International Transgender Days commemorates and celebrates

Thursday Nov. 17 through Sunday Nov. 20 Geneseo's Pride Alliance and Womyn's Action Coalition teamed up to sponsor a string of programs in support of the International Transgender Days of Remembrance.

The events commemorated tragic losses and celebrated the lives of transgender people throughout the world. These programs included an informational lecture by representatives from the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley, a candle-holder decorating Late Knight event and a candlelight vigil to promote understanding and respect for transgender people.

The weekend began with an informative talk by Kelly Clark and Laura McSpadden of the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley in Rochester. Both worked to form a foundation for the Transgender Days of Remembrance celebration by defining what it means to be transgender and explaining why Transgender Days of Remembrance exists.

They emphasized the fact that many people, even those within the LGBT community, don't understand exactly what being transgender means. Clark, the community safety director for the gay alliance, explained, "The LGB don't always grasp the T. Just because we're all lumped together in the alphabet soup doesn't mean that we understand each other."

Clark described transgender as an "umbrella term" encompassing all people who do not conform to the socialized norms for people of their physical sex – that don't fit into the traditional "two [male and female] boxes."

McSpadden, the gay alliance's office administrator, continued by describing the various factors included in a true understanding of sexual identity: physical sex, gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation and sexual behaviors. "Physical sex is in the pants, gender identity is in the head, gender expression is in the community," McSpadden said.

Shocking facts were brought forth to highlight the consequences of the popular misunderstanding of transgender people. Between 2008 and Nov. 2011, 755 murders of transgender victims have been reported internationally; 29 percent of people who are transgender have been harassed by a police officer; 22 percent have been denied equal treatment by a government agency.

"This is an attack on identity more than anything else," Clark said.

Geneseo's Transgender Days of Remembrance continued as the decorated candle-holders were used in a candlelight vigil – a sad occasion, yet hopeful for a future of gender acceptance.     "I'm here to support people of every identity," freshman member of Pride and WAC, Katherine Hawes said. "Everyone should have the same rights and be understood."