Understanding the transgender community

“Gender is not real, it’s subjective” –Chris Marks

 Luis: Genderfluid (Pronouns: they/them or she/her)

Emmett Griffith: Queer Transmasculine FTM (female to male) (Pronouns: he, him, his, they, them, theirs)

Chris Marks: Genderqueer (Pronouns: he, she, they)

Rebecca Rost: Cisgender (Pronouns: she, her)

Ian Barnard: Gay and Queer (Pronouns: they, them, their)

Transgender Symbol Credit: Google Images
Transgender Symbol Credit: Google Images

  Wake up, Chapman. The transgender community is up and active on campus.

     “There are more than two genders. Sometimes I say it to people, and it just rocks their world,” said senior creative writing major Luis. “This has been happening since humankind started; sorry colonialism told you otherwise.”

   The transgender community includes identities all across the spectrum, not just male and female. Chapman has taken small steps, but transgender students believe that bigger efforts are necessary to welcome and understand transgender individuals.

  Luis is genderfluid and said that the Chapman campus is entrenched with strict Western ideas of manhood and womanhood.

   Junior dance major Chris Marks is genderqueer and agrees that Chapman reflects society, and that people are blatantly unaware of what it means to be transgender.

   “You can’t just look at someone and say, ‘Oh, they’re trans,’” Marks said. “You have to talk to them, get to know them, and understand their identity.”

   Luis said the gender-inclusive restrooms and dorms at Chapman have been appreciated; however, they barely satisfy the minimum.

   Luis lived in the dorms with another genderqueer friend and two cisgender girls. While having the space was nice, Luis pointed out that the university had the rooms placed in the more expensive dorms, which not every transgender student can afford.  

   Sophomore creative writing major, Rebecca Rost, is a cisgender woman, but strongly supports the transgender community.

   “The fact that Chapman limits the number of available gender neutral dorms is ridiculous. They’re just rooms. Gender isn’t dependent on whether a building allows it or not,” said Rost.

   The restrooms were introduced with a Gender-Inclusive Restroom Day to expose the transgender community to Chapman students and faculty.

   Senior integrated educational studies and English major Emmett Griffith, contributed to the planning for the Gender-Inclusive Restroom Day. Griffith is a queer transmasculine and said that while the day was a step in the right direction, it was a temporary one-day event.

   English professor Ian Barnard is gay and queer, and said the restrooms should not be the end goal.

   “We don’t want tokenism to be our end goal. The end goal should be that all campus restrooms are gender-inclusive,” Barnard said.

   There are only four gender-inclusive restrooms on campus, and they aren’t the most accessible, either.  

   Luis said that it’s difficult to navigate a daily routine, making sure to pass by the gender neutral restrooms.

   A cross-cultural center is to be built in Argyros Forum 303, and Luis mentioned that there are no gender-neutral bathrooms in the Forum.

   “You’re trying to create an inclusive space, but you’re not affirming that physically,” said Luis.

   Reactions to the gender-neutral restrooms have not all been positive either.

  An article about the restrooms was reposted on Facebook, and Marks had come across it. Reading the comments Marks said he felt hurt seeing how members of Chapman commented, showing their disapproval.

   Using the bathroom is a fear of Marks’s. Growing up, he had many traumatic experiences being bullied in the restrooms.

    “I don’t associate myself with being a man or a woman. I’m just not that. I appear male [and] I use the male restroom because I’m afraid of what would happen if I did use the women’s restroom,” Marks said.

   Griffith said the Restroom Day was a good educational tool, but worried that people may think restrooms were the only issues that transgender individuals faced. Though, the issues go beyond that.

   Marks fears using the restroom, because he fears violence.

 1977 Chapman alumn Casey Haggard was murdered on July 23, 2015 after being stabbed in the neck by a man in Fresno, California. Haggard was stabbed because for being a transgender woman. (hyperlink-http://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article30127785.html)

   NBC News said that more transgender individuals were killed in 2015 than any other year. There were at least 21 people killed, and 19 of them were women of color, as stated in the Human Rights Campaign. (hyperlink- http://hrc-assets.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com//files/assets/resources/HRC-AntiTransgenderViolence-0519.pdf)

  Transgender women of color are a main target in the community, and face the most violence. According to Advocate, (hyperlink-http://www.advocate.com/transgender/2016/2/23/two-black-trans-women-killed-48-hours) in February of 2016, two transgender women of color were killed just within 48 hours. This is just a small insight into the violence that so many people face, and there are still Chapman students who don’t understand how serious the issue is.

  Marks said the Student Union desk had a poster on a day they were recognizing the transgender women who were murdered. On the poster a student had written, “Who cares, people die every day,” which Marks said terrified him.

   Marks said that every morning, when he wakes up, he has to decide how he is going to appear and present himself.

   “This is such a real fear for transgender individuals. Am I going to be murdered for being who I am?” said Marks.

   From the sidewalks around Chapman to inside the classroom, Marks has been put in uncomfortable situations regarding his identity.

   While walking outside in swim shorts and a pink tank, a man yelled to Marks, “Are you actually wearing that?” Then the man continued to laugh. Marks said that he was simply wearing a shirt and shorts, but someone still made a joke about him.

   Then in a human sexuality class, Marks’s professor had asked the question:

   “If your seven-year-old son wanted to wear a dress to school, would you let him? Raise your hand if you wouldn’t.”

   Marks said that he loved wearing dresses when he was younger, however, other men in the class raised their hands, which gave Marks a lot of anxiety.

   “I felt that you don’t accept me; you think what I want to do is weird; you think what I want to do is not okay,” Marks said.

   Marks didn’t even feel comfortable enough to bring up his discomfort in the classroom to his professor.

   Sociology professor C.K. Magliola, said that the Chapman administration has been working with the diversity and inclusion initiative, and that a good first step would be making the faculty more educated and aware of the transgender community.

    Magliola suggested that it could be written in the university’s policy that faculty must abide by the gender pronoun that the student has identified as.

   “The faculty should model,” said Magliola. “One thing I started doing last semester is asking students their gender pronouns on the very first day. It’s one method that is used to set the tone for the rest of the semester.”

  Barnard said some classes at Chapman also continue to perpetuate the distinction between “sex” and “gender,” despite the fact that this distinction has been discredited by many transgender theorists. Also, Chapman still has antiquated heterosexist and cisnormative policies in place which assume that there are only two genders.

  Griffith noticed that issues facing transgender students are often not discussed or acknowledged. The list goes on to needing LGBT-identified counselors and a trans-inclusive curriculum.  

  Luis said the Student Psychological Center also needs to have someone who either identifies as transgender, or is at least trained to understand the identities.

   “A lot of the times we go to those services, either we’re seen as fascinating creatures to them or [the staff] doesn’t really know how to relate to us,” Luis said.

   Marks said that changes could be seen within the student body, but there has to be more diversity. It’s important to care and to take the mental effort to step into someone else’s shoes and learn about what they are going through.

    “Change the student body; change the people that are coming into this school,” said Marks. “The people that they are accepting into this school are people who are not aware of these issues and people who do not want to learn about these issues.”

   While many students know of the transgender community’s existence, Luis said that the number of people who are actually knowledgeable about the community is small.

   Rost said there is not equity or equality between transgender, gender nonconforming and cisgender individuals on campus because there is not equity or equality between them in the world at large. Chapman is a microcosm of greater society in many ways and often mirrors the problems, like transphobia, that plague the rest of the country.

   “I feel like respecting my pronouns isn’t enough; respecting my existence isn’t enough,” said Luis. “Actually doing something to help me exist, that’s more necessary.”


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