For the past four years I have lived on campus here at the University of Puget Sound. It was here where I figured out my path for the future, and it was here where I discovered more about who I am as a person. It was here that I was put into perhaps the best nest for what was once an egg. Coming to understand that I am a trans woman occurred slowly but surely over these past four years.
In coming to know myself I also came to better know the world and community around me. I said that this campus was a good nest for my personal discovery, and I can still say that’s true. What comes with a liberal arts campus is usually a liberal understanding of people who deviate from the supposed norm. It is here that I felt safe coming to understand my trans identity, as the world outside this campus seems much less kind.
That being said, there are of course problems with this campus. This feels obvious, as a university still exists within the context of the greater world. But what I would like to discuss is a community within the campus—a community I feel I should align with most, our on-campus LGBT+ community. And I would like to discuss some glaring problems within it.
From my experience as a recently-out trans woman, I have come to notice how invisible trans women are in our on-campus LGBT+ community. These spaces are assumed to be for trans women. Members claim to be proponents of trans women issues, and I’d like to believe them. However, I do not see tangible evidence of this. Rather, I see real examples of a willful act of exclusion. And there is no commitment, time, or effort put into including trans women or making spaces for them.
On campus stands a monument to this exclusion. There was a senior art exhibit in Spring of 2016, showing the Art Studio majors’ work. One of the works is, as of now (Fall 2016), is being displayed in our campus library. I’m referring to the work of an artist whose goal was to commit the image of the trans community here on campus to canvas. I am familiar with those who are pictured. They are presented along with their preferred pronouns, none of whom prefer she/her. Indeed, of all those pictured, represented are trans men, trans-masc, DFAB non-binary, and DMAB non-binary (the DMAB non-binary being one of six pictured). Included in the work are canvases sans portraits. These were, according to the artist, dedicated to those who could not have their image taken to canvas, those who are no longer among us, or as an invitation for those identities who are—albeit consciously noted—missing from the work.
Herein lies my problem: I am not sure how to quantify our community’s relationship with trans women—at least not positively. It seems to be implicitly spoken that we are invisible on this campus, even by the community that hopes to accept us. In works dedicated to identity, there is a palpable amount of work put in to have ours left out.
Of course there are arguments to be made that trans women are definitely included in the discussion and are welcome to the safe spaces created for all under the LGBT+ umbrella here. That may be true, but the active effort behind this rhetoric is sorely missing. In classrooms dedicated to identity and its discussion, as soon as a discussion is to be had on trans women, the ability to talk at all disappears. This happened in a classroom on-campus last week. It just so happened that I was the only trans woman present. And I was the only one that contributed any trans related discussion towards the article written by a trans woman about trans experience at length. There were capable people present there with me, people who I at least hope can adequately share in discussion, regardless of their identity. But it didn’t happen. While I do not expect trans women’s experiences to be dissected by non-trans women, I at least expect a discussion involving trans women at all. Not only this, but I would appreciate the conversation to not be actively steered away from discussing trans women.
So I guess I’d like to make a demand from our community. I would like for us to seriously consider how we view this all too often excluded identity. I would appreciate, greatly, a concerted effort to bring our voices and ideas to the forefront at times, and to have them be discussed intently by all of us, even those who are not trans. An effort would be appreciated.
As always, that bitch,