CSU supports trans students with educational poster series

Graham Shapley

poster in a glass case
One of the new posters hangs outside of the Pride Resource Center and the Lory Student Center branch of the WGAC. (Graham Shapley | Collegian)

Students passing by the Pride Resource Center at the Lory Student Center may have spotted a new informational poster promoting tips for supporting transgender, nonbinary and agender people.

In order to be more accommodating to transgender and nonbinary students and encourage understanding and education among those who are not part of those communities, the Women and Gender Advocacy Center and the Pride Resource Center have collaborated to craft posters explaining common misconceptions and missteps that can be avoided to help people feel welcome.

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“(The Pride Resource Center) provides resources, advocacy, education and programming that centers around our LGBTQ+ student population,” said Dora Frias, Director of the Pride Resource Center.  “Some of it is just providing a space where folks can come and be themselves, some is about providing resources and education to the community, and then the other pieces are around programming. Bringing speakers to campus, doing conversations about the issues that impact our students, and then advocacy on campus. That’s a part of what this poster is.”

The impetus for the poster campaign is based upon two major revelations that came about in fall 2018.

“We received some data from the National College Health Assessment that illustrated that our LGBT students are struggling as we think about their mental health and wellbeing in a variety of facets,” Frias said. “Depression, anxiety, struggling with academics, self-harm, things like that.”

Monica Rivera, director of the WGAC, said the scale of these issues don’t just pertain to a sense of community, but the life or death of people in the community.

“Me and my staff felt absolutely propelled to do something immediate,” Rivera said. “I wish it was more.”

This data also came out right around the time it was discovered that the current administration wanted to shift the way gender was defined in Title IX, which directly affects transgender and nonbinary communities, Frias said.

(Most people) don’t want to cause harm, and they may say or do something that does cause harm, so how do we educate people about things that potentially cause harm to others?” – Dora Frias, Director of Pride Resource Center.

The poster includes warnings to avoid comments like “you don’t look trans,” or saying “transgendered” rather than the grammatically correct “transgender” implying that the word is a verb that happens to an individual rather than a descriptor of that individual. A guide of commonly used pronouns is also included.

“(This poster) was a way for us to get information out really quickly to folks who really generally want to do better, but maybe just don’t know,” Frias said. “Maybe some people didn’t realize that it’s not ok to ask somebody ‘what is your real name?’ Maybe that was from a real curiosity, but this poster is out there to tell people that’s not something they should be doing.”

The poster explains that asking someone what their real name is implies that their chosen name is invalid and is a transphobic act, and that misgendering and disrespect of pronouns is a similar offense.

“Even if they share, folks often get misgendered or their pronouns get invalidated,” Frias said. “That has a cumulative impact on somebody’s sense of self and well-being.”

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The poster also provides notes on being an active ally, doing one’s best to challenge transphobia, regardless of whether a trans person is present, and to challenge one’s own preconceptions. It encourages people, especially cisgender people, to educate themselves and learn to respect people beyond what the poster can provide. There’s only so much space on a poster, after all.

Rivera said the poster campaign was a way for the WGAC and the Pride Resource Center to make a clear statement of support for transgender and nonbinary students, as well as take the burden of educating other communities off of these transgender and nonbinary students.

“Not everybody has access to knowing why pronouns matter,” Rivera said.

Frias added that the posters also allow for the community to do better for these student communities.

“The LGBTQ+ community is super diverse,” Frias said. “We get clumped into this one space, and folks often feel like all LGBTQ+ people experience this. That’s not the case.”

Collegian reporter Graham Shapley can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @shapleygraham.