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LGBT students to stress awareness during TransWeek

BY JORDYN REILAND | NOVEMBER 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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Poised at a mike, three trans-identified students shared their personal poems and writing about their own struggles and experiences.

Zeke Swim, a University of Iowa sophomore in attendance, said the medical doctors need to be more aware of transgender issues.

"I may be a little biased because I was sick last year and spent a lot of time in the university hospitals," Swim said, "But I have had a number of bad experiences with the lack of [transgender] education in the university hospital."

Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community say transgender population awareness, education, and advocacy are problems on the UI campus.

 

So UI TransCollaborations is holding a TransWeek. The event kicked off Sunday with a candlelight vigil and coffeehouse open mike. It will conclude Nov. 13.

Stef Shuster, a UI graduate student and co-organizer of TransCollaborations, said some of the personal concerns include correct use of pronouns, more gender-neutral conversations, and safe spaces for the community.

"I walk into classes, and the conversations are men and women, he and she, him and her," Shuster said. "There are more than two genders in the mix here, and people tend not to wrap their heads around it."

Shuster said a lot of the events held by TransConnection stress education.

"If there's nothing to grasp onto as a starting point, there's no room for change," Shuster said.

On Sunday, the LGBT Resource Center held the vigil and open mike in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance. The event began with the vigil to honor Trans-identified people who have experienced hate crimes. Afterwards, people were invited to share poems, prose, music, or dance.

Last year, the week focused on keynote speakers and lecturers. This week is titled "Building Communities of Care" in which participants get involved with community projects, including art projects and panel sessions.

And UI officials said these events help celebrate and promote transgender education.

Georgina Dodge, the UI's chief diversity officer, said the Diversity Office sponsors many different types of events on campus.

"It's a great opportunity for people to be educated and a great way for people to learn facts rather than misinformation," she said. "[TransWeek] is also a way for a culture to celebrate."

Preston Keith said the importance of TransWeek is to bring faces and voices to the issue of the transgender community.

"There are people out there who are different, and that's what we're trying to convey here," said Keith, the manager of the LGBT Resource Center.

GLBT Allied Union Executive Board member Alexandra Nassif said the events are meant to stress inclusion.

"In the LGBT abbreviation, the T often gets overlooked by the general public and LGBT groups themselves," Nassif said. "It's a good way to remind people the issue is not just about marriage but being accepted for who they are gender-identity-wise."

TransWeek 2011 is supported by groups including the Chief Diversity Office, the UI LGBT Resource Center, and the GLBT Allied Union.

Nassif said while having a TransWeek is helpful, transgender education and awareness shouldn't be limited to one week.

"We should be advocating every single day," Nassif said. "It shouldn't be limited to one scheduled week of events and discussions."


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