April 27, 2016 –
According to findings from the Williams Institute, the transgender population represents about .3 percent of American adults. However, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey states that 41 percent of transgender people have attempted suicide.
Fortunately, local organizations at ASU and throughout the Valley aim to provide resources for the transgender community and their families in Phoenix.
ASU Transgender Education program
“The Transgender Education Program here at ASU is brand new and targeted to K-12 schools to train teachers,” Cammy Bellis, director of the ASU Transgender Education Program, said. “It has just been developed and in its early stages.”
At ASU, Bellis said there is currently no such “group” or “person” who works with trans students, noting it seems like faculty and staff support trans students as best as they can with the knowledge they have.
“In my opinion, we would need an actual program/person at ASU that trans students can go to who they know is knowledgeable, will point them to the right resources and advocate on their behalf,” Bellis said.
Bellis said she knows harassment and victimization rates against transgender students in general are very high and that ASU wants to change this, adding that because ASU is the largest university in the country, it can serve as a model.
“There are things we can do to improve here at ASU, and we are working on that.” Bellis said.
Access to gender neutral bathrooms and staff training are just some of the concerns students raise, Bellis said.
Bellis said she would be more than happy to facilitate if students are interested in raising awareness and want to make change at ASU.
Biology junior Rachel Gruenberg said there are a lot of groups at ASU that would be helpful a source of support for trans students.
“But, unfortunately there are still a lot of individuals who come on campus every day protesting and shaming people in the LGBT community,” she said. “We have made a lot of progress, but there is definitely more to be made.”
oSTEM – Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
oStem is a national organization dedicated to educating and fostering leadership for LGBT+ communities in the STEM field said Isaiah Williams, oSTEM vice president.
“We do this by presenting our members with opportunities to achieve professional growth such as resume workshops, collaborations with STEM-related industrial corporations and informational lectures concerning our rights as the political policies of Arizona and the overall United States changes,” Williams said. “We do this all while maintaining a fun, diverse and comfortable atmosphere.”
The organization recently had a presentation from a political group, Competitive Arizona, that gave a rundown on the policies some states are enacting that have profound effects on the trans community.
The presenter, David Topping, also gave tips on how to be a catalyst in pushing for more inclusive and LGBT+ protective legislation in our state.
Williams said that oSTEM, in comparison to other clubs, has a profound amount of pride in its titles as STEM professionals.
“Being in the STEM professions is difficult enough as it is,” Williams said. ” Being a member of the rainbow community also poses its difficulties from time to time, especially in fields that are predominantly ran by heterosexual males. Finding the strength to overcome the obstacles of all of this isn’t something that comes easily, and I believe our members take pride in our ability to do that.”
PFLAG – Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
PFLAG, including bisexual, transgender, intersex, pansexual and “every color of the diversity rainbow” — is a group of non-paid volunteers, who meet in support groups to help people with their LGBT+ issues, PFLAG communications director Donna Ellis said.
“When someone emails me that they have a family member who has come out and someone isn’t taking it well, I can direct them to the closest support group or tell them about some of our online reading to help in the meantime,” Ellis said. “I also tell them how many trans people there are already in PFLAG. Our numbers have grown exponentially so much in the past few years.”
Ellis said the Phoenix area has six PFLAG support groups which are spread out over the valley in order to try to give people a place to get support in various weeks.
“Some of the people who email me, not knowing who they are or what is going on with them, think that they are the only one,” Ellis said. “But, I do assure them that they have many people out there who are not just like them.”
Ellis said that PFLAG’s membership has dwindled a lot in the past few years, and the organization has had a hard time getting people to participate.
“The more we can get these issues out into the mainstream media and let people know that our dear trans friends are just wonderful people like CIS people, the better off we’ll all be,” Ellis said. “I would would rather pee in any bathroom with a trans man or woman peeing on either side of me than any bigot.”