West Chester University’s LGBTQA Services held a one-hour training event on Thursday, October 18 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Sykes Student Union. Presented by graduate student Alex Hazzard and third-year undergraduate student Jayson Lutrario, the training examined the issues that transgender people face and explained how cisgender people can be good advocates for members of the trans community. The training provided a safe and confidential space for anyone to ask questions and learn from others’ experiences.
After an introductory video by YouTuber Chase Ross titled, “Trans 101: Ep 1 – What is Transgender?”, Hazzard and Lutrario presented an informative powerpoint on terminology, problematic language, cis-privilege, cissexism, transphobia and how to be a good advocate. Terms covered included: “transgender (trans),” “cisgender (cis),” “transmasculine/transfeminine,” “non-binary,” “genderqueer,” “genderfluid,” “agender,” “intersex” and “transitioning.” These terms are often misused or mistaken with other terms, so the presenters made sure to explain and distinguish them using examples and definitions.
The training focused heavily on pronoun usage, as respect for pronouns is an incredibly important part of trans inclusivity. An infinite number of pronouns exist, and new ones continue to emerge in our language. For example, some pronouns include he/him and she/her. Individuals can also use they/them or ze/zir pronouns, which are gender inclusive and used by many non-binary folks. However, many more pronouns exist than those named above. It is never okay to assume anyone’s pronouns, and as Lutrario emphasized, “If you’re not sure about somebody’s pronouns, just ask them.”
The training continued with the explanation of problematic language that surrounds trans people. For example, terms such as “transsexual,” “MTF (male to female)” and “FTM (female to male)” are both outdated and heavily associated with medically transitioning. To identify as transgender, one does not need to undergo medical procedure. As Lutrario explained, “It’s a ‘self-thing’ that you identify as.” These terms can generalize trans experiences, as each one is different and does not always include transitioning from one gender to another. They also warned against offensive language that should never be used, and emphasized the importance of using gender-inclusive language when addressing groups of people. Terms such as “folks,” “y’all,” “people” or “everyone” are good, inclusive ways of addressing groups of people.
Other topics presented include cis-privilege, cissexism and transphobia. Cis-privilege refers to aspects of living that cis people do not have to worry about because they are cisgender. In addition, cissexism is the belief and system of oppression that says cis people are superior to trans people. Transphobia is the irrational fear and/or hatred of trans people. The presenters warned against the dangers of these issues and encouraged attendees to take action against them by being a good advocate. They stressed the importance of standing up against transphobia and cissexism in particular. In addition, good advocates must actively listen to trans and non-binary folks, and validate their experiences. “Listen and ask questions if you don’t understand,” encouraged Hazzard. Attendees were warned to never out someone, encouraged to educate themselves and become knowledgeable about resources on campus.
Hazzard and Lutrario wrapped up the training session by explaining WCU’s own policies concerning transgender people. In terms of on-campus housing, University Student Housing (USH) has gender-inclusive housing — along with one wing of Killinger Hall, a traditional dormitory. WCU has trans-inclusive intramural and club athletics, along with trans-inclusive fraternities and sororities. However, WCU lacks nondiscrimination policies that include gender identity/expression. In addition, there is no preferred name policy allowing individuals to change their name or gender in campus records such as student IDs, email or D2L. There are many hurdles in accomplishing name change, but the WCU LGBTQA Advocacy Committee can help facilitate a safer and more congruent process of transition.
LGBTQA Services is located in Sykes Student Union room 250, and is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The next Trans Advocacy Training will take place on Nov. 14, 2018, from 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. in Sykes Student Union room 252. The training is free and open to students, faculty and staff. Those interested may sign up on LGBTQA Service’s Ram Connect page. For more information or answers to specific questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 610-436-3147.
Molly Dale is a second-year student majoring in Spanish with a minor in French. MD886782@wcupa.edu