Trans Awareness Week educates community and provides resources for trans students

FIU MPAS: LGBTQA Initiatives invited Aryah O'Tiss S. Lester (Founder and CEO of) to the FIU MMC Campus to discuss Transgender Community and the struggles this community has while interacting with the medical community and with common medical situations experienced by the Transgender Community.

By Andrea Diaz-Ariza

A frequently misunderstood community by many, the transgender and non-binary students took a week to celebrate their identity with pride. FIU has used Trans Awareness Week to open the conversation to what it truly means to be transgender in 2017.

On this week, MMC and BBC campuses came together to celebrate transgender and gender nonconforming students. Promoted by LGBTQA Initiatives, the week gave students the opportunity to learn about resources for transgender individuals, various gender identities and what students can do to make their transgendered peers feel included.

Trans Awareness Week is part of Trans Awareness Month that is dedicated to providing resources and education to the FIU transgender community. Events alternated between campuses, including workshops hosted by LGBTQA Initiatives, in order to proactively discuss the struggles, pride and proactive steps towards equality that this community faces. This week, they highlighted issues specifically within the trans community. The topics ranged from trans health to trans history and ended with trans Memorial Day.
Richard Moreno, the assistant graduate of the LGBT center, explained one of the most important parts of the week.

“We typically end the week with Transgender day of remembrance, where we celebrate and recognize the individuals that were lost due to anti-transgender violence,” said Moreno.

Students who would like to learn more about the trans community and what they can do to support them can do so using resources provided by LGBTQA Initiatives on campus.

“Self-education is really important, there are a lot of resources in the media, documentaries, and websites including LGBT.fiu.edu where we have a glossary of terms that are related to the trans community. Students should take the initiative and utilize their resources, there’s a lot of information available to them,” they said.

In terms of asking for pronouns, Moreno says it’s straightforward most of the time. However, if someone would prefer not to ask for pronouns, make sure to stick to gender-inclusive pronouns.

“For example, at our events, we ask people for their pronouns beforehand. But if you don’t know somebody’s pronouns, it’s always better to ask,” said Moreno, who uses they/them pronouns.
Trans Awareness Week is meant to highlight all aspects of the trans community, including the continual fight for basic rights. Moreno describes top priorities for the trans community to include housing, food security, healthcare, and employment. Because of employment discrimination as a result of their gender identity, transgendered people find it harder to maintain employment that offers stability. In order to gain access to all those other basic needs, they need to have a job and sustain themselves.
In highlighting Trans Awareness Week, it’s also important to note topics that are not appropriate to discuss with transgendered individuals.
“Definitely anything related to their own personal transition. Sometimes that means gender confirmation procedures, like hormones, but some don’t choose to go that route. Often times that seems to be the focus of conversations, the obsession with their transition, but that means something different for everybody,” Moreno said. “Unless they choose to disclose that to you, it’s definitely not something to ask.”

In a community that is constantly evolving, it’s important to recognize that not all individuals choose to conform to a certain gender. Gender nonconforming, or non-binary individuals are finding their own way to express gender beyond male and female.

Moreno also described the growing change from traditional notions of gender,

“We are seeing a lot of youth in the community identify as trans or gender nonconforming, and they are coming up with their own representation of what their gender means to them. People are starting to realize that they can identify and represent their gender in any way they’d like to and not stick to one or the other,” they said.

So what does it mean to be transgendered? Moreno says that depends. It no longer solely includes people who transition from male to female or female to male. People who are gender nonconforming, non-binary, transfeminine, transmasculine are considered transgendered.

“We are moving away from the definition that includes somebody’s body and how they choose to represent themselves and more into an inclusive approach,” Moreno said.
In last week’s local and state elections across the U.S., two openly transgender candidates won local elections. Danica Roem and Aretha Garrison, who will serve in their state’s legislative body, are proof that trans visibility is happening.
“It was an exciting representation of hope and where we’re going,” they said.

Trans Awareness Week was celebrated from Nov. 13-17. November is nationally considered Trans Awareness Month, with Nov. 20 being National Trans Day of Remembrance.

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