LGBTQA talks about transgender issues

Kayla Johnson/Contributing Writer

“Understanding the T” was an event held to honor members of the trans community, one that has been largely ignored. This discussion is a part of our University’s goal to bring about social awareness.

This discussion was held last Thursday, Nov. 19 in WUC 155 and organized by Mario Lara, a graduate assistant in charge of the LGBTQA initiative at Biscayne Bay Campus.

Guest speakers included Alina Tello-Cordon and Campbell Alexander. The open forum presented by Cordon allowed students and faculty members to start a dialogue addressing the misconceptions held in society about trans people.

“It’s great to actually have a conversation with someone and have them see that we’re just regular people,” said Alexander, who is on the Board of Directors for the AQUA Women’s Foundation, a community partner of our University.

“Unfortunately, there is a lot of stigma against the letter ‘T.’ I am trying to take away that stigma,” said Alexander.

The debate covered the difference between gender identity and gender expression. However, participants were also informed that members of the trans community are disproportionately affected by unemployment, homelessness, risky sexual behavior, dropping out of school, anxiety/depression and STI’s more than any other group in LGBTQ.

“The best thing is to ask questions about how a trans person prefers to be addressed instead of making harmful assumptions,” said Cordon, who works with the Switchboard of Miami as a LGBTQ Therapist/Care Coordinator and Alexander. “We want to create a safe space for people to communicate about these issues.”

She emphasized that trans men and women should be addressed with their pronouns. For example, a trans male should be referred to as “him” if that is what makes him comfortable and that people should avoid transphobic or invalidating language and use gender inclusive language. This includes terms like “it” and “he-she.”

Cordon makes it clear that being trans is not the issue.

“Trans is not synonymous with a mental health issue,” said Cordon. “Psychological problems arise from societal treatment of trans people.”

Gender policing also has a big impact on the trans community. They are forced to perform based on how society views their gender.

“Gender policing is the imposition or enforcement of normative expressions,” said Cordon. “But some people go outside of their gender identity through expression.”

As an ally of LGBTQ, Meredith Morgan, a coordinator of the University’s Women’s Center and a close friend of Cordon and Alexander, addressed the fact that a person’s internal gender does not always match their biological sex.

“Trans issues are overlooked and misunderstood,” Morgan said. “For example, a lot of people think that people should use restrooms that match their gender at birth. They don’t understand that some people don’t feel that their gender identity aligns with the gender they were assigned so we need to bring more awareness.”

One of the junior English students students at the event, Katherine Marcelino, said that she always strives to use language that cannot be misconstrued as offensive within any socially marginalized community.

“I am currently taking an LGBTQ course in alliance with FIU’s global learning initiative,” said Marcelino. “I have also been a part of the committee that organizes the events for transgender week.”

She feels that stereotypes of how men and women should behave prevent a lack of understanding and common ground.

“It’s important that we don’t conform or adhere to just one stereotype of gender or one sense of self,” said Marcelino. “It allows you to relate to many different kinds of people. It also helps you to be more sensitive to the needs of others.”

“Understanding the T” ended with a testimony from Campbell Alexander, who wants to establish a level of comfort and openness concerning a topic that people may tend to shy away from.

In December 2014, the Human Rights Ordinance added gender and expression to be protected so that trans people cannot be denied public services.

Cordon and Alexander are hopeful about the future of the trans community.

“This is a real issue,” Alexander said. “We are not just some fabrication. Having this opportunity and being given that audience means the world to me.”



Photo Credit: Jasmine Romero / Multimedia Director

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