Jam Greenland, undergraduate
13-19 November is Transgender Awareness Week, leading up to Transgender Day of Remembrance on 20 November. We spoke to student Jam Greenland who’s an undergraduate at Trinity Hall and is transgender and non-binary.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Jam (they/them), 18 years old and a first year MML student (German and Spanish). When I’m not studying, I’m usually listening to Taylor Swift, or at the Boat Club/ADC Theatre. I also love reading and watching romcoms – my favourites have to be One Last Stop and The Proposal.
What would you like Transgender Awareness Week to accomplish?
I would want people to come away with an awareness of the diversity of the trans experience. Everybody’s experiences of transition can be so different – not every trans person is a man or a woman and not every trans person can or will want to go on hormones/have surgery/change their name; even for those people who do follow that path, it will look different for everyone, especially when you bear in mind people’s different backgrounds, races, sexualities, classes, countries, disabilities, etc.
Furthermore, I hope society can learn to view and treat trans people as fully human and not as an embodiment of an ideology. As much as being trans can be very important to people as it significantly affects daily life, trans people are just as complex, nuanced and individual with their likes, dislikes, fears, wishes, pet peeves, etc., as any cisgender person would be.
I hope people feel compelled to listen to trans people’s voices and be led by us in how to best implement trans inclusion everywhere, and also educate themselves about key issues facing the trans community (such as the dire state of trans healthcare in the UK at the moment).
What is your experience as someone who is transgender/non-binary at Cambridge?
I think I’ve been very lucky with my experiences at Cambridge so far being transgender and non-binary. I was definitely quite worried before I came that, being a languages student, I’d have to use the wrong gendered language to refer to myself, but the Faculty has been amazing at actively pointing out I can use language that reflects my gender, which was really heart-warming and affirming.
I also changed my name here, which did take a lot of admin to sort out properly and it’s still a bit tricky now that, as it isn’t legally changed and I still have to use my legal name in a lot of contexts, I do have to see it fairly frequently. It’s not a massive issue for me, but I can imagine for some people who can’t legally change their names but get triggered by their old ones, that would be a lot harder.
Something else that concerned me about Cambridge was formal dress codes – often very tricky to understand even when you aren’t trans or gender non-conforming! Thankfully, I was able to message the SU LGBT+ Campaign Trans/Non-binary Representatives and the Trinity Hall JCR LGBTQ+ Officers prior to coming to Cambridge to get some clarity on what is both suitably formal and made me feel like myself. So far, Trinity Hall has been such a welcoming and inclusive space for me, not only with the students but also staff like my tutor and DoS (director of study); I’ve really appreciated everything Ursie and Jemma have done to promote LGBTQ+ equality in College (the JCR reps), such as encouraging those who feel comfortable doing so to put pronouns in their email signatures, as it’s made the transition to university much easier for me.
Sport as a trans person can often be quite difficult and very binary, so I was pretty hesitant about getting involved beforehand, however I’ve actually really enjoyed rowing with the Trinity Hall Boat Club. It’s a great way to get my mind off work and develop friendships with people in my College through bonding over the bad weather or being yelled at by the coaches for being a bit incompetent! I also really appreciate the change to referring to each side as Men’s/Non-binary and Women’s/Non-binary – it might seem quite minor and pedantic but has made a lot of difference in helping me feel valued as myself as a Boat Club member.
What one thing can people do to educate themselves this week?
I’d really recommend the Netflix documentary Disclosure, as it unpacks and challenges a lot of harmful stereotypes that exist in the media about transgender people through an analysis of the history of trans lives on screen and addresses the very tangible effects that bad trans representation, such as cisgender actors playing trans roles, has for trans people. Additionally, it showcases a lot of the trans talent on screen at the moment, such as Laverne Cox and Jamie Clayton – it’s great to see trans people being given a voice to talk about their own issues.
What’s your favourite go-to for celebrating transgender and non-binary culture?
I love the show Pose on Netflix/BBC iPlayer – it’s about the underground Black and Brown ballroom culture of New York in the 1980s/90s with particular focus on a group of trans women of colour and how their community persevered through the AIDS crisis. Even though the characters’ lives and experiences are very far from mine, this series is probably the best trans representation I’ve ever seen because of how complex the characters are allowed to be – definitely down to the huge amount of trans contribution in the cast (like actresses MJ Rodriguez and Indya Moore) and crew (like writer Janet Mock).
Something I read recently that I greatly enjoyed was the essay collection Gender Euphoria edited by Laura Kate Dale, where each essay details an instance in which the trans author felt affirmed in their gender for the first time, such as because of a new haircut, going on hormones, or being called the right name. Especially in the face of negativity about trans issues or isolation from trans friends during lockdown, reading this book really helped me feel more positive about my identity and connected to my community.