Organizers of Yale’s eighth annual Trans/gender Awareness Week, which started Tuesday, are broadening the event’s scope in an effort to reach more students.
In an effort to broaden the event’s focus, the awareness week has been expanded to two full weeks, renamed by adding the “gender” portion to its title and will continue through Nov. 16. In addition, the five-member organizing committee will bring more guest speakers and try to bring other LGBT student groups into the fold, according to coordinator Seth Weintraub ’11.
“We had lots of events in the past and this year that are not necessarily on ‘trans’ gender identities,” Weintraub said of the event’s programming. “We added ‘/gender’ to focus on issues relevant to everyone, because everyone has a gender identity.”
On Monday, Coordinator Ryan Mendias ’11 is organizing a talk with University of California, Berkeley biology professor Julia Serano titled “Putting the Femininity back into Feminism.” Serano’s lecture is co-sponsored by the Women’s Center and sororities Kappa Kappa Gamma and Pi Beta Phi. Mendias said he hopes involvement from mainstream campus groups such as sororities will make Trans/gender Awareness Week more accessible to students.
Organizers are also making an effort to help students consider gender issues on a personal level. During Tuesday’s Trans 101 Workshop — the opening event of the two-week series — Weintraub asked the 15 participants present to make a mental map of their gender expression, gender attribution and gender identity. Everyone finds gaps between those points, Weintraub explained, though the size of these gaps differ for every person. The larger they are, she explained, the more “discomfort” a person may feel.
Mariana Soberon ’13, one of event’s five coordinators, said Weintraub’s thought experiment will make students less prone to label individuals who do not present gender in a conventional way as the “other” and encourage them to think more carefully about their own gender.
“I think sometimes we overlook gender,” Soberon said. “I don’t think a lot of people just wake up in the morning and ponder their gender presentation if they wear this or that shirt.”
As the group tries to bring trans issues to the Yale community, they are also coming to the forefront of the LGBT community. Maria Trumpler, director of the Office of LGBTQ Resources, which is cosponsoring the event, said that as the public’s understanding of trans issues becomes more sophisticated, people are more willing to discuss them.
Weintraub called trans issues the “next frontier in LGBT civil rights politics,” and said the first step toward political rights for transgender individuals is public education and acceptance.
“Trans Week is often called the gender equivalent of Pride Month,” Weintraub said. “What Pride Month is to sexuality, Trans Week is to gender.”
For the first time, Trans/gender Awareness Week will include a headline event.
On Saturday, organizers will host a screening of the Oscar award-winning 1999 film “Boys Don’t Cry” and a question and answer session with the film’s director, Kimberly Peirce.