Campus highlights transgender PRIDE
March 25, 2010 5:22 PM
On March 24, individuals from across the gender spectrum celebrated International Transgender Visibility Day.
On campus, the second annual "Between the Binary" event was held by the PRIDE at SF State Committee, a group working to support the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community.
The festivities began in the morning with performances by transgender musicians in Malcolm X Plaza and continued with a speaker's panel, moderated by Assistant Professor of Sociology Clare Sears, in Jack Adams Hall. The day's events were co-sponsored by SF State's Counseling and Psychological Services, the Ecumenical House, the Associated Students, Inc. Women's Center and ASI Education and Referral Organization for Sexuality (E.R.O.S.).
"We've all heard these concepts of what it means to be male and what it means to be female," Bita Shooshani, PRIDE committee chair and assistant director of prevention education programs at SF State, said. "What we learned today is there isn't any one person who can represent one community."
This year's panel included a mix of SF State students, alumni and transgender community advocates from organizations including Gender Spectrum, St. James Infirmary and the Instituto Familiar de la Raza. Each shared their personal experiences with gender exploration and identification before taking questions from the audience.
"I can be a confident, masculine woman and that's just fine," Pardis Esmaeili, director of E.R.O.S., said as she addressed the crowd. "It's taken me a long time to be open about my experiences."
Panel member Joel Baum, director of education and training for Gender Spectrum, said his organization works with gender non-conforming children as young as 4 and 5 years old. He shared Gender Spectrum's message to "be yourself, change the world," whether one identifies as "male, female, both or neither."
According to its website, Gender Spectrum provides "education, resources and training to help you create a more gender sensitive and supportive environment for all people, including gender variant and transgender youth."
"I guess being heterosexual I had a lot of stereotypes," said Roberts, who added that she found the presentation both interesting and educational.
"My experience with gender is that it has been a journey," SF State master's candidate and panel member Shawn Demmons said.
Demmons, who was born female but identifies as male, discussed the TransClusive survey he developed as part of a research project at SF State. In total, 63 faculty and staff members and 187 students participated in the survey, which sought to asses participants' comfort levels with transgender individuals. Demmons is also studying SF State's policies and practices to determine whether they are inclusive of transgender students. He stated that one of the largest issues in the community currently is the lack of transgender-friendly bathrooms on campus.
During the panel, Demmons said it has been estimated that at any given time, a college campus of 20,000 students might have up to eight students in transition, 60 who are actively questioning their gender and 200 whose appearance transgress gender normative roles.
"It's an issue that isn't discussed enough," he said.
"It's really breaking out of these binaries of either/or. Nobody really fits these little boxes," Shooshani said of the meaning behind "Between the Binary." "I'm very proud of the students I've worked with who shared about their experiences."
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