Center for Diversity and Inclusion puts on Transgender Awareness Panel
The Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) held a Transgender Awareness Panel to discuss the transgender experience specifically at Washington University, Nov. 13.
Sophomore Aspen Schisler organized the panel, which was made up of Dr. Tasmin Kimoto, an assistant professor of Women Gender, and Sexuality Studies; AJ Robinson, a subject librarian at WashU; and 2 undergraduate students.
The University stopped providing gender-affirming care for all minors at its transgender center on Sept. 11, which has raised concerns for the trans community, according to AJ Robinson.
“It gives me a lot of questions about the institution’s priorities and what things are considered liabilities and I guess who is considered a liability,” Robinson said.
According to May, an undergraduate panelist who asked to only use her first name, the contrast between uplifting those with trans identities and mistreating transgender people at WashU highlights how the University does not see transgender people as people.
“The institution has a use for us, but they don’t support us as a living, breathing, inherently politicized people,” May said. “Our home is not the institution, our home is the movement and our home is with the community.”
For instance, pronoun circles, which is where each person in a group has to provide their pronouns to the group, can make transgender students feel singled out at WashU, according to May.
“I think we can do things differently such as not doing the mandatory ‘Are you transgender?’ check at the beginning of every class,” May said.
However, one panelist, who is not out to their family, enjoys being able to share their pronouns with members of the WashU community.
“It’s a point of pride for me to be able to say my pronouns and not feel abject horror at the reaction and not have to decide whether I am going to have to use the pronouns I was given at birth or the ones that I feel most comfortable,” they said.
Schisher finds joy and beauty in her trans identity, but according to her, not everyone views it that way.
Robinson came out as trans at WashU last year and asked HR to send an email to library staff about Robinson’s transgender identity.
According to Robinson, they responded “can you just talk to people who you work with?”
When Robinson first started working at the University, they did not come out to their coworkers because they didn’t want their identity to impact how other people view them.
“I needed people to know me as a competent worker before they know me as the trans worker,” Robinson said.
Dr. Tasmin Kimoto felt that their transgender identity was over-emphasized as an undergraduate and PhD student but their experience has changed as a faculty member at WashU.
“I’m proud to not be an event for people,” Kimoto said.
Transgender identities do not have to limit people, according to Kimoto, who views their identity as more than an orientation.
“Part of my sense of my gender is the particular kinds of care work that you do and taking care of one another,” Kimoto said.
May says part of her gender identity is intertwined in activism, not only in transgender rights but also in rights for minority groups.
Kimoto also thinks it is important for transgender people to let go of the history of transgender identity and simply enjoy life.
“I also tend to like trans joy, like reading stupid sh*t and learning how to do silly things,” Kimoto said.
Kimoto acknowledges that it is hard to ignore the history of the transgender community, but that history should not prevent people from trying to make change.
“Students always ask, ‘is everything terrible?’” Kimoto said. “It’s a lot harder to just sit there and feel hopeless when you’re actually working together with other people on something.”