This past week, Nov. 14 through Nov. 18, LGTBQA sponsored Transgender Awareness Week. Various events were held in Sykes.
Transgender Awareness Week is observed all around the world. It is a way for the LGBTQ community to remember, reflect, and promote diversity to those who may not be aware of the struggles that Transgender people face on a daily basis.
A table was set up from Monday to Wednesday where members of the organization handed out rainbow pride bracelets and pins commemorating Transgender Awareness Week. Flyers were also handed out to encourage students to attend the events throughout the week.
On Monday, a Question and Answer session on Gender Identity was led by J. Daly, the secretary for LGBTQA. A film, “No Dumb Questions,” was shown that evening with discussion after the film.
On Wednesday, Dr. Michelle Angello, a clinical sexologist, presented two seminars about working with transgender students in college and the college experience as a whole. According to Angello, the discussion was held to further appreciation for diversity, increase awareness with regards to the unique challenges that transgender students face on college campuses, and gain a greater understanding of gender identity.
“You know your gender identity. It’s in your brain and in your heart,” Angello said. She clarified the differences between gender and sex. Sex has to do with a person’s anatomy and gender is the way in which someone identifies themselves. Gender identity, according to Angello, is who someone is versus sexual orientation which deals with which sex a person is attracted to.
One phrase that Angello likes to tell people in the media is “gender identity is not about whom I’m attracted to. It’s about who I am.” She gave the statistics from the West Chester University Climate Survey. West Chester got 3.5 stars in the LGTBQA category. Further broken up, West Chester received a 5/5 in criteria in sexual orientation but only 1/5 for gender identity and expression. West Chester had points taken off because there is no non-discrimination policy for transgender harassment.
On Thursday, Barbara Peronteau discussed the topic “A Trans-Woman and her Faith Journey.” Later that evening, J. Daly hosted “He Don’t Wear A Dress: A Queer Cabaret.”
Friday was The Transgender Day of Remembrance. A service was held in the ballrooms to remember those who have passed away due to transgender violence. Students and faculty attended and if they wished, they placed white carnations on a table draped in black as the names of victims were read by Breckin DeWane.
According to the Transgender Day of Remembrance website, the event is held in November to honor Rita Hester. Hester was murdered on Nov. 28, 1998. Her death inspired people to start the Remembering our Dead project and a candlelight vigil in San Francisco in 1999. The Day of Remembrance is observed around internationally and nationally.
Martin Gilliam-Kennedy gave a brief history of the Day of Remembrance. “Our goal is to show love instead of hate,” Kennedy said. “It is an opportunity for communities to come together and remember.” According to statistics, one person a month has died from transgender prejudice.
Dr. Simon Ruchti also shared during the ceremony. “We live in a world of hate, but you know what? We also live in a world of love,” she said. Readings from poems and a slideshow tribute that showed pictures of those who have died were also shared during the ceremony.
After the ceremony Ruchti, a professor at WCU, and her colleague, Dr. Matthew Pierlott, held a discussion about the Cisgender Privilege. According to Ruchti, cisgender refers to those whose genders fit comfortably into the gender binary as opposed to gender queer, which refers to those whose gender doesn’t fit comfortably into the gender binary.
Ruchti and Pierlott stressed, “We find ourselves making mistakes about gender.” They went over correct definitions and then had the audience participate in an activity where they were to list the privileges cisgender people have. Some examples shared were going shopping for clothes, looking for housing, especially in college dorms, and not worrying about which restroom to use.
According to Ruchti, much of the violence against transgenders or gender queers happens in the bathrooms. Same sex bathrooms are safer but yet they are small in number in many public places.
Both Ruchti and Angello brought up the new law that has been passed in Pennsylvania regarding gender identity. Individuals no longer need to have the surgery to change their sex. If they wish to change the gender marker, the F or M on a person’s identification, they only need access to a medical doctor or licensed psychiatrist or a social worker to do so. It doesn’t cost any money other than the visit to the doctor or the social worker. “Visibility brings a measure of tolerance,” Angello said.
For more information regarding Transgender Awareness Week or to learn more about being an Ally or a member of the community, visit an executive board member in the LGTBQA office in Sykes Union Organization Complex, Room 233.
Margaret Weaver is a fourth-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at MW678077@wcupa.edu.