Trans-activists come to Eau Claire to celebrate lesser known community

Trans-activists come to Eau Claire to celebrate lesser known community

Of the five letters in the LGBTQ acronym, the one people are most misinformed about is the “T,” according to the Women’s and LGBTQ Resource Center Coordinator Chris Jorgenson.

To help fix that, the resource center started Trans*Mission Week, which began last year as an effort to inform the Eau Claire community what it means to be transgender and also celebrate the transgender
community, Jorgenson said.

“What I’d like to do is to provide people with an opportunity to not only interact and get to know as much as you can about someone who is transgender,” Jorgenson said, “but to educate yourself and to learn about a community that, chances are, you don’t know that much about.”

Trans*Mission week, which took place Nov.11 to 14, featured a performance from Athens Boys Choir, also known as Harvey Katz, a spoken-word artist who currently lives in Brooklyn, New York and performed in the Woodland Theater of Davies Center on Monday night.

“A lot of my pieces are about transgender identity, but mostly the places where our identities intersect,” Katz said. “Everything is relatable because we all have similar experiences around life and loss and love.”

Gender can be many things, Katz said, but no matter what someone defines themselves as, everyone can relate in some way.

“Some peoples’ genders are more complicated because they don’t fit distinctly into society, but we all have this extreme experience of gender every day, so I find that people find places to relate,” Katz said.

On Wednesday evening, trans-activist Jessica Janiuk, who graduated from Eau Claire in 2006, also did a performance entitled “Recipe for a Vagina” in the Ojibwe Room of
Davies Center.

Janiuk spoke of her experiences coming out as a transgender and the process of transitioning that she began while still in school.

Most people don’t know what it means to be transgender, Janiuk said, or have some exaggerated idea based on how the media portrays it.

“I really hope that people come out of this thinking ‘hey those trans people aren’t scary at all. They’re cool people like any other friends that I have,’
Janiuk said.

To help get people thinking along these lines, Jorgenson also did a presentation entitled “Reading Between the Lines: The Difference Between Sex and Gender & Why it Matters” in the Menominee room of Davies Center on Wednesday night.

“It is an interactive presentation that really explores what the difference between sex and gender is,” Jorgenson said. “Those two terms are always used interchangeably, and your sex is very different from your gender.”

Trans*Mission week was an effort to open up the community to something  they probably are not very familiar with, and allow them the opportunities to speak with someone who is open to answer their questions.

After attending Athens Boy Choir, Maya Witte and Sydney Vassal, both juniors, talked about how they felt about the performance and the week
in general.

“It’s really insightful for me to hear other people’s perspectives and where they’re coming from in the LGBTQ  community,” Vassal said.

Witte and Vassal both said they hadn’t known much about the community until taking Womens 206: Perspectives in LGBTQ Studies this semester.

“What I know about the transgender community outside of Eau Claire I learned through just one friend of mine, and everything else that I’ve learned within Eau Claire was from the same class,” Witte said. “Otherwise I wouldn’t know much about what goes on the campus.”