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Gender Liberation UMass hosts week of events focused non-gender conforming students

(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

A group of University of Massachusetts students is attempting to bring attention to rights and access that transgender and non-gender conforming people have on campus.

Gender Liberation UMass has already held a rally, delivered a letter of demands to Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy’s office and dropped a banner, and has more events planned for the rest of the week.

Justin Killian, a junior majoring in women, gender and sexuality studies, and social thought and political economy, as well as one of the organizers of the week’s events, said that this week would set a precedent in terms of activism of the transgender community on campus.

She said the group has not been united in the past for various reasons, and “this is the first time any trans organizing has happened on campus.”

A little more than a dozen students gathered outside of the Student Union on Monday, chanting and holding up homemade banners. Several students were also given the chance to speak about the state of affairs for transgender students at UMass.

After the rally, the group headed to the Whitmore Administration building to hand-deliver copies of a letter of demands.

Killian said that the group intended to surprise administrators by not giving them any advance notice.

“To my knowledge, the administration had no clue who we were – they didn’t even know we existed,” she said, noting that administrators were “taken aback” to see them on Monday.

In the letter, GLU demanded the following:

“The overriding of outdated plumbing code restraints on the installation of gender-neutral bathrooms; the speedy implementation of gender-neutral bathrooms campus-wide; the option to opt out of tagged markers on housing profiles and (University Health Services) records that indicate a student’s transgender identity; the implementation of an accountable Title IX procedure for specific acts of violence, overt and microaggressive, against trans students; the hiring of a Title IX coordinator competent in trans issues and aware of violations of Title IX as they pertain to transgender students; administrative push for the advancement of medically and socially competent in-house transgender health services at (UHS); the hiring of full-time transgender identifying therapists at the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services; requested funding supplied to the Queer People of Color support and social group; the implementation of a University-wide system that includes pronouns on student rosters, as well as a system of accountable review for faculty who do not adhere to the usage of student pronouns; the hiring of a trans woman professor by the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department; and the general increased hiring of trans employees on campus.”

The letter also criticized the University’s history concerning its attitudes toward the transsexual community. In particular, the GLU’s letter noted UMass’ affiliation with Janice Raymond, who was a professor from 1978 to 2002. GLU accused Raymond of being an important voice of support for policies that led to the denial of critical healthcare to transgender people in 1980.

Co-signing the letter were Students For Justice in Palestine, the Multicultural Organizing Bureau, the Center for Educational Policy and Advocacy’s Access and Affordability and Executive Staff, Student Labor Action Project, Divest, the Graduate Employee Organization, the Coalition to End Rape Culture, the Residents Assistants Union, the UMass Pride Alliance, QPOC, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (Western Mass Chapter) and the Black Student Union.

According to Killian, GLU had not yet received a response from the administration by Tuesday afternoon.

However, on Monday night, the letter was presented at the weekly Student Government Association meeting. The SGA voted to officially endorse it.

Killian said GLU has a social event planned tomorrow evening at Earthfoods Café. The event, which she said would most likely feature food and music, is an opportunity for students to approach the group and get more information on what they are doing.

A panel discussion is scheduled for Thursday evening in the Stonewall Center. The purpose of the discussion, she said, is to educate people on the issues they are fighting for and why their demands are necessary.

On Friday, Killian said there will be a Trans Day of Screaming held on the lawn outside of Bartlett Hall.

“It’s an opportunity for people who have been very frequently left out of conversations both in and outside of the queer community about things that concern their well-being to demand that our voices be heard through the loudest way that you can: screaming,” she said. “Whether that’s actual screaming or metaphorical screaming, that’s totally up to the interpretation of the individual.”

Killian said members of GLU would also take over a one-hour radio slot on Sunday to talk about who the group is, what they are doing and why.

While she was unsure what other events the group would put on throughout the remainder of the year, she said she wants to hold an event in honor of the Trans Day of Remembrance on November 17.

Updates on what GLU is doing can be found through their Facebook page, Killian said.

Anthony Rentsch can be reached at arentsch@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Anthony_Rentsch.

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