I attended the Trans Town Hall Meeting in Hollywood last night. There were about 30 folks in attendance, some trans, some allies. It was held at The Village, a part of the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, in the theatre there.
The topic was “Improving Access and Quality of Educational Experiences for Trans Communities,” with a panel of speakers ranging from educators and professors to students. Each had his or her own story about their experiences as a trans person and how that has affected their ability to utilize educational resources (getting into college, financial aid, etc.) and how they were using their experiences to help others. It was agreed that not only do young people (including pre-and elementary school) need to know what opportunities are available for trans folk, but those who are over 25 need resources and opportunities as well. It was also agreed that non-trans folk need training in sensitivity and awareness.
In the Los Angeles area, Cal State LA, Cal State Northridge, and Antioch University all are quite progressive with their various sexuality, LGBT, and Queer studies programs. In fact, one of the panel members was key in arranging a gender-neutral bathroom at Antioch. These universities serve extremely diverse and large populations, and seem to be in the forefront modeling awareness and inclusive campus communities.
A few other interesting notes from the meeting included the idea of compiling a trans history; creating training for faculty at universities and secondary schools; making sure that transgenders are included in the conversion and everyday speak of those who teach (as well as others); helping with microbusiness planning for those wishing to be self-employed; helping with other business and finance planning; finding grants and endowments that would help trans businesses, organizations, and individuals succeed; and being willing to foster a trans youth to help reduce the staggering numbers of those who are living on the streets.
For my part, and the Center for Positive Sexuality, I am putting together a transgender panel that will also go out to the universities and colleges, just like the rest of us. It has been my experience that the only way to open minds is in person. Once there is a name and face to go along with what you think you know about a particular group of people, it’s a lot more difficult to deny them their personhood.