Over the last couple of years, the transgender community has risen to mainstream visibility. Shows like “I Am Jazz,” “Transparent” and “Becoming Us” have sparked the conversation nationwide.
The New York Times reported that though there have not been any definite statistics, a 2011 study suggested that about .3 percent of people in the study identify as transgender, which is about 700 thousand adults.
With this growing number, some people feel that transgender awareness is increasingly important. The Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Studies along with other departments and organizations invited transgender activist Jessica Lynn to present a lecture on transgender awareness on March 10.
Assistant Professor of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Studies Katie James said society’s ingrained perception of gender leads to the importance of transgender awareness.
Lynn will discuss her experience, how she knew she was transgender, what that means and how it has affected her life. Lynn tours nationwide and speaks at colleges to raise transgender awareness.
“What we want to do in bringing in the speaker is to think about the ways that people like Jessica Lynn complicate our ideas of what is means to be gendered — and complicate them in good ways,” James said. “Gender isn’t something that’s biological. It’s something that is constructed socially, so bringing awareness to an issue where people feel like their gender identity doesn’t match with their ascribed status is a very sociological idea within itself.”
James said bringing this awareness can be beneficial for both students and faculty. Austin Allen, a senior communication studies major and Gay Straight Alliance council member, said this awareness is important.
“Transgender awareness is important because transgender people face extreme marginalization and a lack of representation both inside and outside the LGBTQ community,” Allen said. “Transgender people are the more likely to face employer discrimination, be victims of violence and struggle with homelessness than other LGBTQ people.”
Allen said Mississippi has passed a bill through the House of Representatives that would allow employees the right to refuse services, including legal issues and medical attention, to trans individuals.
Allen felt that while the university has shown a willingness to better understand sexual orientation and gender identity, there is always room for improvement.
“There needs to be more conversations on both the student level and administrative level about how to better protect the rights of LGBTQ students,” Allen said. “Thankfully, we are fortunate enough to have LGBTQ activists come speak on our campus whereas other schools may not be so fortunate.”
For James, having Lynn come to the university will aid in promoting inclusivity.
James said this lecture is extremely relevant because a lot of people have these experiences and do not identify with societal norms. She hopes the lecture will urge people to leave their comfort zone and learn more about these groups.