re one of my group mates reading this, do let me know that you know alright 😀
Another reason I presented as cis-male, even during a training session by Pride in Diversity about workplace inclusion, was because I felt that my opinions would have more effect if people were to see me as cis-male. If I were to comment on someone making a homophobic or transphobic comment, they would more likely listen to me than if they knew I was trans. This is just because I feel that if I was out to the world, the person may choose to say something like “You’re just being sensitive because you’re gay/lesbian/trans”. Luckily, I’ve never experienced anyone making such a comment so I haven’t had to confront anyone.
Experience of university life
Ah… university life. Most students will say that it involves partying, drinking too much, eating instant noodles and all-nighters. But for an old man like me, nothing much has changed except that instead of going to work, I go to classes. Oh and eating instant noodles haha.
In terms of studying, I must admit that it was hard to get back into ‘student mode’ after so many years. It took me longer than others to read a journal article and understand it because the language seemed to foreign to me. Also cause most of the other students were in their 4th year studies directly after 3rd year, they still remembered what they learned in the earlier years of the degree. For me, well, let’s say that the main statistic ‘bible’ that all Psych students should have and quote from wasn’t even published when I graduated.
So I’ve spent most of my time trying to catch up with the information in 2nd and 3rd year studies. It’s been stressful and there were times I just wanted to call it quits and become a professional blob of existence. And what do you know, here I am so close to the end of the first semester.
That basically sums up my first semester in university after a decade. Overall it’s been great. Though there are times that I wonder what am I doing with my life – my friends are getting engaged, married and having kids while it feels like I’m going nowhere.
But hey, it’s never too late to start building the life you want. And for the young ones reading this post, this is your life, your journey. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s not impossible – all you need is hard work and time. If an old man like me can transition at 30 and go back to university, you can do it too 🙂
As part of my fourth year University studies I am conducting some research into how people listen to music in their everyday lives.
If you would like to participate in this short questionnaire it would be greatly appreciated. The link below will take you straight to the survey which should take about 30 minutes to complete.