Transgender Day of Remembrance opens discussion of inclusivity at Cal Lu

Christer Schmidt, Reporter

Last week, California Lutheran University commemorated the lives of the 34 transgender individuals who were murdered in the U.S. this year. The Transgender Day of Remembrance candlelight vigil honored the lives lost this year and throughout history to hate crimes and senseless violence.

“Thirty four trans individuals have been [murdered] thus far this year; actually it surpassed the amount of individuals murdered last year within the first seven months of 2020,” Isabelle Ortiz, coordinator for Cultural Engagement and Inclusion (CCEI), said in a phone interview. “It’s been increasing across the United States, violence against transgender individuals, more specifically trans Black women.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the number of murders of transgender people and cases of violence against them has increased across the U.S. in 2020 alone.

In the last four years with an administration largely pushing against Gender and Sexuality Minorities’ (GSM) rights, tensions are high. This is reflected in the violence reported around the U.S. this year.

“There are certain groups that are threatening to harm or even kill transgender or LGBT people and I think it’s really good to put a face to these names that they are hearing about,” Dylan Galagher, treasurer for PRIDE Club at Cal Lutheran, said in a phone interview. “To show that people who are part of the LGBT community, especially trans people, are humans too.”

In addition to the vigil, the CCEI organized two trans workshops, the first of which was held on Nov. 13 and was open to all members of the university. The next trans workshop will be Nov. 20 for staff and faculty, but students who are interested in attending can contact Ortiz by email to get an invite.

Ortiz said the workshops go over the basics about gender, gendered language, and transgender terminology, among other things.

“It seems that the faculty [and] staff really want to have that competency so they can be active allies for the transgender community,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz said she hopes she can host longer trans workshops in the spring, with focuses on microaggressions and coming out processes.

“There’s not a lot of transgender people at CLU and there’s not a lot of people that understand it either,” Galagher said. “One of the things I had trouble with was changing my school ID, and I don’t think it was until February I believe, till I changed my name on my ID.”

Galagher said he experienced difficulties while getting an ID card changed on campus, and eventually sought help from Director of Residence Life Chris Paul to get the ID delivered to his room.

Transgender recognition at Cal Lutheran has been uncertain at times, with many parts of campus still having a culture of fairly strict gender norms.

“Everything is pretty much gendered,” Ortiz said. “And even in our culture you know we always say I think since we were told by our parents ‘boys don’t cry’ or ‘girls only wear pink’ or ‘there are only boys and girls clothes.”

Pieces of Cal Lutheran’s environment that are inherently gendered include locker rooms, sports teams, bathrooms and residence halls.

These spaces force trans individuals into difficult situations.

While the school has improved in many regards by adding more all-gender restrooms, removing gendered dorm policies and trying to educate staff, faculty and students about GSM people through Safe Zone trainings–a program focused on learning about cultural diversity with an emphasis on GSM topics–GSM inclusivity is new to both the university and the city of Thousand Oaks.

When gay marriage was legalized in the state of California in 2008, many Thousand Oaks residents stood on the streets bearing signs in support of Proposition 8.

While there has been a shift toward inclusivity, Thousand Oaks is still divisive on GSM  issues. Godspeak Calvary Chapel Lead Pastor Rob McCoy–also a former mayor of the city–has openly supported businesses that don’t serve the GSM community. Politicians such as former school board member Mike Dunn openly vote against measures to be inclusive.

“I don’t think that 10 years ago I would have been able to attend this school and live in a male dorm,” Galagher said.

Galagher said he has had many good experiences with the school though, with his lacrosse teammates and coach being incredibly supportive along with other staff, faculty, and students.

Galagher also said PRIDE club has done a lot of good work keeping the GSM community supported over the years, including organizing rallies and hosting discussions on GSM in sports, media, and politics.

“I think it’s really important to have [Transgender Day of Remembrance], especially on campus, cause it’s kind of important to know where as a community we’ve been in the past, and to move forward,” Galagher said.