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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Janiuk speaks at Diversity Week

The Spectator
By: Lyssa Beyer
Issue date: 10/31/05
Section: Campus News

Many people unknowingly hold misconceptions about ideas referring to homosexuality and its relationship with the concept of gender identity, said senior Jessica Janiuk, a transsexual student at UW-Eau Claire.

These are the misconceptions Janiuk, who was Diversity Week's keynote speaker, addressed during her presentation on being a transsexual student at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in Hibbard 101.

Janiuk said sexual orientation is an attraction to someone. It is something outside of your body, while your gender identity is "how you identify as."

"I identify myself as a transsexual," she said. "My physical body and my gender identity were so far apart from each other that I had to seek out physical change."

As Janiuk outlined the many details of her transition, several audience members asked questions to understand a topic many of them had never discussed before.

The first question that arose from the audience was how Janiuk knew she really was supposed to be a woman. Her answer came in the form of a comparison to random cravings for food. "Where does that craving come from?" she asked. "What is telling you that you like it?"

"I don't know," answered an audience member.

"Exactly," Januik said.

She also explained aspects about the transition that came as a surprise to many.

For instance, before a person can take hormone pills, he or she has to meet several pre-requisites. It has to be certain that any one wishing to undergo this transition to the opposite gender wants to only because of gender identity issues, and not because they suffer from some other mental disorder.

This is crucial to know, because hormones have many side affects that are irreversible, and surgery is permanent as well.

Such a permanent decision also requires the involvement of family. The board that evaluates whether a person is fit for the transition requests the presence of the person's parents so it can see that the family at least is aware of what is going on.

However, not all parents are willing to accept such a transformation, and Janiuk explained that exceptions are made in individual cases to these guidelines.

Janiuk's parents accepted it.

Although it took time, they eventually realized that she should do what she needed to do to be happy. Januik said.

Senior Kelly Pierce said she was awestruck by the courage it took for Janiuk to stand up for what she wanted.

"I was so impressed with her strength of character," she said. "She knew that it would be a possibility that her friends and family would abandon her, but she stayed true to herself because she knew what was right for her, and that's awesome."

One thing that could not be altered by hormones was Janiuk's voice. She worked with a voice trainer on the Eau Claire campus to learn how to raise her voice and achieve a feminine sound.

Achieving the complete transition from masculinity to femininity is a long road, and Januik portrayed the physical transition through years of photographs.

Looking at the changes in the pictures sparks different emotions in Janiuk.

"It's interesting because that was me," she said.

"I remember that moment when I was standing there. It's like seeing a different person, but not."


Blogger wind walker said...

the learning channel had a very interesting and informative show that chronicaled the lives of several transexuals as they went through the final stages before surgery....i forget what the show was called, but it was handled very well (i thought so anyways) and i was amazed how many years it takes to complete the transformation...

hope you are doing well today!! and thank you for your nice words!!

10:11 pm  

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