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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

TTF - Transgender Task Force

By Nicole Walker

The gender of a person paves the way of one’s life at the first gift of a pink or blue blanket after birth. There are men, women, gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and transsexual students.
           Chico State has a wide range of people that are supported by organizations varying from different sexualities, cultural backgrounds, beliefs, values and experiences.One organization that exists - one that CSUC students are not as aware of - is the Transgender Task Force (TTF), which was created three years ago.
TTF creates an ongoing awareness that there are trans students on campus, through tabling and events such as Transgender Day Of Remembrance, as stated by Aydin Kennedy, a Grad student in Social Work and co-founder of TTF.
TTF works to remove many of the barriers that trans students face, such as finding safe bathrooms on campus, changing university forms to create a more streamlined system for name and gender changes, collaborating with others campus resources to help get trans students connected to supportive allies and advocates and creating educational opportunities to the campus community to directly make Chico State a more trans-inclusive campus and community, Kennedy said.
Although the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer community is very known on campus, the trans students aren’t always comfortable identifying in that community, he said.
Transsexual has two meanings; one indicates medical interventions such as hormones or surgery, while the other refers to someone who feels as if their assigned sex (Male or Female) is not related with their actual sex, Kennedy said.
Transgender also has two meanings, one being an umbrella term that throughout its history has included many different expressions of gender and gender identity similar to the use of gay to include gay men and gay women, and the second referring to someone who feels as if their assigned gender, man/masculine or woman/feminine is dissimilar with their gender identity.
“I am both transgender and transsexual,” Kennedy said.When Kennedy transitioned as an undergraduate student in 2007-08, he felt and proved to be very alone.
“I came up against a lot of road blocks,” he said, “many of which have been rectified by the activism and education of TTF.”
Although Chico is a smaller town, there is a strong and very present trans community here, and many of them are students, he said. TTF brings awareness to those who are not trans and hopes to be an ally, support system and advocate for those who are.
“As trans people we have to go through a lot to tell our truth and step out from behind the shadows of our former selves,” he said.
Most students aren’t even aware that there are trans students sitting in classrooms with them, he said. Students aren’t aware that TTF exists and for those who are, they don’t see or understand how it may be relevant to them, Kennedy said.
After noticing the number of students who were coming to counseling because they were dealing with being transgender or in some other way feeling that they didn’t “fit” into society’s binary gender system, Lana McKnight, Counseling and Wellness Center Counselor and founder of TTF, decided to start meetings in order to change and act on these feelings, she said. 
            TTF had a number of challenges to face, such as trying to deal with the school system and the larger community of Chico. Although there was PRIDE/Safe Zone on campus, and other LBGT groups in the community, there seemed to be nothing aimed specifically at the gender non-normative population at the time, she said. 
           “Sexual orientation and gender identification are two different things, so their needs were sometimes not as readily addressed in general LGBT organizations,” McKnight said, “all students benefit from awareness of diversity personally and professionally, I believe.”
            However, finding people who are passionate about the topic, willing to be advocates and comfortable educating people about an often-marginalized group is difficult, she said. 
“My hope is that through TTF, people can find a place within themselves to see and understand that the rigid notions of the gender binary negatively impact all of us, not just trans or gender non-conforming people,” Kennedy said.

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