Groups tout Trans Awareness Week

This article has been corrected. You may view this article’s correction here.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups on campus kicked off the celebration of the sixth-annual Trans Awareness Week on Wednesday.

The seven-day event — the largest in the Trans Awareness Week’s history — will feature talks, receptions and performances aiming to educate the Yale community about issues facing transgender students and celebrate “nonconformist gender identities,” Trans Awareness Week organizer Rachel Schiff ’10 said.

No caption.
Kate Kraft
No caption.

“The title is slightly misleading because it’s not an illness people need to be aware of, but rather a celebration of trans people,” Schiff said. “We want to create a space for people to think about their own gender identity.”

This year’s Trans Awareness Week features 11 events over eight days, spanning discussions, art exhibits and the annual Drag Ball. For the past two years, the week only encompassed four to five events, primarily talks. Part of the growth comes from additional resources and staffing: University-allocated funds for the week-long event increased from $1,000 last year to $3,000 this year, organizer and former LGBT Co-Op Coordinator Anna Wipfler ’09 said.

Although the University’s known transgender community is small, organizers of Trans Awareness Week said it is likely there are many transgendered students on campus who are questioning their gender identities. A 2003 study commissioned by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that as many as 4 percent of students on college campuses nationwide identify as transgender.

“There are not really any open trans undergrads; they’re not out,” Wipfler said. “In the University as a whole, there are a few graduate students but I wouldn’t say there’s a trans-centric community.”

During fall semester last year, an ad-hoc committee of administrators was convened to study the issue of gender-neutral housing for transgender students in response to student demand on the issue. But Dean of Administrative Affairs John Meeske told the News when the committee was announced that the body could only make recommendations and was not created to make policy.

The first Trans Awareness Week, held in 2002, had fewer events and lacked the central organization provided today by the LGBT Co-Op, Wipfler said. Three years ago, the LGBT Co-Op became the main coordinating body of Trans Awareness Week. Since, other groups — such as the cultural houses and the Yale Women’s Center — have joined on to sponsor events, Wipfler said.

Wednesday’s Trans Awareness Week events included a Silliman College Master’s Tea with Matt Richardson, a transgender English professor at the University of Texas, Austin, and performer in the drag king troupe Nappy Grooves. Richardson discussed the use of blackface in performance, arguing that white performers used blackface to subvert black culture.

“Blackface counts as one of the first American cultural creations,” Richardson said. “It is ingrained in what Americans think is funny.”

Silliman College Associate Master Ronald Krauss organized the tea with Richardson. He said he thinks Trans Awareness Week is important because people of transgender identity are “on Yale’s campus” and “need to be affirmed like any other group,” as he put it. Krauss has arranged teas for Trans Awareness Week in the past, including a popular event last year with YouTube transgender celebrity Love B. Scott.

Carol Te contributed reporting.


  • Quentin Crisp at Yale Divinity School

    Please know that this trans- gender "awareness" at Yale began in 1977 when a student group at Yale Divinity School invited the then 71 year transvestite QWuentin Crisp to speak on cross dressing and gender identity at the school. Crip's one man show on his life as a London transvestite "The Naked Civil Servant" was playing at Long Wharf Theatre at the time before going on to New York. Crisp had an audience of 40 or so at the Divinity School that day including some from the Psychology Department who got him to agree to being professionally interviewed on trans gender identity. Need I say this was rather daring for the Divinity School at the time?

  • Hieronymus

    Um…that's great. Really. I mean that.

    However, one wonders whether this sort of thing lends a little credence to the "slippery slope" argument. (I mean, exactly what percentage of the population are we talking about here?)

    I wonder whether some folks are just born to protest/agitate/complain. Seems some folks will just NEVER be happy. No. Matter. What.

    BTW: In Switzerland, the feelings of plants must now be taken into account when, say, widening a road (I kid you not); not that there is anything WRONG with that… "Fiddlehead ferns! United! Will never be defeated!"

    I really rather more admire, say, Christian missionaries who risk their lives in China and the Middle East (and, lately, India), teaching little girls how to read. Seems so much more…real, versus those who waste, er, spend their time on our safe lil ever-supportive (unless you are a conservative) campus touting, in the grand scheme, the very margins of importance.

    Free country. Enjoy your self-congratulatory ministrations. Big party. Huzzah.

  • Schiff

    @ Heironymous.

    Perhaps as someone who has never known anyone persecuted because of how they look or present themselves in society, you believe its not a "real" problem.

    But in my opinion, any group who is persecuted by a conservative majority, whether its based on race, religion (this is a legitamate enough category for you I presume?), sexuality, or gender identity, needs others to stand up for them/whether or not they identify as trans.

    As one of the coordinators of the entire week, who has not had to deal with any type of gender identity persecution, but has watched friends be beat up, discriminated against, and victimized, I am saddened by your extraordinary lack of understanding and sympathy.

    And if you call our campus sympathetic, why don't you ask how many of our colleges have gender-neutral facilities, or ask yourself how much you know about TS/TG/GQ individuals.

    On some level, I'm jealous of your nievete. But perhaps one day your heart will be awakened, hopefully not as a result of the murder of another trans person.

  • Hieronymus

    You stood by and watched your transgender friends beat up?

    You have knowledge of the murder of a transgendered person?

    Quite a life you have led.

    Ironically, your presumptions about me are entirely incorrect--but I feel no need to present my bona fides to correct your misperception of my nievete [sic]. Further, I have sympathy for all G-d's creatures; my point really is that throwing a seven-day party for an unreported (i.e., no identified instances at Yale) minority.

    Time on this earth is short: a "persecuted" minority, at one of the best universities in the world, with an overwhelmingly supportive community in a liberal city in a free country.

    Ethnic and religious "cleansing" is taking place RIGHT NOW around the world (and, yes, I have persecuted--and killed--friends engaged in certain actions). Conservatives on campus must hide their views. Jews need to hide their religion in Egypt; Christians, in Indonesia. Our soldiers are risking their lives in Afghanistan. A girl in Yemen was stoned to death for being raped.

    I just can't get my panties in a wad over your lil party. Sorry. But I'm glad that you are, uh, changing the world and, you know, like that.

  • Hieronymus

    Completed thoughts:

    Para 4 should end something like "is a bit of misdirected overkill."

    Para 5: "isn't all that persecuted."

  • Recent Alum

    So now it is no longer enough to promote homosexuality, we need to promote transvestiality (spelling?) as well? What's next, Bestialist Awareness Week?

    Seriously, there are all sorts of people with abnormal desires or proclivities of all sorts (not necessarily sexual). Some people prefer to sleep only during the day. Some people spend 100 hours/week on Second Life. Some people have ridiculously long hair. Some people always wear all-black clothes. Some people have tattoos. Of the hundreds of different sorts of weirdos in our society, why is it always the sexual weirdos who get all the attention and get groups to push their agenda?