Bon Wells has proven that there is no policy that cannot be changed (Image via LSU)
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Bon Wells has proven that there is no policy that cannot be changed (Image via LSU)

And yes, the Louisiana State University student is challenging the status quo.

Bon Wells is a senior at Louisiana State University, where he is extremely involved in organizations and has an infectious presence on campus. This past September, he was chosen to be on LSU’s Homecoming Court, which is a century old tradition and has remained strict on its original policies. Wells is the first transgender student to ever be chosen for the court, establishing the fact that policies can be changed at universities to progress with an ever-changing student body.

He expressed his interest in renovating school’s policies in his application since he was a freshman. “Due to their policies, I would not be able to stand with the guys,” explained Wells. During his senior year, the policy was changed by a student-run homecoming committee, which allowed students to apply with the gender they identify with rather than their academic state record. Students also walked themselves down the field instead of being partnered in pairs, which aligns with LSU’s goal of moving away from traditional homecoming courts and honoring students individually.

Once Wells found out about the policy change and his altered eligibility, he applied for homecoming court because he still wanted to show his love for his university and represent his student body. He explained the extensive application process and interview. “A lot of what stood out to the committee—I hope—is that I am good at interacting and engaging with people,” he says. “I am sure they took into account my background as transgender and the time I have dedicated to promoting my university.”

Wells began his journey of involvement on campus as an orientation leader. From there, he has continued to take advantage of every opportunity presented to him. “I primarily serve as an LSU Ambassador. I have been an orientation leader and tour guide, while being active in the student media department,” Wells explains. He wants everyone to feel welcomed on campus, especially incoming freshmen. “I tell freshmen to hit the ground running as soon as you get here. We want you here, and there is someone dying to meet you.” The list of his involvements really goes on and on, so it makes sense why he would stand out on his campus. “I consider myself a jack-of-all-trades. I get asked to assist different departments on campus and I help in any way I can,” says Wells. He works as a videographer for many on-campus organizations in order to prepare for his future career choice.

Wells has big dreams of becoming a creative director after graduation in Colorado or California. He is a Houma, LA native with an outgoing, friendly personality and a genuine interest in meeting new people. Wells explains, “Through video and photography work, I want to display beautiful and inspiring stories.” He has a love for interacting with people, which has enhanced his passion in uncovering remarkable stories and great achievements people are making across the country as well as allowing others access to these stories even if they cannot travel. This experience introduced Wells and his achievement to the world , but it was not a simple journey for him.

“[Transitioning] is tough on your body, but worth it. I feel more like myself every day,” says Wells.

He expressed growing up with an internal struggle of not feeling comfortable as a female. When he was younger, he considered himself naïve and did not know the concept of transgender. Wells identified as gay for a long time because it was becoming more accepted in society and that was the only path he knew he could take. A college sociology class introduced him to what being transgender means and the process of transitioning. “I’ve identified more with a male gender since I was around 2 years old. It was not a shocker to anyone—not even myself—that I began the transition,” says Wells.

Wells considered himself masculine growing up; he hated dresses and would play with boy toys. Before his transition, Wells had trouble accepting his current situation. Wells admits having struggled with glancing at himself in the mirror in the morning and he would often avoid looking at his appearance completely. “I felt stuck. I was the most miserable with myself at this point,” says Wells. He suffered from body image issues and dysphoria, which caused him to question his identity.

In his freshman year, Wells finally felt he could do something about the spot he was in and make a difference in his life. Wells had to make a difficult decision of whether he was going to please others with his life or live the life that would bring him the most happiness. After beginning his transition, he immediately felt a difference and more comfortable in his own skin.

Wells admits he has been in a rare situation compared to other transgender stories he has heard. His family is supportive of his decision and he has never experienced bullying or backlash from his peers. Despite never receiving backlash, he has always feared it. He mentioned that opening up about his struggles on a public platform is difficult and scary for fear of public humiliation or uncertainty of how people will react. The support he did receive pushed him forward and accelerated him to learn more and focus on his happiness. Wells acknowledges that he is very lucky to be in his situation. He says, “If I did not have the support system I have, I would be in a worse place.”

“I’ve identified more with a male gender since I was around 2 years old. It was not a shocker to anyone—not even myself—that I began the transition,” says Wells.

When asked about his biggest obstacle while transitioning, he said there are little things that build up to a bigger obstacle in general. Finding information and research about being transgender proved to be difficult for Wells, especially in the South. The process of finding a doctor was demanding enough, then he was turned down by doctors multiple times. The scariest realization for Wells is that anyone can deny him at any time because they want to. He has been denied by physicians because they felt they did not have enough medical knowledge to help him or did not want to help him due to personal reasons. He has to drive to New Orleans for any medical assistance since it is his closest option, which can range from an hour to hour and a half commute.

Limited access to resources has proved to be a huge obstacle, but there are other difficulties that have affected his daily life. His doctor told him, “Transitioning is like going through puberty when you’re older.” Dealing with bodily changes while functioning as an adult has definitely been an adjustment and something he deals with every day. “It is tough on your body, but worth it. I feel more like myself every day,” says Wells. He is currently working on getting his gender identification changed, which requires legal help and can take up to a year and a half to fully process. “My ID still identifies me as female and people will question me when I hand it to them because they are seeing someone different in front of them,” Wells explains. Although there are many obstacles prevalent, the rewards make his transition worthwhile.

His previous birthday present involved him traveling to Los Angeles for FTM Top Surgery since there are not any qualified surgeons in Louisiana to perform the surgery. The moment he removed the bandages and looked down, Wells realized he made the correct decision, which gave him pure happiness. “This is what I’ve waited for and wanted to see in the mirror for twenty-one years,” says Wells. He could not believe that he was finally given an opportunity to feel comfortable in his own skin. This moment made a significant difference in Wells perception of himself and gave him an extra boost of confidence. He can now fully express who he is without feeling like a part of himself is hidden from society.

LSU received applications from hundreds of students with outstanding leadership skills. Wells told himself it was okay if he did not get chosen, but he wanted to represent his university in this position. His selection left him in shock. “I was floored,” explains Wells. He was ecstatic to know he had a part in kicking down a barrier on campus and he took this position with the intent to represent his student body well. Two words he used to describe this moment were humbled and honored. Wells is able to represent a portion of campus that has been silenced. Through this, he wants others to know they are not ostracized and can obtain their goals, even as transgender. He wants others who are struggling with the same issues he has to stay motivated, confident and not let one aspect of their lives define them. Wells believes everyone is capable and can achieve their goals, with dedication and passion.

As a closing note, Wells wants people to view transgender men or women with respect and dignity. “We are human, too. We are trying to find jobs, make it through our lives and just trying to live.” Wells does not think everyone has to know every detail about transitioning; people just need to treat transgenders with basic human kindness. For anyone who identifies as transgender, Wells believes life is limitless and no one should feel restricted by their gender. He has lived life from two different perspectives, which has given him a whole new take on life and made him stronger.

Wells represents what it means to Love Purple, Live Gold. This is a theme across LSU’s campus, representing the pride, dedication, and passion of their students, and Well’s his outstanding leadership positions and the goals he hopes to achieve in the upcoming months made him a perfect representative for this theme. This is intensified by a quote he wears on his sleeve: “Don’t just take opportunities, take them by storm.” With every move he makes, Wells focuses on his happiness since he has denied himself happiness for so long. He never intended to make history by being on LSU’s court. However, his appearance on the court will leave a mark for the transgender community and encourage others to achieve their full happiness and potential.

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Lauren Lambert

Southeastern Louisiana University

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