Elaine R. Mendus, Indiana University of Pennsylvania geography and Latin American studies student
By Kelly Jacobson
INDIANA – Elaine R. Mendus, 23, a fifth-year geography major with a minor in Latin American studies and history at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is a member of an undocumented minority at the school:
She is transgender.
Formerly known as Dustin, Mendus got rid of most of her male clothes in May 2013 and opted for polka-dot blouses and colorful headbands. The change was a culmination of a seven-year process that is complete physically but not psychologically, she said.
“I’ve heard enough stories about transgender people getting killed by male partners,” Mendus, a Long Island, N.Y., native, said in a March 6 interview at Stapleton Library. “I don’t want to get hurt.”
Mendus said she is fearful in Western Pennsylvania, where she hears whispers and feels long stares. At night, she becomes hyperalert at bars and shuns drunks, especially men in groups.
There are “eyes on me that I never wanted before,” Mendus said.
Her fears are well founded. The Pew Research Center in June 2013 published results of a national online survey of 1,200 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults. Researchers reported that 30 percent of LGBT respondents had been “physically attacked or threatened” and 58 percent had “been the target of slurs and jokes.”