In an effort to spread awareness and show diversity in a campus community, members of the Sexual and Gender Equality Center set up “Making the Switch,” a conference on transgender realities, according to Kathryn D’Antino, a graduate assistant.
“It is really to open the community to discussion in questions which need to be addressed, especially for the transgendered community,” D’Antino said.
While at a National Women’s Studies Association conference, D’Antino said she discovered presenter Brooks Nelson, an activist and documentary filmmaker, and asked him to come speak.
Lauren Chicoski, a senior majoring in anthropology, said there is a planning committee with Ethan Fusaris on LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender organization), and this is the first event that focuses specifically on transgender issues.
“We have gotten great support from faculty and students,” Chicoski said. “This goes to show how open our campus really is.”
The bigger challenge, according to Chicoski, was getting students to come. She said many might be unsure at first but would definitely understand more afterward.
Chicoski said she would like this to be an ongoing event with different workshops and activities.
Jessica Kelly, a graduate student in the women’s studies program, said it is a topic which has not been talked about much at Southern.
“To start this topic at Southern and in New Haven, it is a way for the SAGE Center to become a part of the Southern community,” said Kelly.
Dr. Rosalyn Amenta, director of women’s programs in the Office of Student Affairs, said the event was student-planned: generated by students, primarily for students, as a way to acknowledge transgendered members of the campus community.
“Brooks [Nelson] was a unanimous choice in coming to speak at Southern. Without the support of Dean Troiano, this event would not be possible,” Amenta said.
Peter Troiano, assistant vice president and dean of student affairs, said it is great to see such a good turnout for the event, especially this time of year when there is so much in everyone’s schedule.
“These are important issues not usually addressed on college campuses,” Troiano said, “and we are fortunate to have so many organizations committed to the needs of the transgender community.”
Nelson said he came to show the film “Switch: A Community in Transition,” to affirm, acknowledge and celebrate transgender people in society, which centered around his personal life, his partner’s life and people he has grown close to.
The different segments of the film focused on the thoughts and ideas of those at home, at work, at church and in the community.
In the film, Nelson said, “I am 41 years old. The last time I saw my mother, I was a teenage girl.”
Another scene, according to Nelson, addresses the idea of what privileges females have in society while transitioning to the male gender.
In a discussion with the audience after the film ended, Nelson said his experience “was not, and will not, be the same as other people who are transgender.”