University News

Trans Week celebrates varied gender expression

Students were able to find bathrooms, swap clothes, and hear poetry before final resilience march

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, November 19, 2015

Simultaneously queering gender and time, Trans Week — a two-week series of events sponsored by GenderAction with the LGBTQ Center and largely spearheaded by Sana Teramoto ’16 — is designed to empower transgender students and raise awareness about the issues they face.

“The ‘Where Can I Pee?’ scavenger hunt was a brilliant way to bring attention to the lack of gender-inclusive bathrooms and their use by cis people,” wrote Justice Gaines ’16 of the week’s first event in an email to The Herald.

Next was a clothing swap that began Thursday evening and extended through the weekend, giving participants the chance to try on clothing marketed toward a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth. The first night of the clothing swap was “exclusively for trans, gender non-conforming and questioning folks,” according to the Facebook event.

This highlights an important part of the mission of Trans Week: “(Trans Week) has spaces to help folks understand how they can stand in solidarity with trans people, but also provides spaces for trans people to just exist and enjoy each other,” Gaines wrote.

Both Newsweek and the Huffington Post have ranked Brown amongst the most gay-friendly campuses in the country. But the same level of friendliness does not exist for trans students, Teramoto said.

“In my statistics class … people created a form with — though I’m not a fan of this — ‘male,’ ‘female’ and ‘other,’ and one of the people in the class said, ‘I don’t think we should take this one seriously because this person put ‘other’ for their gender,’ so I think we have a long way to go as a Brown community in terms of trans issues,” Teramoto said. “People still feel really awkward or uncomfortable around pronouns.”

Even well-meaning peers can contribute to discrimination toward trans students on campus, Gaines wrote. “While many Brown students like to claim that they accept trans people and they know ‘gender is a spectrum’ — which isn’t that great of an understanding of gender — few put in the real work to educate themselves and make changes needed to make the campus truly safe and inclusive for trans people.”

Intersections of identity such as age and race can further complicate trans students’ experiences on campus. “Trans students, especially trans students of color, are still very few in number. It can be difficult for trans first-years and people just coming into their trans identity to find community or support at times,” Gaines wrote.

Educational settings can present an additional challenge. “Academically, it can often be frustrating because most professors do not include trans people in their curricula or research, even those supposedly specializing in gender,” Gaines wrote. “Many professors also fail to engage in the work needed to make their trans students feel accepted or respected in the classroom.”

The first week concluded with a poetry event that showcased student performers Gaines, Mae Verano ’17, Brianna Cox ’18 and Chrysanthemum Tran ’17 and featured professional poets Muggs Fogarty and Cameron Awkward-Rich. Fogarty is a Providence local who became a part of the Providence Poetry Slam staff at age 16. Fogarty then went on to earn a bachelor of fine arts in creative writing from The New School and has represented Providence at the National Poetry Slam alongside Tran. Awkward-Rich is a doctoral candidate in Modern Thought and Literature at Stanford University as well as a Cave Canem Fellow.

Trans Week continues Thursday with a vigil for lost trans lives — more than 50 percent of transgender people attempt suicide at least once before their 21st birthday, and more than 20 transgender people in America have been murdered in 2015.

On Friday at 5:15 p.m., the event will conclude with a trans march of resilience at the Knight Memorial Library.

“I’m really excited about (the march) as a place for a lot of trans folks to come together,” Teramoto said. “It’s going to be a really powerful thing to march as a community and celebrate our resilience.”