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Trans Education Week creates dialogue about gender expression, identity

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This past week, queer identity groups on campus held Trans Education Week: Transforming OUr Dialogue, which included five days of events created to expand transgender visibility on campus.

Michelle Vaughn, associate professor of psychology at Mount Union, presented a workshop on gender identity and expression Monday called “Queer Folk, Trans Folk, and Superheroes.” That afternoon, artist, educator and activist JAC Stringer led “You Look Like a Freak,” a workshop on gender and societal recognition.

Tuesday and Wednesday events were Dine-N-Discusses led by Dr. Jane Balbo and the Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program on Trans Healthcare and Trans Identities and Sexual Violence, where participants could eat lunch and discuss the topics at hand.

Wednesday evening also featured a screening and discussion of the film “Paris Is Burning,” a documentary focused on drag queens living in New York City and their “house” culture, which provides a support system for their flamboyant and often socially-shunned lifestyles.

On Thursday night, a vigil was held in Galbreath Chapel in honor of the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, and Friday afternoon features a screening and discussion of the film, “Riot Acts,” a documentary about the intersection of stage performance and gender performance.

The week’s events were sponsored by the LGBT Center, the Queer Student Collective and Queers United in Protest with support from the Student Senate’s Appropriations Committee.

Sarah Grote, the projects coordinator at the LGBT Center, said the events provide powerful dialogue.

“I think the reaction will depend on how well people are involved in the events. For individuals or organizations that want to be more inclusive, it gives them more resources. The vigil arguably has the most powerful effect in the people experience more violence in the LGBT community and that’s showcased,” Grote said.

Grote said that general violence toward trans people occurs at a high rate but particularly toward trans women of color, who are murdered at astonishing numbers.

“Forty-one percent of trans people have attempted suicide by the time they reach young adulthood,” Grote said. “There’s also general exclusion by different places, a lot more street harassment than cisgendered people face. Even cis people in the queer community experience less, depending on how they present themselves.

“Southeastern Ohio is not one of the most progressive places. We’re in a bubble at Ohio University, but there’s still a lack of education about the trans community.”

Emma Holman-Smith, the community coordinator for the LGBT Center, said there has been a push for trans-inclusive health care at OU.

“As far as resources go, there are student groups and community groups, like Spectrum,” Holman-Smith said. “The center generally serves as a safe space for trans identities.”

Holman-Smith believes in the importance of getting people educated on transgender issues because so often they are left out of the discussion.

“A lot of times when groups or policies focus on LGBT issues, they come off as exclusionary. Trans people get left out of a lot of the movements, unfortunately,” Holman-Smith said.

delfin bautista, the LGBT Center director, says that trans identities are included in every event the center puts on.

“There’s usually nothing specific, but we try,” said bautista, who went on to say that although there are no other trans events currently planned, there will be in the future. “Transness will be incorporated into everything.”

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