Student trans-itions campus towards future


Breanna Rae Weber

Alister Kohls, junior sociology major, spreads awareness about LGBTQ+ experiences.

Karalee Manis, Staff Reporter

Alister Kohls, junior sociology major, has been fighting a one-man battle; not simply for himself, but for the equality of all current and potential Lakeland students. Kohls is a transgender student and for weeks he tried to get a straight answer to a question essential to his identity: can he use the men’s restroom?

Each time this question was asked, he failed to get a definitive answer. Eventually, he quit asking and just decided he was going to use the restroom that he felt most comfortable with.

“(I wish I could) say that I knew I could use the bathroom I wanted to, and that I could do it safely, but I can’t,” said Kohls. “And I can’t walk into a bathroom today and not get strange looks.”

Further complicating Kohls’ concerns centering on bathrooms and housing is the fact that his paperwork says he’s female.

“I have no problem stating that out loud; I’m not embarrassed,” said Kohls. “But I identify more as male, and I really don’t care which room I’m in, but the school sees it as we have to segregate the genders.”

In addition, because of financial aid and transcript purposes, he cannot on any institution forms or school communication be called the name that he wishes.

Until he can change his information legally, he will always be “Arielle” on transcripts, emails and class lists, which he feels confines him to a gender with which he does not identify.

“The faculty and staff at this college are incredibly supportive and surprisingly progressive,” Kohls said. “(I have) yet to run into someone who will just tell me ‘no’ (in answer to my concerns) based on their own beliefs.”

For his internship, which relates to queer education, he met with campus resident assistants to open a dialogue concerning the queer community and issues they might face.

He provided students with a five page list of some relevant terminology. According to Kohls, most of the students seemed to glance over it with disinterest.

Despite the lackluster responses, Kohls is optimistic because there were a few students who seemed to be truly interested in what he had to say.

“Whether they were about just actual queer topics in general or specifically about being transgender, questions were asked, and it didn’t really matter (what about) because that means they were still listening and interested,” said Kohls.

In preparation for these workshops, Kohls has spent many hours reading graduate-level books and studying so he can have an open and honest discussion with students about the realities and inequalities faced by the LGBTQ+ community.

Following his workshop with the resident assistants, Kohls held two 90-minute sessions that were open to all students, staff and faculty. Unfortunately, the first session only had two students and the second had four staff members and one student.

In the coming semesters, Kohls plans to build upon his presentation, and he hopes to make attendance of the workshop a requirement for students.

Kohls’ future ideas for his internship and the school also involve rewriting policy. He wants this school to be a progressive campus that does not restrict dorm rooms, bathrooms or anything just because of gender norms.

“I more or less want to help the school move forward,” said Kohls. “I think the direction Lakeland is going in would be positive for a trans student. I think students could now come here and be happy. They might not understand that they can be out because a lot of students don’t realize they can be exactly who they are.”

Despite the struggles he faces, he is adamant that “coming out and being open about who you are is a good thing. It’s a thousand pounds off my shoulders that has been weighing me down for years,” said Kohls.

However, his family gave him an ultimatum: he had to either become a girl again or just stay away. Additionally, Kohls recently used a male restroom in Verhulst.

He entered as another male student was leaving, but the student was not bothered in the least. Nevertheless, when he left the restroom, a campus tour happened to be passing by and the mother of the potential student gave him a dirty look.

“Challenge or no challenge, I am happier and stronger being out and public,” said Kohls.