A discussion panel for students sought to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by the transgender community on campus, and attempted to teach students how to better relate to them.
“SpeakOUT: How to be a Trans Ally,” held by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Assembly on Monday evening at the University Religious Center, offered students a personal talk from Natalie Camunas, an alumna who is an active proponent of the transgender community.
“Often people from the gay and lesbian community don’t fully understand what it means to be trans,” said Vincent Vigil, director of the USC Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center. “We’re trying to engage in discussion about how we can, from with our own community, be more accepting of our trans people.”
Although the purpose of the event was to educate people about the transgender community, much of the talk was based on the personal experience of Camunas, who shared how she first became involved in the community: She dated someone who came out as transgender.
“It’s this rollercoaster ride — it’s scary,” Camunas said. “It’s difficult to let go of the person you were friends with, or who you dated.”
The informal talk people gave the audience of about 25, many of them members of GLBTA, a chance to ask questions about the transgender community. Points of discussion were the proper use of neutral pronouns — such as Ze, Hir, and Hirs — as well as other stories from attendees.
While there is still work to be done, said GLBTA Director Genevieve Flores, a senior majoring in psychology, USC is slowly acknowledging the transgender community.
“The new Campus Center is going to have gender neutral bathrooms,” Flores said.
Still, few students know how to relate to the transgender community, Camunas said. She spoke to the audience about how to be a good ally — someone who identifies themselves as straight, but supports the LGBT community — namely by stopping transphobia.
“That’s the number one thing; Just talk about it,” Camunas said. “Be an ally. If you hear something that doesn’t sound right to you, then say something. The more you do it, it puts you in a position of power.”
Allies have a very important role in the LGBT community, Vigil said, because if the LGBT community pushes their issues to LGBT students, they’re usually just preaching to the choir.
“It always become a gay issue — ‘Oh, those gays are arguing about such and such,” Vigil said. “But if they see a straight person supporting our cause, they might ponder and think, ‘Maybe I should give this a second thought.’”
A number of students who attended the event said they walked away with more knowledge about the treatment of the transgender community than before.
“You only hear about gay and lesbian issues, sexual orientation and not so much gender,” said Anthony Gaytan, a sophomore majoring in East Asian languages and cultures.
Meanwhile, other students also approved of the talk’s informality, which allowed the event to have a bigger impact on attendees.
“It was very interesting, but also really personal,” said Emily Allen, a sophomore majoring in psychology and creative writing. “I really liked the personal aspect. Natalie brought it a step above something rigid like a class.”
Marrissa Emond, a senior majoring in biological sciences who helped organize the event, said she hoped all attendees were able to benefit from the event.
“It is important trans people have acknowledgement,” she said. “A lot of people acknowledge themselves more to be LGB allies, but they always forget the ‘T,’ the little ‘trans’ at the end.”