BY BECCA BLOOMQUIST
Thomas Fellman, 21, was once Alyson.
“It wasn’t because I liked different things than most girls my age,” he says, “but because I felt out of place.”
Something about himself just was not right.
“I was 14 when I came across the word transgender,” Fellman says. “Almost instantaneously, I felt like it applied to me.”
He did not stick the label directly to himself till he was about the age of 18.
Accepting such a drastic change can be difficult for the person enduring it, but also for the people around them. It is not always something easily accepted.
“I lost a lot of my longtime friends,” Fellman says. “Some of my family members no longer associated with me.”
With such a transition, there are many medical challenges to overcome. Before the process can even begin, a lot of pres-creening is involved.
“There is a lot of maintenance you have to keep up with,” Says Fellman. “It can become incredibly expensive.”
The label transgender comes with a lot of misconceptions, such as being a sexual deviant or that a person chooses the lifestyle.
“It is really no different than being your average, every day, normal person,” Fellman says.
Fellman has spent thousands of dollars on his transition thus far, and is not close to the end.
“I still haven’t had any of the surgeries,” he says, “all of which are tens of thousands of dollars.”
According to Surgeryencyclopedia.com, the pricing for a transition can go well over $50,000 and it becomes unaffordable for the average person, especially someone that does not have insurance, like Thomas.
“The suicide rate of transgender youth is alarmingly high,” he says, “making everything more affordable for us would definitely help lower that.”
Raymond Banister, 19 is currently transitioning. Previously referred to Raeann, he had always know that something just was not right.
“I would avoid looking at myself in the mirror,” Banister said.
He also began to participate in self- harm. At around the age of 14, like Thomas, it all seemed to come together.
“I figured out what transgender meant,” Banister said. “I started to understand why I was feeling this way.”
Banister has tried multiple times to come out to his parents and express who he really is, but has only received negativity. His parents threatened to burn all of his clothing classified as manly, along with sending him off to some sort of camp.
“My friends were much more accepting,” Banister says, “although they do mis-gender me sometimes.”
Banister has become stronger from this experience, and continues to have a positive outlook. All he wishes for is to be a normal guy, but in the meantime remains positive that it will eventually happen.
“As long as my friends continue to support me,” Banister says, “I know I can start feeling better and begin living a normal life.”
Devon Sheppard, 22 was around the age of 7, he began to realize who he was.
“The most mentally difficult part of transitioning is the emotional stress,” says Sheppard, “that just seeing your own body gives you.”
The experience has caused Sheppard to be extremely anxious, along with angry.
“My closest friends accepted me immediately, but some of my friends did not.” he said. “My family also did not accept me immediately.”
Although the LGBT community has become more accepted in today’s society, Sheppard while attending college, underwent extreme bullying.
“After I changed my name,” he says, “I was the target of transphobic bullying nearly every day by my peers.”
While many people in the transgender community does not fully agree with the Caitlyn Jenner situation, want people to be more educated in transgender and what it means.
“I hope her popularity will help educate a wider audience,” Sheppard says, “that would have otherwise stayed ignorant. I wish people would understand that transgenders are no different.”
A majority of the time, transgenders are reaching for the same goals as anyone else: to have a family, and to be successful.
“We are always willing to help educate you,” Fellman says, “and help you understand better why and how we are the way we are.”