2:57 p.m., March 5, 2013

A.J. McDaniel
A. J. McDaniel

Photo by Dan Herring, Photo Editor

Life after college is a whole new challenge when bearing others' judgments

Graduating from college is considered a big step into the future when students enter into the real world and throw themselves directly into new challenges.

In 2010, A.J. McDaniel graduated from Laramie County Community College with an associate’s degree in auto technology. Not only had McDaniel embraced the challenges of the world but he had also made a life-changing decision: He would do anything and everything possible to complete his transformation from female to male.

McDaniel, 34, is a transgender male, who started with testosterone shots last August and is just beginning his way to becoming the person he has always known he was. Yes, McDaniel was born a girl. Early on, McDaniel knew he wasn’t like the other girls because he always played with the boys’ toys and did everything boys would do.

Growing up, McDaniel thought he was just being a tomboy. “I didn’t know what gay or lesbian was,” McDaniel said, “because I grew up in a very conservative family.”

Nonetheless, McDaniel knew he was different because when he and his sisters played, he would always play the role of Dad. Later in school McDaniel checked out the girls more than the boys.

Finding support in a school club

In 2008, McDaniel became involved with LCCC’s club Across All Lines, which helped him realize he was transgender. So, McDaniel told his girlfriend, at that time, of his realization. But that didn’t go over too well because “she was a lesbian and didn’t want anything to do with guys,” McDaniel recalled. A few years later, McDaniel met his current girlfriend, Jenn, who is very supportive of his transformation.

When he came out to his family at the age of 22, as a lesbian, McDaniel was surprised by their support. Further, in 2010, the family’s positive reaction to his transformation threw him for a loop. He called his dad’s reaction priceless: “As long as you can afford it.” His father pointed out the obvious yet at the same time supported his son. His dad also pointed out that McDaniel’s own teenage children would become more expensive. So in combination with everything McDaniel would undergo medically and financially, this could be a trying time.

At work McDaniel encountered no problems when he informed his coworkers about the upcoming transition. “Everybody that knows me, it doesn’t bother them. It’s just the people that don’t know me that have an issue,” McDaniel said.

His children have been part of the process every step of the way and are very accepting. “In fact they are calling me their MAD (mom and dad),” McDaniel said.

When the youngsters were in grade school, his son was bullied. “I am not quite sure what the reason was for the bullying because his mom was gay and with women or because the other kids were being cruel to him and calling him names,” McDaniel said.

The issues faced in McDaniel’s family aren’t much different from other families, and none of the family “issues” are related to McDaniel being transgender.

While there is support within the LGBT community, transgender people face a different set of challenges. “I think the biggest thing that we transgender people face is the fact that we really don’t fit in with the gays and lesbians or the straight folks. It’s hard to find healthcare around here that has dealt with trans people,” McDaniel said. “I have to go to Denver to get the proper treatments.”

McDaniel’s message to those who judge him or consider him a “bad” person is simple: “Take the time to get to know me before you judge me. I am not this bad person you make me out to be. And I am as normal of a person as anyone else.”

Across All Lines seeks change