YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — The newly appointed Women’s Initiative director at Youngstown State University is driven by her background to help not only women but all students.
Assistant professor Megan List said the Women’s Initiative plans to create a center for education, training, networking, connectivity, and, most of all, a breeding ground for safe campus practices.
“It’s about getting the needs of this campus met,” List said.
She got her new position by chance.
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“I’ve studied women and gender issues for a long time, and the position called for a scholar familiar with grant writing and administering, and my background checked out,” List said.
But the necessary skill set List has isn’t all she brings to the table; she also brings her passion.
“When I was an undergrad, I thought it was the coolest thing to be a professor,” List explained. “Now, here I am, and I get this office and I get to sit here and come up with things that are interesting, and I get to sit and work with really cool people. By getting to work with these cool people, I’m able to get them to grow and become better versions of themselves, and that is the goal – that’s the cool thing. I get to help students see things about themselves.”
And List feels a closeness like no other to the concept of helping students understand who they really are.
List, who lives in the small city of Butler, Pennsylvania., grew up as an average child of steelworkers with a secret that changed her life.
“Ever since I was 4, I just knew,” she said. “Under this veneer of masculinity, I felt broken. It turns out nothing was broken. But instead of the son my parents had, I was just a girl.”
List, mother of two and wife to Carrie List, reflected on her transition with her 10-year-old son, Xeno.
Xeno came to List with a picture of her before her transition in 2014 after a failed suicide attempt, and asked if she wanted him to throw it away.
“He was kind of embarrassed — like, that it would make me upset to see myself as I was before,” List said. “So I asked him, ‘Do you like this me (pointing to the picture), or this me (pointing to my nose)?’, and Xenothe threw his arms around my neck and said, ‘This you.’ That moment for me was eye-opening. It’s important to remember who you’ve been and where you’re from, but don’t devalue yourself in that.”
Overcoming transgender stigma, however, was a big hurdle for List.
“I grew up with the belief that LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) individuals are clearly going to hell,” List said. “But, being closeted, the majority of your energy is spent on keeping the closet door shut, and there’s very little energy for just about anything else. Without transitioning, I wouldn’t be alive after that day in 2014.”
List’s term “closeted” referred to keeping her sexuality a secret.
But now, List said, being transgender isn’t a big deal — despite her new director status naming her the first transgender director at Youngstown State.
“I’m just a normal human being doing normal human-being things, and that’s who I want to be,” List said.
But in overcoming several internal and external hurdles as List revealed her sexuality, she learned many leadership skills that made her a good fit for the Women’s Initiative.
“It’s really easy to villainize people who don’t agree with you, but I see it as an opportunity to create conversations and develop an understanding of one another,” List said.
It’s her goal to improve connections overall on campus.
“I want to ensure every student who comes across this campus has the opportunity to succeed,” she said.
Despite the Women’s Initiative being in its early stages, List said she doesn’t want to just create a center for women and be done, but to “be doing the work of women in the region and on campus so all students are feeling safe.”
Some products List hopes the initiative will be able to provide include safe-sex training, safe-sex equipment, hygiene products and mental health awareness education.
“It’s really about these basics and connecting students with the services on campus that already exist,” she said.