Astrophysics and computer science student at the University of Calgary (U of C), Dante Bencivenga, chooses to do the research he does because, unlike other areas of life, science has an answer.
“Solving math and science problems are more clear. I’m looking for easy problems to solve,” says Bencivenga.
For Bencivenga, “easy” involves scientific and mathematical equations that the majority of people would not have the first clue about.
His curly hair is from his math-teacher-dad; his personality is similar to his doctor-mom’s; he has two sisters who are older than he by six and 10 years – all of who are more private than he.
Bencivenga says that math and science are similar to the journey of life in that it is not only about the destination or solution rather the merit lies in the research and in “how you got there.”
“If everything in life goes as expected, life is kind of boring.”
Right now 23-year-old Bencivenga is doing research in the area of quantum computers, and how using quantum can help improve scientific searches. On Oct. 13 he had a computer programming competition in which he came in fourth out of the 41 in his division.
Red Deer, Alta. born and raised, Bencivenga is presently in his sixth year of university. He describes his enjoyment of living in a bigger city with notoriety, versus his smaller city popularity as “contradictory.”
“I might be famous for a couple of days,” says Bencivenga about his research, his plans to obtain a PhD, and his desire to “make some impact on the world.”
“In Calgary I blend in a little more.”
Bencivenga has been dating his partner, Thomas Komarniski for three-and-a-half- years, although they have known each other since junior high, and even dated once before back in 2010 to 2011. The couple is different in ways such as Komarniski might shed more emotional tears, while Bencivenga says he only succumbs to tears while yawning.
What they have in common, besides their dislike for mushrooms and that they are both quite ambitious, is that one-day they will both be fully male. Komarniski was born a female but for the past couple of years he has been transitioning to a male.
‘The correct terminology is ‘assigned female at birth’ AFAB for short,” explained Komarniski.
When Komarniski was younger he “kind of knew” he wanted to be a male, but because his mom didn’t care how he dressed he was able to buy his clothes in the boys’ department. It wasn’t until puberty that the real discomfort came.
“I started to feel uncomfortable in my body – with the changes that come in puberty,” recalls Komarniski.
Komarniski wanted to grow facial hair, have an Adam’s apple, and longed for his voice to drop, but none of that happened.
“Even through I knew it wasn’t’ supposed to happen, I just hoped one day I would wake up as the gender I wanted.”
Both Komarniski and Bencivenga said they talked a lot about the transition, especially in the first year, and decided to see how it went without expectations set too high. Fortunately for the couple, mutual physical attraction has not been affected.
“Dante considered himself straight,” said Komarniski.
Komarniski says he began by changing his name and became “gender neutral” after meeting someone in high school who was going through the same experience.
For now, Komarniski’s transition involves mainly hormones, as there are still many unknowns with the reconstructive surgeries, although he did undergo a hysterectomy last summer.
“It was gradual,” Bencivenga described the initial transition.
“There was a period of getting used to it.”
Bencivenga believes that change in personality may come with getting older or maturing, but not from the “trans-change.”
“It’s not like transitioning makes you different. I’m still dating the same person.”
Bencivenga says that he knows many transgender people and that he has no interest in what they used to be or what they looked like; what he cares about is simply who they are today.
The hardest part for Bencivenga was dealing with the stigma of dating another guy, because now they would be considered a gay couple.
“It takes a lot of self-discovery. I think I overestimated. It probably isn’t as bad as it is in my head,” reveals Bencivenga.
“People are mostly kind. I always assume people are going to be meaner than they are.”
Fortuitously Bencivenga likes change. So much so that he often will even switch up his daily routines just to keep it fresh.
“Some people are happy with the same thing over and over I want to be actively engaged.”
He values time and tries to avoid “drama,” although some days he just wants to spend time scouring Facebook.
“Time is a valuable resource. I don’t want to flat-line.”
When asked about marriage and children Bencivenga said that although the physical change in Thomas alters the way they would produce children, they have had discussions about adoption or other means. He may be in this for love, but the researcher in him is playing is safe.
“According to research, if you wait until you are 25 you will have more success.”
“Active” is the word he chose to sum up what he most desires in each aspect of his life.
“I like finding the answer.”
“If the answer doesn’t exist – if the answer doesn’t exist, you have to change the question,” states Bencivenga.
“Oh and I need to clarify one thing. Dante cried on our first anniversary because he was so overwhelmed with his gifts,” added Komarniski.