Breaking free of a negative stigma


Morgan Shaw-Andrade, a junior biology major with a concentration in pre-medical studies, officially identifies as a transgender man. 

In second grade, Morgan received a Barbie doll as a birthday gift. After going through the polite thank-you routine, Morgan found some safety scissors and tried to give it short hair. In fact, a different toy altogether would have been better, maybe a G.I. Joe or a Bionicle.

It was moments like this that showed the inner conflict Morgan was facing.

Now 21 years old, Morgan Shaw-Andrade, a junior biology major with a concentration in pre-medical studies, officially identifies as a transgender man.

What is Being Transgender?

Transgender people feel that the sex they were assigned at birth and their own internal gender identity do not match, according to GLAAD, an organization that seeks to accelerate acceptance for the LGBT community.

Someone’s gender identity is their “internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or someone outside of that gender binary)”. 

There are many different identities included under the transgender umbrella, including agender, genderfluid, and genderqueer. Morgan likes to use the term “trans*” in discussion, as it fits all forms and explained that the asterisk acknowledges them.  

According to his family, he started vocalizing his gender at age 4, even cutting his hair behind his mom’s back. He stopped a few years later when it occurred to him that not everyone felt this way. However, things started to click at age 9 when he met someone who was transgender and realized he wasn’t alone.


He came out to his parents at 19, then publically shortly after.

“My parents experienced a little depression at first because they felt like they were grieving the loss of their daughter,” he said.

Later, they realized that nothing was changing. He had always been this way.

The process

Many transgender people are prescribed hormones by their doctors to change their bodies to match their gender identity. Morgan has been taking testosterone for a little over a year.

There are different ways to get testosterone, such as topical cream or a patch, but Morgan does it by injection as it has the fastest results and most change because the hormones are put directly in the body instead of absorbing through the skin.

“The biggest thing for me was to be able to gain a lot of muscular growth because I’m an athlete and work out very frequently,” he said.

He is now looking into sexual reassignment surgery but has hit a speed bump. He thought his insurance company would cover top surgery, which creates a contoured, male-looking chest, according to FTM Guide, a resource guide on topics about female-to-male (FTM) transgender men. However, he was recently informed that it isn’t covered because it’s not necessary for his physical health. While he can understand this, it still limits him.

“I can’t change in front of people in the locker rooms or go swimming, which I’d like to be able to do.”  

On a Facebook post about the issue, he stated that he shares this so others can see the obstacles trans* people sometimes face just to feel comfortable in their own skin.

Despite this challenge, Morgan is still trying to go through with the surgery.

To raise money, he has a shirt for sale through Support the T, an organization dedicated to assisting transgender people in funding procedures. Morgan liked the idea of this campaign, and said people can get something out of donating their money.

While getting the surgery is very important to Morgan, he said it’s not mandatory for the transition and depends on the individual. They should only seek surgery if they feel it need.

Overcoming obstacles

Morgan has been on the men’s rugby team for a little over a year, switching from the women’s team once he started hormones. The reception was mixed at first, as some people would misgender him or doubt his abilities. Things have gotten much better.

“I think they had to see the process of getting the hormones to realize this is a real thing,” he said. “And getting to know me helped them a lot because they could normalize it and see I’m like any other guy.”

He’s also been a part of the LGBT Media Club since freshman year and is the vice president.

The club has done projects to help deter people from stereotyping. Of these is the Faces of OU, where students can submit photos and biographies of themselves in order to erase stigmas around the different parts of the LGBT acronym.

He has also faced challenges in the workplace, as he said trans* people often do.

“I had to leave one job because they tried to force me to wear women’s clothes.”

At another job, the manager refused to use correct pronouns, laughing while calling him things like “he-she.”

Moving forward

Morgan feels that a lot of people are against the transgender community because they don’t understand it. There are big misconceptions, like that the person is a pedophile or mentally ill.

He joked, “I’m pretty level-headed compared to some people I’ve seen.”

One reason may be the media.

“The news will use scare tactics, saying things like trans* people just want to be able to go to the bathroom to look at people’s junk.”

He referred to how other groups in the past were marginalized based off of misunderstandings.

“When being gay was considered a medical disease, it was because people didn’t understand it,” he said. “I think people fear the unknown. They are afraid or against it instead of just learning about it.”

One issue that may seem minor is the use of pronouns. However, they are a big deal.

“To use the improper pronouns is to disrespect who I am as an individual,” he said. 

However, he thinks that people are becoming more comfortable with the idea, especially with the younger generations.

“It’s a process and it’s going to take time, but I think compared to before when people didn’t know it existed or used the derogatory terms ‘tranny’ or ‘transvestite,’ it’s getting better.”

Morgan said that while it will always be nerve-wracking, he has gotten more confident talking about his experiences.

He thinks the best way to reduce prejudice is to give people positive contact.

“I know that by sharing my experience, it will help more than it will hurt,” he said.

Looking to the future, he’s thinking of being an endocrinologist, someone who studies hormones or hormone-related conditions, or a plastic surgeon that specializes in transgender individuals.

“Understanding their experiences, having previously gone through it and not just seeing it from the outside, will make it easier,” he said.

Ultimately, he wants people to know that transgender people are just like everyone else. And while it’s good to ask questions, make sure they’re not too invasive.

And if there’s one takeaway, always think before you speak.