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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Triskelion and TransBrandeis aim for transgender awareness

Published: November 18, 2011
Section: Features

This week Brandeis was on its A game. There was a Fornication 101 course in Rabb. Seniors out on the town at Skellig on a Wednesday night. Brandeis sports dominating. Many events highlighted the community coming together and achieving great things, but one event truly encompassed the open-minded, unbiased Brandeis mentality: Transgender Awareness Week.

Cynthia Simonoff ’12, events coordinator of Triskelion, or Trisk, Brandeis’ Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Ally undergraduate student group, described the week as a series of events designed to bring awareness to the transgender community and ultimately to advocate the nationally recognized Transgender Day of Remembrance this coming Sunday, Nov. 20. Simonoff explained how this celebration is meant to use the term “transgender” in its broadest sense, including but not limited to: transsexuals; people who identify as genderqueer, drag kings and queens; people who identify as intersex; and any other people who don’t feel they conform to established gender roles.

Simonoff described the daily hardships trans people face while living in a society with a clear, distinct gender binary (male and female). Small daily decisions taken for granted like choosing names for ID cards, class rosters and registering on Sage, or what pronouns to use, or even which bathroom to use are more complicated. Fortunately, Brandeis provides some accommodations like gender-neutral housing and gender-neutral bathrooms, but there is still a lot of work to be done, she said. As a whole, transgender individuals are a minority and are often overlooked and even discriminated against on a daily basis because of their own personal gender and sexual identity. This type of intolerance still occurs every day in all parts of the world. The goal of Trisk’s events this week was to fight these injustices Brandeis-style and fill some of the gaps that Brandeis does not. The week included “Break a Gender Norm Day,” for which students were encouraged to dress or act as the opposite gender. It also included a day focused on self-image, a coffee house and many other activities that were both educational and fun.

Trisk ultimately aimed to help the Brandeis community understand what it means to be transgender and get people to recognize that the key to having a close-knit community is to accept and celebrate people for who they are. Sara Brande ’15 is a co-coordinator of TransBrandeis, a branch of Trisk for people who identify as transgender and trans allies. Brande expressed hope that the effect of hosting the first Transgender Awareness Week would make “the Brandeis community become a safer and healthier space for all who are a part of it.” Halee Brown ’13, Trisk’s general coordinator, added, “Ideally, this open-minded perspective will carry on past this week and disseminate further into the Brandeis community, allowing us to reinforce our commitment to social justice and maintain respect for those around us.”

So whether you are a transgendered individual, or you personally know someone in this category, or you were completely unaware of this community on campus, being educated and spreading the knowledge to others seems to be the number one way to fight transgender injustice.

Transgender Awareness Week will continue with a peace vigil this Sunday, 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., walking from the Shapiro Campus Center to the Usdan Peace Circle in remembrance of those who have lost their lives to hatred and ignorance.