Published on April 3, 2018 in Pacer Times, University of South Carolina Aiken’s college paper
Unity, a LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual) support group, and one of Dr. Melencia Johnson’s sociology classes collaborated to host an ICE event to celebrate International Transgender Day of Visibility March 31.
Johnson was the speaker for the event and Elizabeth Webb, an instructor of communication and Unity’s adviser, aided in the presentation.
The event consisted of showing the documentary, “Trans,” about the transgender community and the trials of transitioning. Afterward, the audience held discussion and asked questions to unpack some of the issues regarding the experiences seen in the video, while relating it to Johnson’s Queer Crime and Justice curriculum.
“Trans” chronicled several different people coming to terms with their identity, whose lives intertwine by the end.
Webb said that the documentary, although informational, excluded other types of transgender circumstances. Those in the documentary conformed to the gender binary but gender is fluid and not confined to two, according to Webb.
One of the first stories seen is Dana Tyler’s, who is a 7-year-old transgender girl wrestling with adversity but is not conused about who she is supposed to be.
“A boy wears lame clothes and a girl wears good clothes,” Tyler said.
Tyler’s mother said that Danan threatened to cut off his penis at only 4 years old.
Before transferring to a different school, Tyler faced scrutiny from students as well as teachers and was made to wear boy’s clothing.
“Sometimes you have to be two people,” Tyler said.
Cristina McGinn, a transgender woman and doctor performs gender corrective surgery on Erica Field and Pam Patrick, who are also transgender women.
“After the surgery, everything was in technicolor,” Field said. She later stated that she had no regrets on her surgery.
One devastating story was Chloe’s. She committed suicide after longterm frustration with not being in her right place, according to her mother.
Cris Salamanca, a transgender man, was also shown struggling to hold confidence within himself. According to Salamanca, he was reminded of his difference every time he had to bind his breasts.
“Transgender people are revictimized by the justice system,” Carrie Fink said. Fink is one of Johnson’s students.
Johnson alluded to the brutal violence against transgender people mentioned in the documentary, saying that “there’s a lack of sympathy for survival crime.”
Part of Johnson’s class talks about the levels of oppression. There is often more jail time for those oppressed. This especially goes for intersectional persons, meaning those who are part of multiple minority groups.
“Trans people are blatantly ignored because of other people’s perceptions,” said Travis Harding, another student.
Webb touched on the 2012 documentary’s outdated inclusion of its stance of “gender dysphoria” as seemingly valid. Gender dysphoria is defined as a gender identity disorder.
“People are pathologizing people being who they are,” Webb said.
To pathologize someone is to treat someone as psychologically abnormal or unhealthy.
Psychology major Jill Marie Saint, who’s involved in Unity events, plans on becoming a therapist for LGBT, focusing on transgender people. She hosts a Discord channel on the web, a real-time communication method much like Skype.
“It’s a supportive community with a high proportion of trans. We talk about how our day has been,” Saint said. “People who are transgender often have mental health issues just because of how they get treated.”
High rates of depression and suicide were discussed in “Trans,” some of which stems from the physical and sexual abuse experienced in the transgender community.
Prior to the showing, Rebecca Schander, Unity’s social media coordinator, notified the audience of an upcoming Unity event on April 6 from 8 p.m. to midnight, a spring formal.
“A lot of us didn’t get to go to formal because of the rules in high school,” Shander said.
She recently came out as bisexual and since then has been more aware of the inequities that LGBTQIA+ people face.
All are welcome and encouraged to attend Unity’s spring formal, members and allies alike.