By Anastasia Landeros
“At what point did you choose to be a boy or a girl?” asked Drian Juarez to a packed room in E3 Friday at a workshop on gender identity.
The ELAC Safe Zone Coalition, a group of faculty and staff dedicated to creating a safe campus for undocumented and LGBTQ identified students, hosted the workshop attended by students, faculty and staff.
Attendees were given a sheet with a list of information to provide a safe and enriching environment for LGBTQ students, and a word-match worksheet.
Some of the tips Juarez offered on the sheet, and during her presentation, included using transgender as an adjective, as in “Susan is a transgender woman.”
Juarez added not to reveal a person is transgender when speaking to them or about them in a group setting.
Juarez stressed that language is important when communicating with the Trans community.
In 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1266, School Success and Opportunity Act, that allows students to use restrooms that align with their own gender identity at school.
It also allows students to participate in sex-segregated activities and programs based on their gender identity.
In April 2015 the U.S. Department of Education revised Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to read “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Juarez said that educating yourself and others is one of the most important aspects of creating a safe and thriving environment for transgender students and, more specifically, those who are currently transitioning.
Juarez knows a thing or two about the negative world view surrounding the trans community.
Raised in East Los Angeles, Juarez couldn’t wait to grow up and wear high heels and makeup, just like her mom.
The outside world’s perception of sexuality, however, made her think that was impossible to do because she was born anatomically male.
Growing up in a community where she was considered a “sissy” for being herself, her decision to transition was, literally, a matter of life or death.
“For me, it was either kill myself or be my authentic self. Those were the only choices I saw at that time” she said.
She then turned to the street economy via sex work to pay for transitional surgery and medication as, at the time, insurance companies were not required to include any transitional services.
In 2005, Juarez was forced to look for other options.
“I experienced a hate crime and I was shot in the face… That’s really when, you know, I had this sort of epiphany of ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ This isn’t something that’s sustainable. I can’t do this forever.”
ELAC Safe Zone Coalition member and Student Services Specialist Brian Henderson Barrick said that the goal of providing these workshops to the campus community is to have graduates wear badges emblazoned with the coalition logo, a monarch butterfly in the colors of the LGBTQ flag, to let students know that they are safe zone allies.
Lynn Wood, Student Services assistant and Safe Zone member, said she feels it’s important that students know that there are options, resources and, most importantly, support for those on campus if they identify as part the LGBTQ community.
“I feel like if I can speak up and say it’s ok, then maybe more people will come out and look for resources or go to events, or just come out, period,” said Wood.
She also said the Safe Zone Coalition is not considered a club, students are encouraged to join the movement of embracing all students on campus that Safe Zone is starting, said Wood.
Before ending the workshop, Juarez offered a challenge to the group – Have a day without gender.
She asked that each person go one day without using gender pronouns or, if they did use pronouns, to use they/them or just a person’s name.
For more information on upcoming ELAC Safe Zone Coalition workshops, email email@example.com.