South Ge­or­gia trans teen mak­ing mark at Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia

Mars Hall­man talks liv­ing in coed dorm, elec­tion to Lambda Al­liance board

GA Voice - - Georgianews -

By PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS

psaun­ders@the­gavoice.com

When Mars Hall­man fought to get a GayS­traight Al­liance started at his high school in Nashville, Ge­or­gia last year, he hadn’t yet come out as trans­gen­der or gen­der non­con­form­ing, fear­ing that it would hurt the chances of the club’s cre­ation. Shortly af­ter the club was ap­proved, he came out as non­bi­nary. It made him re­al­ize that that was the last time he would com­pro­mise when it came to his sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and gen­der iden­tity.

“I main­tained the la­bel of les­bian to try to make the tran­si­tion of adding a GSA to my com­mu­nity eas­ier for my­self and for other peo­ple around me,” Hall­man said in an in­ter­view with Ge­or­gia Voice last winter, “and I re­al­ized that I don’t have to sac­ri­fice my­self to wait around for other peo­ple to catch up to me.”

He’s taken that les­son to the Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia, where he’s now a 17-year-old fresh­man in­ter­na­tional af­fairs and Ara­bic stud­ies ma­jor. And he’s made a quick jump into a lead­er­ship role by be­ing elected di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion for Lambda Al­liance, the school’s LGBT stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Ad­just­ment on mul­ti­ple lev­els

Hall­man’s tran­si­tion from high school to col­lege was an ad­just­ment on mul­ti­ple lev­els, namely mov­ing to a school seven times the size, and a city over 20 times the size, of his small South Ge­or­gia town.

“Oh gosh, it feels like a huge city,” Hall­man told Ge­or­gia Voice by phone from Athens last week.

But there was also the tran­si­tion on the LGBT front. Hall­man lives in a coed dorm but on a fe­male hall.

“So that’s not fun,” he says. “But the RAs (res­i­dent as­sis­tants) have done ev­ery­thing they can to make it more com­fort­able for ev­ery­one.”

He says he gets in­vited to go to events in the male halls, and his RA hosted a trans­gen- “I’m in a for­eign lan­guage class where sec­ond per­son pro­nouns are gen­ders, and my teacher will end con­ver­sa­tion in oral ex­ams and cor­rect stu­dents who use the fem­i­nine for me and tell them, ‘No, Mars is the mas­cu­line you.’ So far all of my teach­ers have been very proac­tive in mak­ing it a safe space for me.” der and gen­der non­con­form­ing 101 panel so that his hall­mates can learn how to ad­dress peo­ple re­spect­fully within a shared space.

“I think they’ve been ad­just­ing very well,” Hall­man says. “I’ve ac­tu­ally no­ticed them start­ing to change their lan­guage to be more in­clu­sive. They don’t call us ‘the ladies of 5-North’ any­more. Some­times they’ll just call us ‘the kids’ or they’ll call us ‘5-N’ but they’ve dropped the ‘ladies’ part.”

He doesn’t feel en­tirely safe liv­ing in an all-male dorm or hall at this point in his tran­si­tion, and in the fu­ture plans to ei­ther live off cam­pus or in a dorm that is sep­a­rated by gen­der on a room-by-room ba­sis in­stead of sep­a­rated by hall.

Hall­man adds that UGA fac­ulty have been “very re­spect­ful” of his sit­u­a­tion, in­clud­ing re­fer­ring to him by his cho­sen name of Mars in­stead of by his le­gal name, which he was as­signed at birth along with his gen­der.

“I’m in a for­eign lan­guage class where sec­ond per­son pro­nouns are gen­ders, and my teacher will end con­ver­sa­tion in oral ex­ams and cor­rect stu­dents who use the fem­i­nine for me and tell them, ‘No, Mars is the mas­cu­line you,’” he ex­plains. “So far all of my teach­ers have been very proac­tive in mak­ing it a safe space for me.”

‘He’s lived it, he’s done it’

Hall­man has been fre­quent­ing the school’s LGBT Re­source Cen­ter and at­tend­ing Lambda Al­liance events since ar­riv­ing on cam­pus, and quickly turned that into be­ing elected to the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s board last month. And he plans on con­tin­u­ing a his­tory of mak­ing pos­i­tive change for his fel­low LGBT stu­dents by push­ing to get more fac­ulty safe space train­ing-cer­ti­fied.

“Mars has a lot of good to of­fer,” says Rashad Small, se­nior co­or­di­na­tor at the LGBT Re­source Cen­ter and fac­ulty ad­viser for Lambda Al­liance. “I think his ex­pe­ri­ence com­ing from a smaller town in Ge­or­gia and fac­ing ad­ver­sity there when it comes to the Gay-Straight Al­liance, he has a lot to of­fer to other stu­dent lead­ers who are older or younger. He’s lived it, he’s done it. He’s been able to pro­vide a lot of good, real world ex­pe­ri­ence to the stu­dents that are here with just the pas­sion he has, the drive he has, and just the po­ten­tial he has here.”

Be­yond col­lege, Hall­man wants to pur­sue a ca­reer as a for­eign ser­vice of­fi­cer in the U.S. State De­part­ment, where he would con­tinue to feed his pas­sion for pub­lic ser­vice. But when we spoke last week, he was more fo­cused on what was com­ing up the fol­low­ing day—his first per­for­mance in a drag show.

“Never in my life, liv­ing in Nashville, did I think I’d have an op­por­tu­nity to per­form gen­der. And now I’m in a safe enough space where I can say, ‘Oh bye Mom, I’ve gotta go to the drag show,’” he says laugh­ing.

De­cem­ber 9, 2016

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