Transformed By His Transition: An Interview With Billy Huff

Director of LGBTQ+ Affairs, Billy Huff, knows that our experiences are critical in shaping us as people, and he finally feels at peace with himself after his experience transitioning genders. A Georgia native, who has wanted a job like the one he has with the University of Florida’s Multicultural and Diversity Affairs Division, is proud to demonstrate his passion and commitment toward marginalized students at UF. Her Campus UFL had the opportunity to interview this amazing Director and chat about his transition, the goals of the Office of LGBTQ+ Affairs, and the difference between being an ally or an accomplice.  

Her Campus (HC): How did the opportunity to join the MCDA team at UF come about?

Billy Huff (BH): Jobs like this are hard to come by. Many schools don’t even have institutional support for LGBTQ+ people, and when they do, it is usually only one paid position, and then you add that most people hold on to these jobs for many years; you can imagine that there are not too many openings. I have been an assistant professor for the past six years, but I have always looked for an opening like the one I now have in MCDA.

HC: What are the goals of the office of LGBTQ affairs?

BH: To provide a welcoming and affirming space for LGBTQ+ students at UF. To empower LGBTQ+ students as student leaders and change agents on campus. To provide educational programming for LGBTQ+ students that combats heterosexism, genderism, homophobia, and transphobia at UF and beyond, and also that centers the most marginalized among us.

HC: Why is it so important for students at UF to be accomplices rather than allies? Students are encouraged to be allies, but is being an ally enough to make a difference?

BH: I think the error is in using ally or accomplice as a noun instead of a verb. An ally is not an identity or something that you are; rather, it is something that you do. It makes no difference to me for people to talk about being allies or accomplices. There is something about “accomplice” that suggests that we are in this together. Accomplices recognize that there are common stakes in the fight and are also willing to share in the consequences.  They make a difference when they do things like fighting for gender inclusive bathrooms, introducing themselves with their pronouns, standing up for a friend who is being bullied, etc. I would rather hear people talk about those things. I think if you’re truly an ally, you don’t really have to say it.

HC: How do you suggest people approach or address someone who is transitioning?

BH: This is a difficult question to answer because I can only speak for myself. For that reason, I would say the first piece of advice would be to recognize that all trans* people are different. I think if we all make it a common practice to introduce ourselves with our pronouns no matter who we are addressing it allows us to all be recognized and treated as human beings. A number of mistakes arise when we assume that we know anything about a person’s gender identity based on the way they look. It’s often these assumptions that render people invisible.

HC: Could you offer three words that you would use to describe your transition experience?

BH: Three words I would choose are exciting, enlightening, and “finally” (because I waited until I was almost 40 to start transitioning).

HC: What would you say to a student who feels like they don’t belong in their body?

BH: I would encourage the student to take part in our [email protected] discussion group. There are certainly many people who feel like they don’t belong in their bodies. There are also many trans* people (including myself) who do not feel this way. It’s important to keep in mind that trans* people still have to submit ourselves to medical and psychological regulatory regimes in order to have access to medically transition. In order to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria (which is required to have access to hormone treatments), we have to say that we feel like we were born in the wrong body. For many of us, however, this is not our truth.

HC: What motivates you to get out of bed every morning?

BH: First and foremost, I would have to say my tiny dog, Steve McQueen as he’s always ready to go outside. Otherwise, I’m committed to my job and the work that I do in many ways more than myself. I love this job and the amazing team I work with at MCDA. Gainesville is beginning to feel like home, and I’m proud to be a Gator.

 

Photo credit: Billy Huff