“People are afraid of what they don’t know”

From Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair interview to the House of Commons’ first-ever Transgender Equality report, 2015 was said to be “the year to be trans”.

However, the challenges for transgender people are far from over and there are still many barriers to overcome.

Transgender speakers Laith Ashley de la Cruz and Natalie Roberts told their personal stories and what it means to be ‘trans’ at Kingston University’s Penrhyn Road Campus on March 8.

They explained that gender transition is a personal journey but there are some common barriers, such as the fear of losing family and friends.

De la Cruz, a New York-based model, said: “People are afraid of what they don’t know.”

He said that his family is still “in mourning” following his recent transition and that it is particularly hard for his religious mum.

“She prays that I can still be her little girl. She still refers to me as ‘she’ and as her daughter and says ‘I know what I gave birth to.’

“All she wants for me is salvation, and if I don’t receive it I will go to hell. For her, this is the devil corrupting me.”

Roberts, who has spread awareness of transgender issues since transforming from a “lad’s lad” in the Royal Navy, said she was ‘outed’ by a former work colleague to 500 people via Facebook despite asking the person to “please be discreet”.

She explained that some of the personal barriers she has overcome included relationship breakdowns, employment concerns, financial difficulties and the loss of friends and family members.

She also gave examples of inappropriate questions she is asked on a weekly basis:

  1. What’s your name? (“Natalie”). No, what’s your real name?
  2. Which toilet do you use?
  3. Have you had the full operation?
  4. Why did you turn gay? (“Because I’m obviously gay…”)
  5. You were so handsome as a man, why do you want to be a woman?
  6. Can I feel your boobs/penis?
  7. I know some drag queens like you – do you know them?
  8. Do you go for men or women?
  9. Are you the man or the woman in bed?
  10. When or why did you decide to be trans?

De la Cruz, who has also worked at the LGBT-friendly Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York, said that this was his first ever talk in public on transgender issues and that he had flown to London exclusively for this KU event.

After the event he posted these pictures on Instagram to his 68,000 followers:


Moments. #kingstonuniversity #uk #london #learning #higherlearning #lecture Et bilde publisert av Laith Ashley [De La Cruz] (@laith_ashley)

The event was held by the Academic Multicultural and Diversity Programme (AMDP) at KU.

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