Yasmine Byungura, Guest Writer
December 4, 2015
On Nov. 18, transgender students held a panel to discuss their experiences with the Guilford community. To the surprise of the panel, this event had a large turnout.
Around 15 students.
“Personally I’m okay with that right now,” said Hayden Young, first-year and one of the student panelists. “Yes it’d be great if more people came, but because a lot of the people that already come are at least interested this much, it makes it a safer space.”
Students shared stories of self-discovery, discussed issues of intersectionality and addressed common misconceptions about trans identity.
“I used to have hair down to here,” said sophomore and student panelist Aron Correa during the panel, gesturing towards his hips. “I guess I needed to prove to myself and to the world that yeah, I can be the girl you expect me to be.”
“But then I just cut it off in the summer between ninth and 10th grade and said, ‘I’m gonna stop letting this control what I do and how I act,’ and that helped a lot. Then in 12th grade I was finally just like okay, you know what, I’m just going to go ahead and open myself up as trans. Call me Aron.”
The coming out stories and experiences varied greatly amongst each of the panelists, some being extremely positive, and others being slightly less so. Either way, all contributed to the attendees’ understanding of what it means to be transgender.
The panel also all shared the sentiment that Guilford has generally been a very supporting community.
“Guilford has been great for my identity,” said junior Eric Kelly during the panel. “I’ve been able to just be me, and I’m glad to be a part of things like this (panel).”
Some of the panelists agreed, however, that the attitude towards transgender students at Guilford could definitely improve, even if it has been a better environment than they may have experienced previously.
“When I got to Guilford, it got a lot better,” said first-year and founder of Queer People of Color Terry Daniels during the panel. “The community is a lot better, however, I still do get those comments and I still do get those laughs, I still get those whispers.”
The panel discussed some of the issues they would still like to see the administration address, such as lack of sensitivity training related to transgender students, a required course relating to gender and sexual diversity and community-wide discussions on these issues.
“I know that the faculty here are not required to take sensitivity training, and even within the sensitivity trainings I’m not sure if transgender issues are a part of that, but feel like the fact that those aren’t mandatory in the first place is a problem,” said first-year panelist Sonia McLamb.
“Just in my first semester here I had to deal with two teachers who hadn’t really understood what it (transgenderism) means and misgendered me a few times in class and didn’t apologize for it, or did apologize, but made way too big of a deal about it.”
Not many people are informed about transgender issues or attend transgender events, so rarely are the concerns of transgender students addressed by administrative officers. However, watching and listening to the panelists share their experiences was informative on a whole other level, and honestly, pretty inspiring.
Panels like this make you realize that transphobia and transgender issues do not just affect transgender students, they affect their friends and family, and threaten positive, safe and supportive communities like the one we have here at Guilford.