September 18, 2019 | 49° F

Rutgers organizations come together to host 'Trans Awareness and Empowerment Week'

Rutgers organizations come together to host 'Trans Awareness and Empowerment Week'

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In honor of Trans Awareness and Empowerment Week, several organizations on campus met to host a string of events. Group forums discussed topics like transgender history and the current status of the transgender community.

Approximately 1.4 million individuals identify as transgender, according to The New York Times.

In order to to help raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-binary people on campus, several organizations at Rutgers including RU Transmissions, the Center for Social Justice Education (SJE), LLEGO and Rutgers Queer People of Color came together this past week to host several events in honor of Trans Awareness and Empowerment Week.

According to SJE, the events included a lecture from Hall of Fame Olympic Triathlete Chris Mosier, a transgender man, and a discussion forum titled “Allyship 101,” to discuss what cisgender students — individuals who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth — can do to support the trans community. The forum also included the discussion of the history and current status of the transgender community, as well as a general discussion about sex and gender.  

Other events explored gender in the Latino and Navajo communities, and a film about the life of transgender activist Major Griffin-Gracey. 

“We wanted cisgender students to have to think about gender as much as a trans person does,” said Lief Krutko, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and secretary of the executive board of RU Transmissions. “For trans people, thinking about gender is a constant thing. We wanted cisgender people to experience that too.”

RU Transmissions is a discussion-based group that has weekly meetings to discuss issues pertaining to the transgender and non-gender-conforming community at Rutgers. It also hosts recreational events, such as movie nights. Its role in Trans Awareness and Empowerment Week was to host "Allyship 101." 

The transgender community in the United States faces a high rate of murder and suicide — the Human Rights Campaign reported that 48 transgender individuals in the United States were violently murdered in 2016 and 2017, while a study from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality states that 41 percent of transgender Americans will attempt to end their life. 

The conversation with RU Transmissions focused on how cisgender individuals can be supportive of their transgender peers, such as referring to them by their preferred pronouns and understanding the complex intersections of sex and gender. Krutko, a non-gender-conforming student who goes by the pronouns “they/them,” said it was encouraging to see how many cisgender students attended. 

Krutko also said the keynote address from Chris Mosier was “very inspirational,” as it provided an example of a transgender person who was able to thrive in a highly competitive profession such as athletics.

Kyle Silver, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, is a cisgender student who attended "Allyship 101" to make sure he was treating his fellow community members with the respect they deserved, he said. 

Silver said that the event’s simple structure made it easy for a student who might not know a lot about transgender issues to get involved and show their support. 

According to Krutko, transgender students still feel there is more work to be done, such as expanding access to gender-neutral bathrooms and increasing awareness of transgender issues in the student population.

 “(Rutgers is) a pretty good place to be trans,” Krutko said. "The University allows transgender students to change their student IDs to their preferred names rather than their legal names, and the atmosphere on campus is generally inclusive and open." 

Sam Leibowitz-Lord

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