Life as a transgender student on campus

By Lauren Schroeder |

For Ryan Rish, growing up consisted of pretending to be someone he was not.

That was until he decided to accept and express who he really was.

Ryan Rish, a sophomore at Flagler College came out as transexual at the age of 14.

“One day I just couldn’t take it anymore because I knew that I wasn’t a girl, so I just got really depressed and knew that I needed to transition,” Rish said.

At an early age, Rish began noticing the differences between himself and his female friends.

“I had a lot of friends but I felt like I couldn’t relate to women. One day I looked up girl that feels like a guy on Google and that’s pretty much how I found out everything,” Rish said.

Rish suppressed his emotions and feelings growing up due to societal pressure to fit in.

“I never thought of myself as a girl growing up because I was always a tomboy, so when I was around 10, to be more socially accepted, I started dressing really feminine and wearing more makeup,” Rish said.

After coming out, things for Rish slowly began improving as he gained acceptance from his peers and family.

Once Rish came to college, he faced some of the same issues that he dealt with previously. Despite being transgender, he was still placed into the female freshman dorms.

“They put me in Ponce because they said since I’m legally still female I had to live in Ponce freshman year,” Rish said.

After the progress Rish had made being transgender, being labeled as female was a frustrating setback.

“I still have RAs that come up to me and ask why I’m on that floor and I say that I’m transgender and I was put here. It’s just embarrassing. I don’t think they think about that part, they just think if you’re legally female you have to live there,” Rish said.

Because legally changing his name is a difficult process, there was not much that Rish could do about his situation at Flagler.

“The middle of freshman year I asked to move into FEC because it’s a little better, not always just one block is female, it’s usually split. So now I live in a split block in Tower C. But I’m trying to move to Abare Hall or off campus if I can,” Rish said.

Despite housing complications, Rish is still happy with the improvements Flagler College has made for the LGBT community with having transgender dorms in Abare Hall.

However, even though Flagler College has established a floor in Abare for transgender students, he was still not accommodated and had to live in FEC.

“I think they should consider transgender students first for living in Abare Hall. I just think that there should be a better process,” Rish said.

Clint Scheffel, the resident assistant for the transgender floor in Abare Hall, said that it was exciting when they heard about the decision for gender neutral dorms.

For Scheffel, being transgender and being the resident assistant for the transgender dorms was an amazing opportunity. Scheffel said how Flagler College is doing its best to accommodate students in the LGBT community.

“I know [Director of Residence Life] Michelle Holland is really into making a safe environment for transgender individuals so it’s really just a matter of working with the school on that more than anything,” Scheffel said.

Even though the changes for the LGBT community appear to be occurring at a slow rate, they are indeed occurring. Scheffel said that they were pleased to be able to have their preferred name on their dorm doors.

“Before, it would be legal name, preferred name, last name. But now we can just have the preferred name because the last name doesn’t change. I know they did it before for security purposes but now we can have the name we prefer and that’s just an awesome thing,” Scheffel said.

With the emergence of gender neutral dorms that hopefully will continue to expand, students such as Rish will be better accommodated and feel more accepted at Flagler College.

“No one ever calls me she. Most people don’t even realize I’m transgender but when they do find out they’re really nice about it,” Rish said.

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