ASU celebrates Trans Awareness Week to raise awareness, dispel misconceptions

This week marks Trans Awareness Week, a national observance held from Nov. 14 to Nov. 20 that is dedicated to increasing the visibility and understanding of transgender and gender binary non-­conforming individuals. 

The week culminates in the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to observe the lives that were lost in anti-­transgender violence. Christopher O’Connor, a board member of Phoenix­-based support group Trans* Spectrum of Arizona, said the organization is taking the organizing the event this year.

The event will be held on Nov. 20 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Arizona State Capitol and will feature a reading of names, candlelight vigil, prayers, speakers and art displays from members of the transgender community and their allies, O’Connor said.

O’Connor, a Mesa Community College student, said his peers in the transgender community are resilient and driving a lot of change, such as gender-inclusive or gender-neutral bathrooms, residency halls and fraternities. 

O’Connor said ASU’s initiatives to bring attention to both are positive examples.

New Paradigms in Inclusion and Education Conference
Nov. 16, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Memorial Union (Tempe)

Trans* Myth Busters
Nov. 16 - 20
Student Center L1-15 (Downtown)

SafeZone
Nov. 18, 9 a.m. - Noon.
Agribusiness Center, Rm. 112 (Polytechnic)

Two Spirits Movie Screening
Nov. 18, 6 - 8:30 p.m.
Student Center San Carlos (Downtown)

A Discussion: Violence and Trans Identity
Nov. 18, 7:15 p.m.
Memorial Union 80 (Tempe)

Tangerine Movie Screening presented by Qmunity at ASU
Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m.
PSF 123 (Tempe)

SafeZone
Nov. 20, 1 - 4 p.m.
Student Center L1-20 (Downtown)

#SayTheirName 2015
Nov. 20, 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Hayden Lawn (Tempe)

We’re All Human: A Trans* Awareness Display
Nov. 20
Student Union (Polytechnic)

Transgender Day of Remembrance
Nov. 20, 3 - 5 p.m.
Delph Courtyard (West)
Nov. 20, 6:30 - 7 p.m.
Student Center Patio (Downtown)

Movies in the Park
Nov. 20, 7 p.m.
A.E. England (Downtown)

With the week bringing a concerted effort to raise awareness, various aspects and ideas about the transgender community will potentially be reinforced or dispelled. 

O’Connor said a focus of Trans* Spectrum is supporting youth, which ranges from ages three or four to 24. A large aspect of that, he said, is working with both the youth and parents to navigate coming out and transitioning at a time in life that may be harder to do so, which includes using chosen names and starting medical treatments. 

“It’s like a medical transition and a social transition,” O’Connor said. 

Fellow Trans* Spectrum board member Julian Melson said conversations with certain members of the transgender community gave him a new perspective what the media attention around Caitlyn Jenner brought. 

He said there is a concern that people will think the process of coming out and transitioning is a relatively quick and somewhat easy process. 

“In reality, many of us can never afford to do what she’s done,” Melson said. 

The logistics of testosterone treatments and facial reconstruction are examples of things that many average people cannot afford, he said. 

Jenner’s political views, such as her opposition to gay marriage, are also something “people are not happy with,” Melson said. 

Melson said a major issue some transgender people have is Jenner fundamentally not representing the community. 

“The feel is that she’s doing a lot of this for self­-promotion,” he said. 

However, Melson said he thinks the positive things Jenner has had to say about transgender youth are important. He added that her coming out has created more dialogue on a scale not yet seen for the transgender community. 

ASU alumna Riley Onate said many transgender students, however, still face challenges 

“(Transgender students) drop out due to dysphoria, anxiety of not passing, not being able to afford college, choosing hormones or surgery payments over tuition, depression and failing classes,” she said. 

Onate said she felt there wasn’t really a full-scale transgender community at ASU scale during her time there, and that small pockets of students understood or took part in transgender-­centric discussions or activities. 

In possible attempts to help bring to light or solve some some the issues transgender college students face, various ASU events are being held during Transgender Awareness Week. 

The list of events can be found here, which includes two observances of Transgender Day of Remembrance. 

“The more you see of us, the less mystery there is,” Melson said, echoing the sentiment of the week and the fight for awareness and acceptance.


Reach the reporter at Tristan.Ettleman@asu.edu or follow @ettletodd on Twitter.

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