Transgender student, founder of Transcend makes journey from female to male
Puberty is something most people would never want to go through again, but Shawn McKeever chose to do just that — this time as a man.
The Saugatuck Mid Michigan Community College senior has openly identified as a transgender person since starting as a freshman at CMU. Before this, McKeever said he had never even heard of the word "transgender."
“Prior to that I was just uncomfortable with myself; I was uncomfortable with the lesbian title and being a girl,” McKeever said. “I finally had a word to describe myself. That’s when I first started identifying as male outwardly.”
McKeever said he has never been feminine at all. Growing up, he had weekly meltdowns when his mom would try to make him wear a dress to church, enjoyed playing sports with the boys and played war with his Barbie dolls.
McKeever said his family, then and now, have always been very supportive of who he is.
“My mom and dad didn’t push me to be very girly as a child, they are very supportive of me and they always want to learn more,” McKeever said. “It would be more of a struggle for me to transition without my parents support.”
The transition process for a transgender person is far from speedy.
The Harry Benjamin Standards of Care, a standardized path many transsexuals typically follow, involves three months of psychotherapy, then hormone therapy during which the person is supposed to live the life of their chosen gender for a year. If the person still desires the transition after the year, surgery for the removal of breasts and the creation of a masculine chest is carried out for female-to-male transgender people.
McKeever shelved the process for a while after a few months of psychotherapy in his sophomore year. In October 2010, he picked up where he left off and he began hormone therapy, and the results are already showing.
“So far I’ve noticed my voice is different, it’s not a whole lot lower but it has a rumble, a more masculine sound, and I’m hungry a lot,” McKeever said. “I’m definitely happy with the changes.”
Howell senior Stacy Russell is co-president of Spectrum, a registered student organization embracing members of the LGBTQ community and their supporters, for which McKeever now serves as transgender chairman.
Russell met McKeever when he first attended the RSO and said they hit it off right away thanks to his relaxed demeanor.
“Just because he’s transgender doesn’t mean he's not just like any other 20-something-year-old dude. That’s what a lot of people don’t get,” Russell said. “There is just a lack of information available.”
After coming to CMU, McKeever said he feels his peers are much more accepting than in middle school or high school, but he thought the campus lacked resources for transgender people.
In spring 2010, McKeever and his female partner created Transcend at CMU, an RSO which strives for more transgender education and offers a safe haven where transgender people on campus can come to be themselves.
“People are generally very open to learning about it,” McKeever said. “I’ve never really felt like anyone has attacked me directly or felt uncomfortable (at CMU).”
Joining McKeever in the mission to promote education and acceptance of all people, particularly those in the LGBTQ community, is Spectrum’s co-president Derreck Johnson.
The Gladstone senior met McKeever last year at a Spectrum meeting and Johnson said they ended up hanging out and playing video games.
“He’s a really nice guy; he’d do anything to help someone out,” Johnson said. “I think people expect him to act more feminine but he’s actually just one of the guys, which is hard for people to understand.”
McKeever enjoys biking and backpacking and one day hopes to work in a national park and eventually own his own adventure company.
It is this sense of normalcy that McKeever strives to educate people about.
“One of the most common misconceptions is that transsexual people are some kind of drag queen, but really transgender people are doing it because they want their body to match their mind,” McKeever said. “We are normal. We have the same interests as anyone else. There is nothing weird about us.”