Transgender activist speaks on how transgender people should embrace who they are

By Will Mallas

(Jessica Picard / Daily Collegian)

On Tuesday night, Willy Wilkinson, a transgender activist and public health consultant, spoke to a crowd of about 50 people on how transgender individuals can navigate daily life in a hostile world.

Titled “Intersectional Resistance and Resilience: Strategies for Survival,” Wilkinson’s talk focused on how transgender individuals can overcome the various threats and societal hardships that can come with being transgender. His primary argument was that transgender individuals should embrace who they are and continue to live the lives they want to.

“Part of my mission is to tell people ‘you are enough’ and as mixed people, a lot of times we are told we are not enough or we’re only half of this or we’re not real,” Wilkinson said. “As trans people, we’re often told we’re not enough in some way… and so I feel like we have to remember that we’re enough, we’re always enough, we are enough exactly who we are.”

Wilkinson’s presentation primarily consisted of him reading sections of his book, “Born on the Edge of Race and Gender: A Voice for Cultural Competency,” that emphasizes how he, as a transgender individual, has managed to not let society prevent him from being who he wants to be.

“I wrote this book really to transform the memoir genre into a cultural competency tool…to use the power of storytelling to contextualize the movement for LGBTQ+ equality and specifically for transgender equality,” Wilkinson said when explaining the purpose for writing his book.

Wilkinson emphasized how he can bring more acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community among  non-LGBTQ+ individuals.

“I think that many people do not see transgender people as fully human, or  maybe people do not see gay people as fully human,” Wilkinson said. “It’s about teaching about the humanity.”

Wilkinson concluded his presentation with ways LGBTQ+ people can go about surviving and being resilient amidst societal threats, such as accepting oneself for who they are and finding others who are willing to help.

In addition, Wilkinson provided various resources on campus that support LGBTQ+ individuals, such as the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health  (CCPH) and the Psychological Services Center.

Rebecca Wandel, a junior journalism and English double major, thought the talk “was very insightful, and beautiful and also quite practical.”

“There’s definitely a spin on it, but it was trying to teach members of his community and other marginalized communities how to survive and how to be resilient.” Wandel said.

Phoebe Rader-Gale, a sociology freshman felt the biggest takeaway of Wilkinson’s presentation was to “just be further understanding a trans person’s experience and what it is like to navigate spaces and systems that are in place that don’t recognize them all the time as people.”

Wilkinson’s lecture in the Cape Cod Lounge was sponsored by The Stonewall Center, the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, the Institute for Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development and the Office of the Chancellor.

William Mallas can be reached at [email protected]