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2014 Spring Issue 5 (May 9, 2014)

A Look Into Transgender Identity: An Interview with Vivian McNaughton on Her Gender Transformation

May 9, 2014
By Abby Hellman

This week, I interviewed Vivian McNaugton ’14 on her journey of coming out and accepting herself as a transgender individual.

Even on a campus as open and accepting as Carleton, it can difficult to talk about some subjects. After struggling internally for years, McNaughton came out at Carleton last term. You may recognize her story from Humans of Carleton.

In this piece, I sought to explore and learn about her journey more in-depth.

McNaughton has struggled with depression for some time now, and only in the last year realized that her depression was likely linked to dysphoria. Once she began researching the topic, she understood that these two attributes were definitely related.

In fact, since she has come out, McNaughton feels as if she has finally accepted who she is, instead of referring to her feminine desires as a quirk or fetish, and the process of her physical transformation can finally begin.

She shared that, “not a lot has changed except for my going public,” she said, “but that has made all the difference.

McNaughton has always been somewhat cognizant of her desire to be identified as a woman, especially since puberty. But up until this last term at Carleton, McNaughton compartmentalized these desires because of the transphobia she felt internally.

“I never felt pressure from any specific individual, but the general societal pressure was always there,” McNaughton said. As a result, for many years Vivian continued to identify herself as a man, even though it led to severe depression.

Now that McNaughton has come out, she has started the process of her physical transformation. Before any surgery or other physical changes can be made, however, she is medically required to see a therapist. To ensure a standard of care, this informed consent is required by most doctors.

McNaughton started these therapy sessions, and has taken a leave of absence in order to give her transformation full attention. But the medical process of physical transformation is extremely expensive and as of now, McNaughton’s insurance has refused to cover anything. “At best, they have been noncommittal,” she said.

To supplement the costs, one of McNaughton’s close friends has started a donation campaign on www.gofundme.com/HelpViviantransition. As of May 5th, 2014, the campaign has raised $5,000 in 22 days. This is half of the $10,000 goal, which hopefully will relieve McNaughton of some of the financial burden.  

McNaughton is planning on returning to Carleton to finish her diploma, but when she receives that degree, she wants the college to recognize her as Vivian McNaughton.

Although Carleton recognizing her new name and gender should not be a problem, there has been legal trouble in the past when individuals have attempted to be recognized as a different gender at the state level.

In California, citizens may legally change their gender on their birth certificate. However, no courts, state or federal, have tested this type of certificate change yet, and thus there exists legal contention as to whether this change is constitutionally legal.  In order to have legal identification for transgender individuals, a battle will have to be fought in this arena.

McNaughton, who from now on wishes to be identified exclusively as female, has no intention of keeping her past a secret. In fact, she has large aspirations for bringing recognition to the transgender community. “As a CAMS major, I one day hope to find a job in television, movies, or comedy, and I used to see this as a selfish aspiration, but now I hope that if I can one day become well known then I can hopefully shed some light on what it is like to be transgender.”

Seventeen states currently have laws that prevent against gender identity discrimination in the work place. In the future, this number will hopefully continue to rise as brave individuals such as McNaughton educate the public on what it means to be transgender.

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