As part of a nationwide movement this week to raise awareness of transgender issues, the University of Wisconsin’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transexual Campus Center is kicking off a number of events throughout the week to support the transgender community and educate the city and campus on transgender issues.
Simon Fisher, LGBT Campus Center event coordinator, said this week’s events would have an educational focus on transgender issues both for the university and the Madison community. He added these issues are sometimes marginalized because of a focus on gay and lesbian programming.
“I think what we really want to talk about is the fact that gender identity is not a thing that a lot of people think about when they think about LGBT,” Fisher said. “Even though the ‘T’ is there, it’s at the end of LGBT. … So it’s about bringing the ‘T’ closer to the center of the issues.”
Fisher said the pinnacle event for the week is the Trans Monologues and Vigil being held Thursday night at a Room of One’s Own Bookstore. The night will feature poems, songs and monologues, followed by a candlelight vigil at Peace Park to honor members of the transgender community who have lost their lives.
Assistant Dean and LGBT Campus Center Director Gabriel Javier said the week’s events have changed over the past several years from focusing on a remembrance of transgender issues to be more educational, awareness building and celebratory.
While transgender awareness events will take place on campuses throughout the nation, Javier said they will all vary based on the different participating communities.
“I think each event in those different places, even though they might have similar elements … comes out of the individual communities,” Javier said.
The week’s events began Monday night with a workshop by a community organizer Tony Alvarado-Rivera focusing on a discussion of transgender experiences and anti-oppression movements. An additional workshop on gender identity and expression will take place Wednesday night.
Fisher added the center will distribute a document to help professors and teaching assistants on campus learn how to create a supportive atmosphere for transgender students. The tip sheet also advises classroom instructors to respect personal boundaries in discussions and lists resources where they can learn more.
The document includes various changes in classroom guidelines, such as avoiding roll call until students have a chance to state a preferred name and pronoun.
“It aims to help professors and TAs, before they walk into a classroom, set up an atmosphere,” Fisher said. “It helps trans and gender-variant students perform at their ideal level without having to worry about, ‘Am I going to be the person who does the teaching here?’”
Javier added the LGBT Campus Center is also working with other partners, such as the city’s LGBT Center OutReach and Our Lives magazine, to reach the larger Madison community. The Campus Center’s website also features a new interactive map to pinpoint gender-neutral restrooms in Madison.
“We’re hoping more people learn about transgender issues and that transgender people in the campus and in the community have space to be out, to feel safer and to know there are other people with similar issues,” Fisher said.