Trans Week picks up steam


Up Up And Away Photography

An ally received a pin and informational pamphlet on Transitions for Trans people at the Wesley Center on November 16, 2015. (Daily Iowan/Karley Finkel)

By Tessa Solomon

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Poetry, potlucks, and pronouns: all in a week of transgender awareness.

Trans Awareness week has swept campus, hosted by University of Iowa’s Trans Alliance and other ally organizations. More than 80 members of the Hawkeye community explored trans figures and culture at the kickoff event Monday in the Wesley Student Center.

“The week lets the trans community throughout our area know that they are supported, and when we get high attendance at our events, that message is amplified,” said sophomore Sean Finn, the president and founder of Trans Alliance.

Students and community have a slew of opportunities this week to better connect with that message. Esteemed slam poet Andrea Gibson will perform her powerful pieces, picking apart gender norms on stage, at the Englert, 221 E. Washington St., at 6 p.m. today. 

Her poetry highlights the struggle observed on Thursday’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. The night mourns the lives lost in the fight against transgender violence.

“The whole week kind of revolves around the vigil,” said sophomore Merric Bower, Trans Alliance board member. “People don’t realize between the high murder and suicide rates that it is very much an issue that we want to stop.”

To prevent those tragedies from occurring at the UI, the whole campus has to work toward acceptance, something the week strives to achieve.

“While we are building community throughout the process, the main focus is to bring in folks from the cis-gender [non-trans] community and create some opportunities for people to learn about and explore the trans community and our experiences,” Finn said.

Attending these events is a step in acknowledging the challenges of a minority group.

“So often with people who have minority status, including transgender individuals, there is so much invisibility that surrounds not only the discrimination that they face but just their everyday life,” Katie Imborek said.

One of two physicians operating Iowa City’s 3-year-old LGBTQ clinic, Imborek provides a safe environment for transgender individual seeking hormone therapy or just basic medical care.

“People are concerned with safety, with finding a safe place where they can use the restroom, concerned about how they may be perceived or how they interact with instructors or fellow students,” said Linda Kroon, the director of the Women’s Resource & Action Center.

WRAC will host the week’s Friday finale, a potluck social from 4-6 p.m.

The week emphasizes the resources available to trans students, like the LGBTQ clinic and other welcoming organizations, but the focus is still on greater progress.

“There’s been progress made in some areas but I wouldn’t say we’re done in terms of that progress,” Kroon said. “There are certainly some areas that have devoted time and energy to this and others that haven’t started.”

While changes have slowly started to be reflected in campus facilities, like pod-style restroom, a readiness to challenge notions is necessary of the cis community, too.

“A lot of people don’t know someone who’s trans, or don’t understand, but it’s not their fault if no one gives them the opportunity to come learn,” Bower said.

From Tuesday’s Trans Awareness & Allyship Workshop to Friday’s potluck, the chance is there to make personal connection, to stop looking at a group as a statistic.

“This week allows people to understand this isn’t talking about them, this is talking about us, people in our community: our friends, our family, and our classmates,” Imborek said.

Andrea Gibson, slam poet, Wednesday 6-7 p.m., Englert

Understanding Trans Identities, Wednesday,6-7 p.m., IMU South Room
Trans Day of Remembrance Vigil,Thursday, 7-8 p.m., Danforth Chapel
Trans Awareness Week Community Potluck, Friday, 4-6 p.m., WRAC

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