Students, Leaders Meet to Discuss LBGT Issues
Gender identity, misconceptions, and stereotypes at the top of the list
[East Lansing, MI] Students and leaders in the MSU community gathered tonight to discuss gender identity and the common misconceptions and stereotypes people have. "Transgender comes from transgressing gender," 2002 graduate TJ Jourian said. "When we are born, we are supposed to fall into certain roles, and when we don't do that it's considered transgressing gender."
To illustrate how the media portrays transgender issues, social work graduate student Michael Lee showed a collection of movie clips related to the expression of gender identity.
Lee's montage included clips from movies such as "What Women Want," "Paris is Burning" and "The Silence of the Lambs."
"This was designed to take people from a space that was comfortable to a place that wasn't," Lee said. "This way, people will get to see things they normally wouldn't see."
Brent Bilodeau, a coordinator for lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender concerns at MSU, said negative portrayals have always existed in the media.
"I can't remember a time when a transgendered person was portrayed as happy or healthy," he said. "Usually on some level it is associated with being devious or destructive."
In 1996, the Alliance of Lesbian-Bi-Gay added "transgendered" to its title, and since then has been the Alliance of Lesbian-Bi-Gay-Transgendered Straight Ally Students.
In November 2001, ASMSU and the Residence Halls Association passed bills asking for the inclusion of gender identity to the MSU anti-discrimination policy. ASMSU is MSU's undergraduate student government.
Last April, a committee of MSU officials, faculty and students was formed to look at adding gender identity to MSU's anti-discrimination policy.
ASMSU student assembly chairperson Matt Weingarden said including gender identity into the policy has been long overdue.
"The goal of including the transgendered individual has existed as long as the alliance has existed," Weingarden said. "A lot of people assume that it's some new 20th century concept, but it's not."
Weingarden, who is on the committee, said it's also taken too much time to compile information and make a decision.
"In my opinion, the process has been exhausted," he said. "If they don't change the policy it won't be because of the risks of its implementation but from 'transphobia.'"
Weingarden said he hopes the Board of Trustees will take up the issue at its next meeting on April 11.