Club Gen battles transphobia

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Club Gen battles transphobia

Andrea Gray, a member of Club GEN, hangs out in the Club GEN's room where Jai's library is located.

Andrea Gray, a member of Club GEN, hangs out in the Club GEN's room where Jai's library is located.

Andrea Gray, a member of Club GEN, hangs out in the Club GEN's room where Jai's library is located.

Andrea Gray, a member of Club GEN, hangs out in the Club GEN's room where Jai's library is located.

Chelsea L. McDowell

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Features Editor

Editor’s Note: The date of Transgender Day of Remembrance for 2018 has been corrected.

The stigma behind gender non-conforming and transgender people in American society is rooted in a love for ignorance. Fortunately for Kern County, CSU Bakersfield’s Club Gender Equality Now! has opened Jai’s Library to the public in an effort to combat ignorance.

The library was named after Jai Bornstein a former CSUB student and Club GEN member. Bornstein was a transgender woman, who was took her own life in December 2016. The library officially opened on Friday Nov. 16. It’s located in CSUB’s Multicultural Alliance & Gender Equity Center, which is in the Rohan dormitory.

Club GEN member and junior sociology major Delila Solis hosted the grand opening and invited guest speakers up to the microphone, before they welcomed everyone in to view Jai’s Library.

Solis is Latinx and non-binary. They don’t relate to femininity or masculinity. Prior to the event, they said that being non-binary has allowed them to experiment with what works for them and to feel free from societal expectations.

“I love the freedom that comes with being gender nonconforming,” said Solis.

The word Latinx is a gender-neutral term that can be used instead of ‘Latina’ or ‘Latino’ and was added into the Merriam-Webster dictionary in September of 2018.

“For everyone gender is different,” Solis said. “You can like the things you like, they don’t have to be male or female.”

Now that being gay or a lesbian has become relatively normalized, gender rights activists, like Club GEN, are working toward acceptance for those who exist in the grey areas of the gender spectrum.

Currently, the Trump administration is threatening the progress made by the trans community. According to the New York Times, the Department of Health and Human Services is proposing that government agencies adopt a definition of sex as male or female, determined by the genitals that someone is born with.

“The new definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves — surgically or otherwise — as a gender other than the one they were born into,” wrote New York Times writers Erica Green, Katie Benner and Robert Pear.

Transphobia is not only apparent in government policies, but runs rampant in private life. By now I’m sure we’ve all heard someone or have ourselves expressed transphobic sentiments. From my own experience, I can remember watching as a well-respected family member reacted to a gender non-conforming person simply wash their hands in a public women’s restroom the same way I would if I saw a spider anywhere near me.

The fear of transgender people is irrational.

Senior biology major and Bakersfield native Zachary Ferrenberg said that growing up here is where he witnessed children being “indoctrinated towards that mindset at a very young age.”

“I know usually around here, the males will go to the oil fields for work,” Ferrenberg said. “I see a lot of males from high school still having like a really negative view towards people they haven’t been exposed to because they’ve gone out of school and just gone into a very closed circle of people.”

Tuesday, Nov. 20 was Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to remember all the trans people we’ve lost to murder or suicide.

Allie Page is a junior art and communications major. She didn’t grow up doing stereotypically “girly” things.

“Trans people come in all personality types,” Page said.

She said that people tend to think that people transition to only be accepted as a masculine woman or a feminine man, when in reality people transition for themselves. There’s no one right way for a person to be transgender.

“The point is just that your gender identity is not your personality,” said Page. “Being trans for me, wasn’t so much about being feminine, it was about being female.”

If you have a question about gender identity or sexuality, it’s always okay to ask. And while there is technically no such thing as a stupid question, there are questions better searched on Google. Reading a book is also a great way to learn, as gender nonconforming and transgender people can’t be expected to answer every single question you have if they don’t want to.

A great way to get people to better understand gender-nonconforming people is awareness. That is why CSUB’s Club GEN-hosted Transgender Awareness Week is very much needed.

Transgender week began on Tuesday Nov. 13 with Club GEN collaborating with the Black Student Union on their podcast. From Nov. 11 to 13, people could have donated gender-affirming clothes to trans people in need to the clothing drive– clothes can always be donated to the MAGEC room. On Friday, Club GEN members dedicated the library to Bornstein’s dream of making the world “a softer, safer place.”

As Solis explained it, “trans issues aren’t just trans issues.”