Most first-year students living in the residence halls have to adapt to living away from home. For some, they walk down a hall to shower, noting the lack of privacy. For Breckin DeWane, his biggest concern involved his choice of which gender designated bathroom to use, due to a fear of a consequence for his decision.
To most people, they obey the gender designated restroom signs without much thought. For DeWane and others who identify as transgender, the visual of the sign that indicates male or female can dictate their fate from the minute they enter the restroom. He started his transition during his second semester of his first year of college.
DeWane recently started to use the men’s bathroom this academic year, his fifth at West Chester University. Normally he would have to “sprint home” to his dorm room to use the bathroom on his co-ed floor. It was a place where other residents knew him already. Mainly, he got adjusted to resorting to walk to Starbucks only to use the single occupancy bathroom.
“I would hold it,” DeWane said in regards to having a full bladder when he’s not near a gender-neutral or single occupancy bathroom. “I got really good at holding it.”
DeWane said he’s always looked like a male his whole life, which is one reason why he felt uncomfortable using the female designated. Women have a tendency to police the bathrooms, he said as he recalled how women have told him that he was in the wrong bathroom. Even before he took the steps to go through a transition, he felt subjected to the comments coming from the women who acted as the bathroom police. He remembers the condescending comments.
“I’d rather have someone say to leave than [for them] to beat me up,” DeWane explained. During most of his collegiate experience, he returned home to his residence to use the bathroom out of fear for his safety. His freshman year he showered in the female’s bathroom at odd hours of the night as to not worry about an uncomfortable interaction in the bathroom.
He has never been forcibly removed from a bathroom. He got used to the stares from women who silently questioned him. It made him feel uncomfortable too and it annoyed him when someone would try to determine his gender.
“I always had the understanding in the back of my mind that it could make people uncomfortable,” DeWane said in regards to using the gender-designated bathroom. He preferred to not use gender-designated bathrooms as the use of one would indicate his gender.
DeWane recalled seventh grade as one of his youngest accounts when women yelled at him for his alleged use of the wrong bathroom. At the time, he was a young girl dressed in boys clothing with a short hair cut. Every encounter he had to explain that he was a girl. He hated that. He didn’t hate when he had to explain himself. He hated to admit he was a girl since he always wanted to be boy.
“It always makes my day when someone call me sir,” DeWane said. For him, he gets happy when he passes as a male, he explained as he smiled.
When someone calls him ‘miss’ or ‘baby girl’ he wonders why he looks more feminine that day as opposed to other days. While DeWane realizes not everyone would want to be asked what their preferred pronoun is, he would rather people not assume what his gender is. He finds it progressive when people ask about his gender and want to learn about his experiences.
After he came out as identifying as transgender, he no longer had to explain himself. His mom no longer corrected people about his gender. DeWane said his mom saw how happy it made him. At the age of 15, he realized he was trans. To add to his wardrobe and looks, he started a trick last semester to appear more like a male. He uses mascara to create his beard, which makes him feel more comfortable using the men’s bathroom now. He admitted it took some time to perfect the mascara to appear as authentic facial hair.
His casual wear includes a collared shirt with a tie. He has a collection of over 200 ties.
“I just got to know myself when I got here,” DeWane said. He discovered college students were accepting, which enables him to be more open about his story. He holds the position of the speakout coordinator for LGBTQA. He has gained support from friends and the LGBTQA community.
DeWane dealt with a bully in middle school who continued to ask him if he was a boy or a girl. The continuous comments built up, though he was able to finally not let the comments bother him when his friends encouraged him to forget what the bully said. DeWane and the bully had been friends in elementary school. The friendship ended when the bully transferred out. The friendship turned into bullying when the student returned and noticed DeWane wearing boys clothing.
He also lost a friendship in college to one person who would not be supportive of his transition. The student transferred out and never apologized.
Along with supports from other WCU students, he acknowledged his mom is his biggest supporter.
DeWane understands the transition has been the hardest for his twin sister. His family now acknowledges his twin is now the only daughter among three brothers. Despite the transition starting five years ago, his twin sister started to call him her brother just a couple months ago. His dad also recently started calling him Breckin.
Saving up money for a legal name change, he will officially be named Breckin Samuel DeWane. He picked this name after the actor Breckin Meyer. The name stuck and he favors the name since it sounds like a gender-neutral name.
Ginger Rae Dunbar is a fifth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at RD655287@wcupa.edu.