Transgender students build presence on campus

By Hudson Hawkins

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Through the Office of LGBTQ* Resources, UK’s transgender community is trying rapidly to build a presence on campus.

The group is not as large or visible as the gay and lesbian community. However, transgender students often struggle to associate with different groups on college campuses because of a lack of awareness.

“Ninety percent of the general population say they know someone who is gay or lesbian. Only 16 percent say they know someone who is trans,” said Tuesday Meadows, a transgender activist and writer.

Meadows gave a TED talk in the Davis Marksbury Building about her experience transitioning from a man’s body into a woman’s body as a 62-year-old.

The Office of LGBTQ* Resources has only been around for about six months, but it is working to promote the transgender community. The office is located on the third floor of Blazer Hall. There is a private office for Director of LGBTQ* Resources Lance Poston and a multipurpose room across the hall for members and friends of the LGBTQ* community.

“At this point the big project we are working on centers on (transgender) folks, but could help other non-traditional students — especially those with children — looking for inclusive restrooms,” Poston said.

Poston’s office has even sent out groups of people to hunt down and catalogue every working single stall restroom with a locking door on campus, what many people would call a family restroom.

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He said while they currently have no way of being entirely certain of how many transgender students, faculty and employees there are, he has heard from many people that is a fairly large community.

Before there was an official office, the student organization Outsource advocated for LGBTQ* students.

Poston said there are many LGBTQ* groups on campus and resources for students in those groups to use. For example, the Counseling Center has a transgender support group that meets regularly.

“UK has a lot of good resources for its transgender community, which is really great because of how much violence can affect the community,” Meadows said.

Meadows said it is easier to be transgender in Lexington than just about anywhere else in the state, and she has friends who have even said Lexington is much more accepting than some even larger cities in the North. However, Meadows said there is still much work to be done.

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“Whenever there is a talk with the LGBT community, we need to make sure the (transgender community) is represented because we can sometimes be drowned out,” Meadows said.

Poston said the Office of LGBTQ* Resources is planning an event with the Violence Intervention and Prevention Center for Nov. 19 to commemorate the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is Nov. 20. The time and location has not yet been determined.

Marisa Richmond, a politician and activist, will speak at the event about her experience as a Black transgender woman from Tennessee.

Richmond was the first transgender woman to win a public election in the state of Tennessee. Richmond became Davidson County’s Democratic committeewoman in 2008 after running unopposed and winning 99.7 percent of more than 1,800 votes. Six votes went to a write-in candidate.

There will also be a panel discussion with community members sharing experiences and a vigil honoring transgender people who have died in the past year.