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The University of Colorado’s Gender and Sexuality Center held the TRANSforming Gender Conference March 10 and 12 in the Center for Community. This LGBTQ conference celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, and the amount of participants — both LGBTQ community members and allies — amounted to 500. The conference proudly hosted notable speakers including CeCe McDonald, a national leader in the transgender movement.
McDonald, a trans woman of color, is a survivor and a fighter. In McDonald’s opinion, the capitalistic and patriarchal society we live in today has limited her from living a life of freedom; instead she has had to deal with various injustices and discrimination.
On her way to a grocery store on June 5, 2012, McDonald was allegedly physically and verbally attacked by a man and was then controversially convicted for manslaughter after stabbing the man, resulting in his death; McDonald maintains she was acting in self-defense. After being released from forty-one months in prison, McDonald remains a strong activist for the LGBT community, especially for trans women of color.
After her imprisonment, McDonald felt that the government was a faulty system. According to figures released at the conference, nearly one in six transgender people spend their life in prison at some point, and the rate for black transgender people is 47 percent.
McDonald believes that the government is behind mistreatment of transgender people, instead protecting who they think are more valuable, the white and the rich.
In her speech McDonald claimed, “If I was a white person this wouldn’t be happening…prison is a new form of slavery.”
In addition to McDonald’s presentation, the queer couple of Mr. Tiq Milan, transgender, and Mrs. Kim Milan, a lesbian, questioned the relationship between a cisgender (non-trans) couple.
“Heterosexual couples are so queer,” Tiq said, riffing that heterosexual couples are the ones with strange practices.
“The way we love each other, the way we express ourselves, the way we create gender and sexuality around what feels good for us. The way we create our family — I think that is something that is beautiful and nuanced and I think it is possibly a model for other people,” Tiq said of trans relationships.
Kim Milan recounted when the couple gave a speech about “black love.” She remembered a comment on the speech: ‘I think that the guy’s (Tiq’s) head is gay.'”
“It’s very sad that you think that a man loving a woman is gay,” Milan said. “Someone who is being very affectionate and loving, clearly feminine in the way he’s being so loving with me is clearly must be gay. I realized for a lot of heterosexual people, [categorizations of being] gay [are] really just about being loving.”
This conference’s goal was to serve as a bridge between LGBTQ and cisgender people.
“I have a few friends who are just going into transition,” attendee Amanda Avery said. “I just want more knowledge, so I can help them.”
The TRANSforming conference also served to build community among LGBTQ people and to educated cisgender people about the issues.
However, the relationship between the groups is not only a problem on campus. According to conference attendees, for LGBTQ people, the life in Boulder is generally difficult.
“I came from the east coast — the conversation around gender and sexuality and transgender identity has more history to it. It’s more accepting and more normalized,” attendee Mo Bankey said. “Being in Boulder is harder.”
Another attendee made a remark that only in Boulder was she asked her gender in the restroom.
Sara Stagliano, a student volunteer, also commented on the conference.
“It was really cool. Tons of non-binary [trans] [staff] around, and it was very affirming to me.”
Morgan Seamont is an organizer of the conference as well as an assistant director of Gender and Sexuality Center. He emphasized on the importance of being an ally.
“It has to be a joint effort between cisgender people and transgender people, realizing there’s more gender diversity than people typically think of…There’s a lot of gender rules for everybody, especially men and women. And when we started to break those rules, we can get to true gender equality.”
Gender and Sexuality Center changed its name from the LGBTQ Resource Center for the celebration of its 20-year anniversary. Although operating under a new name, the staff continues its dedication to LGBTQ issues.
If you are interested in learning more about inclusivity on campus, monthly Safe Zone Training educates CU Boulder members in creating inclusive learning and work environments. The next training is on Thursday, March 31 in Room N215 in the Center for Community.