Student trustee announces gender transition

When she was seven years old, Jillian Ruddell got down on one knee and proposed to the girl she was crushing on. She asked the girl if they could marry, as long as Ruddell grew up to become a boy.

Sixteen years later, Ruddell – a Cal State University student trustee on the Board of Trustees – has announced his ongoing transition from Jillian to Ian before the Board, saying he used to feel like he was living two lives.

Ruddell called CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White in January to discuss what he was going through and asked White if he would be comfortable with making the transition public.

“He basically supported me 100 percent and told me that he would do everything that he could to support me in the process and that I should absolutely inform the Board members and the [campus] presidents of my life choice,” Ruddell said.

Ruddell said he was nervous about revealing his transition.

“It got to the point where I was sacrificing my wellbeing by remaining in the closet on that,” Ruddell said.

Ruddell, a senior multicultural and gender studies major at Chico State University, is transitioning from female to male and has been taking male hormone shots since January.

“I’m choosing to transition hormonally, which means that I’m taking a shot of testosterone every week to bring my hormones to the same level of a biological male,” Ruddell said. “I’ll be doing that for the rest of my life.”

Ruddell began revealing the change to friends and family five years ago. He said his mother had been expecting the news.

Eventually, Ruddell plans to surgically remove breast tissue and reconfigure the chest in a masculine form as part of his physical transition from woman to man. The surgery costs $10,000, according to Ruddell.

Executive Director of the California State Student Association Miles Nevin said he was honored to be one of the first people whom Ruddell told.

“It’s courageous, it’s progressive, and it’s within the vein of how Ian has led,” Nevin said of Ian making his transition public. “He makes tough decisions. He’s bold, he’s out there on these issues, and we’re very proud of him as has done an excellent job at being a student trustee.”

Nevin and Ruddell first met at a CSSA meeting at Chico State, where Ruddell gave a presentation on diversity.

“I was just very impressed with his style and knowledge on LGBTIQ issues and diversity issues in general,” Nevin said. “As a student who’s not involved in student government, he had a pretty good understanding of the things that were affecting students on a statewide level. We maintained a connection after the meeting.”

The Board and all of the students Ruddell works with have been very supportive, according to Nevin and Ruddell.

“I am constantly reminded that that’s how the CSU operates,” Nevin said. “We’re a university that exists to serve students who are a little bit different, who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and maybe students who need a little extra support.”

Ruddell’s term as a student trustee ends in May, and he said there are a few things he wished he could have done, such as identifying the LGBTQI faculty and staff and enhancing the resources and benefits to that population.

“Coming out and receiving the support that I have has definitely encouraged me to continue sharing my story and continue being an advocate for the sexual gender and minority population,” Ruddell said.

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