People encircled the Smaug stage. Some were seated directly in front of it, listening intently and asking questions. Others milled along the side and back walls, eating sandwiches and glancing up occasionally from their laptops. Though some people were gathered in the Smaug for the explicit purpose of listening to Tuesday’s Trans* Awareness Panel, others just happened to be nearby. Regardless of how they got there, however, everyone had the opportunity to hear the stories from transgendered or gender non-conforming individuals, all of whom had their own unique perspectives to share.
This event was sponsored by Full Spectrum: Winona State University’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance, and was one of three events in support of Trans* Day of Remembrance on November 20. The purpose of the events was to raise awareness and understanding of trans* issues. Tuesday’s panel allowed audience members to ask questions of trans* individuals, which encompassed everything from “passing” as cisgender to familial relationships.
One of the panelist’s fathers even stepped forward to tell his daughter’s story through his own perspective. One of his main points was the importance of language. Although he had done extensive research about the history of transgendered or gender non-conforming individuals, he still struggled to navigate the territory of pronouns and proper labels. There are resources, such as these panels and websites like this one, that can help.
When I asked Jax Pugh, a member of Full Spectrum, what to do if I misuse these terms, Jax simply said, “Apologize and move on.” The most important thing, according to club members and panelists, is to simply be kind.
Trans* Day of Remembrance continued through Wednesday, which included another panel discussing the relationship between cisgender privilege and trans* issues. Later in the evening, a candlelight vigil was held in Windom Park to honor transwomen killed because of gender based violence. Though the purpose of these two days was to honor these transwomen, it was also an important opportunity to spread awareness of trans* issues.
As people sat around the Smaug on Tuesday afternoon, whether listening intently or peering over laptops, each of us learned something. Personally, I realized there’s still a lot for me to learn. Although it’s important to understand the multiple perspectives within the trans* community, and although I want to learn more about topics regarding gender and identity, I think the most important advice really is just to be kind to all people.
For more information about Trans* Day of Remembrance or Full Spectrum, please contact Jax Pugh at firstname.lastname@example.org.