The Main Stream

Sep 6, 2013 9:38 PM by Erika Flores

UA prepares to be world leader in transgender studies

TUCSON - The University of Arizona is expanding its transgender studies courses.

Four professor positions are being created for the program.

The U of A hopes the program will develop into a leading resource.

Michael Woodward said he is ready for the world to see transgender people like himself in a different light, and he thinks this program will help do that.

Looking at Woodward now, you would never guess for 36 years he lived as a woman.

"I never felt comfortable in my body or anything around being a girl," said Woodward. "When I was in high school I tried to fit in. I actually competed in a junior miss pageant."

He said even though he didn't feel quite right as a female, he just didn't know what to do about it.

"I lived as a lesbian for like 20 years from the time I was 16 until my mid 30's," said Woodward. "Had I even known that transitioning was an option I probably would have done it when I was a teenager."

He said once he found out about transgender people, he started the transitioning process within the year, but he said that didn't happen until he was 36.

"It was the one thing I needed to do to make my life right. It made so much sense," said Woodward.

According to the Williams Institute, around 700 thousand people identify themselves as transgender in the United States.

Susan Stryker, director of the Institute for LGBT studies at the University of Arizona, said now, not only the nation, but the world is starting to pay more attention to the transgender population.

"'Oh, we know that there are transgender people, we should be able to count them, we should be able to provide for their health services, we need to be able to serve this part of our population. How do we even find out who these people are and what their needs are?'" she said.

Stryker said the University of Arizona is prepared to be a world leader in transgender studies.

"It's a completely globally unprecedented thing," said Stryker.

Woodward said he can't wait to see the impact.

"It's huge for our community, and it's huge for trans people everywhere because now we can actually be understood and studied just like the rest of the population," he said.

Stryker said the U of A is hiring two transgender studies professors this year, and two next year, but she said they are still looking into what kind of degrees will be available for undergraduate and graduate students.

The program will be based in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences starting 2015.

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