Drawing nearly 200 members of the campus community on the steps of Scandling Campus Center, the “Change Starts Here” teach-in focused on transgender identity and issues on campus as part of this year’s observance and celebration of Gaypril, a time of promoting acknowledgement and equality of the LGBT community.
On Thursday, April 24, Hobart and William Smith students, faculty and staff gathered to learn more about transgender people, while clarifying the serious social issues facing the transgender community.
“With the help of many administrators and faculty members, we have been able to organize this teach-in as a way of bringing trans issues to the attention of the student body as a whole,” said Kelly Wendt ’14, president of the HWS Pride Alliance, during the opening speech.
“Change Starts Here,” an educational initiative on campus distinct from the Pride Alliance, was co-sponsored by students and faculty, supported particularly by Associate Professor of Dance Cadence Whittier, Professor of Dance Donna Davenport, Professor of Anthropology and Sociology Jeff Anderson and Associate Professor of Chemistry and Department Chair Justin Miller.
As one of the event’s guest speakers, Miller says he was honored to have been invited to offer remarks.
“It was a fantastic opportunity to show my support for the LGBT community,” Miller says. “I thought the turnout was impressive and spirited. Our campus has a long way to go in terms of acceptance, particularly of trans people. This is a good start; something to build on, but it’s only the beginning. When we no longer need to hold rallies – that’s when we’ll know we’re in the right place.”
The Pride Alliance, which is dedicated to advocating for the LBGT individuals and their allies/supporters, kicked off Gaypril with the “Paint the Campus Rainbow” event to give the LGBT community a more visible presence at HWS with multicolored ribbons across campus. A series of additional events have been planned throughout the month to promote equal rights for the LGBT community.
“Ultimately, today was the just beginning of a dialogue on campus about trans identities and issues,” said Wendt following Thursday’s teach-in. “The incredible turnout of people is encouraging, and suggests that, as a community, we are ready to learn more about these issues. We still have cultural and policy problems on campus, and we have much more to do. But it was an awesome start.”
A “Change Starts Here” photo gallery is available on the Colleges’ Facebook page.