Catie Eichberg, Web Editor (ceichberg@wwc)
This week marked Warren Wilson’s second annual Transgender Awareness Week. The first celebration happened on campus in the fall of 2009.
Why was last year the first, when the event has been celebrated to a certain degree since the first Transgender Day of Remembrance over a decade ago?
“[I think] it’s probably just because that was the first time there were students who were showing interest in talking about trans issues on a campus-wide level,” said Little Bear Byrne, member of the RISE crew and one of the organizers of the week’s events.
The collaborators who organized the week’s events included the Queer Resource Center, EMPOWER, and the RISE Project. Their reason for holding the events “was to build upon the education and discussions that began last year.”
The event lineup included one trans-focused workshop each night, covering topics including: establishing a transgender vernacular and creating a space to talk about trans issues on campus; health, sex, and sexuality; the formation and expression of queer identities through a lens of spirituality; and the treatment of transgender prisoners.
Monday’s event, “Trans 101,” was held in Canon Lounge. About twenty students and staff sat in chairs in a circle, creating a safe, intimate space for discussion and introductions.
The evening’s participants brought with them a wide range of experiences with the trans community. These ranged from having little to no knowledge (“trans-what?!”) and a desire to learn the basics, to those who were involved in organizing the event and were already well-versed in the rich language of the trans and genderqueer community.
Byrne said he hoped that the event would “give community members a language for referring to trans community members, activities and topics.” Consolidating the night’s purpose in his mind, Byrne added, “it’s an introduction to rethinking gender.”
Tuesday night’s event in the Garden Cabin was focused on talking about health, sex, and sexuality. The group’s interests leaned towards the transitioning process and what options there are for trans folks wishing to transition, like hormone replacement therapies (HRT) and sex reassignment surgeries (SRS).
When discussion started to slow down a little in terms of discomfort with talking about sex, Byrne reminded the group that, “I don’t think we can talk about sex in this event in a way that makes people comfortable afterwards without being explicit. We’re gonna dive right in.”
Wednesday’s event was also held in the cozy Garden Cabin, focusing on the queer identity in spirituality.
Thursday’s showing of the documentary “Cruel/Unusual” in Sage Cafe focused on the experiences of transwomen in prison, and was also a part of the Sustainability Film Series. The film was followed by a workshop with the Asheville-based trans activism group Tranzmission.
The week will come to an end tonight at 6:30pm in Bryson Gym with a “Drag 101” workshop and poetry reading by recent Hampshire College graduate and visiting presenter, Teal Van Dyck.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance is tomorrow, November 20. This day memorializes Rita Hester, a transwoman from Boston who was committed to trans education.