New library celebrates trans stories


AK Pachla



On Dec. 16, CSU Bakersfield’s Club Gen and the Multicultural Alliance and Gender Equality Resource Center (MAGEC) opened Jai’s Library: A Softer, Safer Place inside the MAGEC building located next to Rohan Hall.

Jai’s Library: A Softer, Safer Place was opened in honor of late CSUB student Jai Bornstein, a transgender woman who took her life in December of 2016. She was 19 years old.

Community activist Audrey Chavez read “I Am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel, a children’s book about the experience of a young transgender person. Chavez, in cooperation with the Bakersfield AIDS Project, has spent the years since Jai’s passing gathering and curating a collection of books about gender expression and transgender people’s experiences.

Presenter Jennifer Valencia talked about their experience with projecting gender in a professional environment. They feel that the challenges presented to them by others have helped solidify their own gender identity as non-conforming. “You have to be able to keep your personhood at the same time as doing the task,” says Valencia.

Valencia spoke about experiences at their job with those who express curiosity. “If I’m working with a customer and it’s a family with children and the child asks ‘Are you a boy or a girl,’ I tend to tell them ‘Well, I’m Jennifer, and I’m your associate today.’”

River Navarro gave an emotional testimony, expressing fear and anger as they recalled their journey through through both accepting themselves and letting others accept them for who they are. Along with the fear and anger, however, comes hope for the future, says Navarro. It is a hope they find within themselves and strive to project into the social environment around them through personal action. “I think I’m past the point where my pronouns are a preference,” they assert. “They’re just my pronouns.”

CSUB counselor and LGBTQ Safezone Coordinator Michael Harville has seen the evolution of LGBTQ+ action and visibility on campus over the last 14 years. Harville believes trans visibility is the result of advancements made by the LGBT community, but knows that trans people on campus still face discrimination and fear from members of the community who view gender as an inviolable binary, and are afraid that transgender people are misrepresenting their genders on purpose in order to take advantage of others.

“What we have to do is just go, allow people to sit in their discomfort, and [let them] see that these bad things aren’t happening,” Harville advises. “That’s the way you manage that anxiety with change. But we can’t really overcome that fear without actually creating the change and then learning to manage that [anxiety].”

Harville believes that places like Jai’s Library on campus are the engines of this change. “Visibility is absolutely crucial. That [transgender people] are being included and accepted… not ‘tolerated,’ but accepted within the community, and given space, and given visibility. [It] shows that these people are valuable.”