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Nicholas Martinez was on the bus to the Barrett Honors College Polytechnic student retreat before the start of his first semester at college when he was struck by a dilemma.
As rooming assignments were being handed out Martinez was apprehensive because he would be assigned to a cabin for female students. Martinez is a transgender man, assigned female at birth, who started transitioning from his birth assigned gender upon entering Arizona State University. He had just started going by his new name and using male pronouns, but had not had the time to let the college know.
Entering college can be daunting for first year students, as a search for a space to be accepted and embraced begins. Martinez previously toured Barrett Poly and one of the student leaders on the retreat had been his guide. The student leader had mentioned being involved in theater, a community many of Martinez’s friends were a part of, and he felt like this person could be sympathetic and helpful. Martinez explained the situation and asked if he could move cabins. A Barrett Poly student retreat coordinator helped Martinez correct his name and pronouns accordingly for the retreat. When asked about helping Martinez, the student said it was not a big deal, but to Martinez it was more than that.
“Someone who knows to ask for pronouns? That was very comforting and I felt very much like they were accommodating. Barrett in that moment did everything absolutely right. There was no way they could have known ahead of time that I went by a different name and a different gender, but everyone switched immediately, as soon as I brought it to their attention,” Martinez said.
A few months into his first semester Martinez met with his Barrett Polytechnic honors advisor and found a similar form of acceptance.
“He was basically asking if I was out to my family and if there were any privacy concerns,” Martinez said. Once again Barrett Poly provided a supportive environment for Martinez, making him feel included and accepted.
Martinez sought out an LGBTQ+ organization on the Polytechnic campus and found Prism, an organization that creates a safe space for LGBTQ+ community members.
Prism has made a positive impact on Martinez and he has stepped into the role of vice president of the group. Prism members are his classmates and closest friends, and the organization has been a pivotal part of his transition to college.
“I transitioned to male at the beginning of college. It was the first time I started using he/him pronouns and switched to the name Nicholas. So at the time I very much looked female, people definitely saw me as female, and there was this one place once a week where I knew that was not a problem I had to worry about, so I could let my guard down,” he said, referring to weekly Prism meetings.
The people in Prism provided not only a safe comfortable space for Martinez, but also a place where he could enjoy himself. He could be open about who he was, have fun, and joke around in a way he may not have felt comfortable elsewhere.
Martinez is now a sophomore Barrett Poly student majoring in Applied Biology Sciences and minoring in Counseling and Applied Psychological Sciences. The acceptance, safety and social support Martinez has found allows him to relax and gain emotional stability while focusing on school work.
Martinez strongly suggests that LGBTQ+ students considering going to ASU apply to the honors college. Barrett provides a community of people who help provide an extra layer of social and academic support, he said.
Barrett has provided Martinez opportunities to be surrounded by people with similar academic goals and establish a supportive friend group. Barrett is “socially and academically a good idea,” Cevallos said, adding that the resources and support found at Barrett is good for all students, not just LGBTQ+ students.
Martinez believes that organizations like Prism also are important.
“Many people may not know that Prism exists. For any LGBTQ+ students in Barrett or on the Polytechnic campus, just attending a meeting or knowing about Prism has the potential to help.”
Trans Awareness Week at ASU continues until November 20. Trans Awareness Week is a time for transgender and gender nonconforming individuals and their allies to take action and bring attention to campus by educating the ASU community and advancing advocacy around the issues of prejudice, discrimination, and violence that transgender individuals face. Transgender Day of Remembrance occurs November 20, when trans advocates raise awareness of the transgender community through education and advocacy activities.
Out@ ASU, a division of ASU Student and Cultural Engagement, provides resources and information for LGBTQ+ students.
The Rainbow Coalition helps improve the campus climate for the LGBTQIA+ community and advocates for LGBTQIA+ interests at ASU.
Story by Deborah Eisenberg, a Barrett Honors Student majoring in Engineering (Mechanical Systems) at the ASU Polytechnic Campus.