Transgender identity: Let’s end the confusion

Imagine coming across a very feminine person with long blond hair and a pencil skirt. Then, they introduce themselves as Larry. In many cases, there is some level of confusion associated with a gender identity that does not match the first name.

Thankfully, more resources have become available in recent years to transgender people who encounter such confusion in Pittsburgh. The Name Change Project, an effort to provide free legal aid to transgender individuals seeking to alter their name, came to Pittsburgh in late 2013. The project’s director said its arrival stemmed from a “very strong demand for services,” according to an article published Monday in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Since the program’s arrival, 19 name changes have been completed, with 17 more in process and 23 on a waiting list. 

Individuals who change their names to match their gender identity receive less negative feedback from others. It makes their lives easier and allows them to enjoy the benefits of personal freedom in sexual identity.

Nonprofit organizations like The Name Change Project play a role in Pittsburgh’s reception as gay- and transgender-friendly. According to the Human Rights Campaign’s 2014 municipal equality index (MEI), Pittsburgh is the second-most LGBTQ friendly city in the state, behind Philadelphia. 

This is certainly progress in a positive, accepting direction.

That being said, this spring, notable transgender activist Laverne Cox will visit the University, thanks to Pitt’s Rainbow Alliance. Cox is known for her role as Sophia Burset, an incarcerated hairdresser, in Netflix’s “Orange Is The New Black.”

Her visit in March falls during Pitt’s Pride Week, an LGBTQ celebration that takes places from March 30 to April 3. She will speak, from her own perspective, on the struggles and successes of the transgender community.

Cox’s visit to Pitt is one vehicle through which we can learn about the greater community of transgender people within and outside of Pittsburgh. Our generation is becoming increasingly vocal and interested in sharing the challenges that come with sexual identities that haven’t been fully integrated into society. 

Cox’s presence on a popular television show has brought more attention to her own “Journey to Womanhood” — a path that is shared by people in our own city. 

Her visit has the potential to be a step toward equality for sexual minorities, which we, as a society, have yet to fully accomplish. She allows us to enter into a dialogue about genderqueer people that we may not have had before.

Through public figures like Laverne Cox and organizations like The Name Change Project, students on college campuses, like Pitt, may have less confusion when encountering transgender peers.