Author: jka16102

Understanding Drag

This information has been adapted from the National Center for Trans Equality. For full document: tinyurl.com/y5lm6t5p.

Drag is a type of entertainment where people dress up and perform, often in highly stylized ways.

Today, many prominent drag artists are people who identify as men and present themselves in exaggeratedly feminine ways as a part of their performance, and are known as drag queens. Alternately, drag kings perform stylized masculinity. Not all performers choose personas that reflect binary identities in this way, and some instead demonstrate fluidity of gender.

Many performers have a separate drag persona in addition to the self they live as every day. This persona will look different and may also have a different name and ask to be referred to by different gender pronouns.

This does not mean they are transgender. Just as actors do not keep being referred to by their character’s names after stepping offstage, drag performers do not necessarily keep the names or pronouns they use while performing. Drag performers are artists and entertainers, so being in drag is not an integral part of their identity in the same way that gender is.

On the other hand, when a transgender person comes out and asks people to use a different name and gender pronouns to refer to them, it is not part of a performance. It is an important part of their identity, and can be a critical part of affirming their gender identity.

Don’t assume that someone in drag is transgender, or vice versa. Being respectful of a drag performer’s gender is the same as being respectful of anyone else’s gender.

Fresh Check Day

By: Anna Martineau

The Rainbow Center will be participating in UConn’s annual Fresh Check Day on Saturday, April 27th, from 1-4pm on the Student Union lawn. Fresh Check Day is a core part of the Jordan Porco Foundation, an organization that started in 2011 after Ernie and Marisa Porco lost their son to suicide. At UConn, it is hosted by Counseling and Mental Health Services (CMHS) and the campus organizations that make up the Suicide Prevention Committee.

We recognize at the Rainbow Center how important it is to talk about mental health openly, especially within the LGBTQ community. LGBTQ folks face a greater amount of stigma and inaccessibility when it comes to mental healthcare, and it is important to not only create awareness to these issues but to also work towards creating real change. While this may seem like a daunting task to take on, change begins with the small things. The friendly, open attitude that our staff bring to the Rainbow Center, and the way in which we embrace our identities wholeheartedly has made a lasting impact on the way that I view myself. It sends a powerful message that none of us have to go through college alone.

I know that for a lot of students, dealing with mental health is not as simple as a positive attitude or a mental health fair like Fresh Check Day. It can take hard work and vulnerability to start the healing process and ask for help. But sometimes in a world where it can be easy to be overwhelmed by negative imagery, having events like Fresh Check Day help to break through the storm and remind us what our resources are. We look forward to seeing everyone at our Be Yourself Booth, and encourage anyone who may need it to reach out to CMHS at 860-486-4705.

On Making Trans Art

by: Taylore GrunertImage of trans individual staring into the distance

On Thursday, March 14, the Rainbow Center hosted its annual Art Gala. The Gala featured art from students on campus, from those both affiliated with the Rainbow Center and those from the larger community. I love events like this. Professional artists, those with the aspirations to be professional, and those for whom art is simply a fun hobby (such as myself) were all able to display their work in an equalizing space. We were all given the same attention, the same time, the same platform.

I also love art museums. I love to be confronted with the multitudes of human experience, with the work of lives I will never interact with except for in the moment when I see what they have produced. But the sad fact is, for as many museums as I have visited, I have never—not once—seen a piece of art which depicts a trans experience. No bodies which display the beautiful and rich history of a body which is not cisgender. No loves which are desperate, defiant, and sweet, as a trans romance is. No clothes, even, which examine the exploration and artifice of gender roles. In a museum, I have never seen the radical self-love which defines what it means to be trans.

Trans perspectives are laughably absent from the mainstream art world. Does this mean that there are no trans people creating art? No, of course not. A trans person is not obligated to create art which discusses their identity. (Although, there is an argument to be made that it is still “trans art,” by virtue of its creator.) And in all probability, even non-modern art has been made by people who, were they alive today, might have identified with the word “transgender”.

There is a comfort in this, but also a sadness, a feeling of loss. Quite frankly, I am tired of the lack of representation. I should not have to do the constant mental work of convincing myself that, in a room of hundreds of paintings of portraits, landscapes, and bowls of fruit, that there is art created by someone like me. In short, I hunger for art which is explicitly and unashamedly transgender.

This is why, when I was creating the pieces I submitted to the Art Gala, I made them about being trans. This is why I felt vitally, critically, that I had no other options. And this does not mean that I felt confined or boxed in in my subject matter. Rather, it was freeing; I expressed myself creatively, passionately, lovingly. I am emphatically proud of my paintings.

Art from the Gala will be on display for the next two weeks in the Rainbow Center. I would encourage everyone to come and take a look.

Some Thoughts on Trans Day of Remembrance for 2018

By: Taylore Grunert

On Tuesday, November 27th, the Rainbow Center acknowledged Transgender Day of Remembrance. We created a memorializing wreathe (which is still up and available for folks to add to), read out names of everyone who had been murdered in the past year due to anti-transgender violence, and had a discussion afterwards about what we could all do to tackle the issue of violence against the trans community. What follows is a modified version of the speech that was given at this event.

Trans Day of Remembrance was initiated in 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith to memorialize the murder of Rita Hester, a trans woman, in 1998. Since then, it has been a time for the trans community and our allies to demonstrate support for everyone affected by anti-transgender violence, both living and dead. Despite gains made by the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole over recent years, TDOR is still vitally important to observe. Statistics tell us that, since 2010, trans murders have been on the rise. For young black trans women aged 15-34, the chances of being murdered are 1 in 2,600, compared to 1 in 12,000 for all other young adults. But it is important to remember that hate crimes which lead to death are only one type of violence we experience. Rates of non-fatal hate crimes, sexual assault, domestic violence, and suicide are all disproportionately high within the trans community as compared to the rest of the population.

Trans Day of Remembrance, then, is a time of action for our community. In this current political climate, it is important now more than ever for us to come together in solidarity. Love can, and will, triumph over hate. We must believe this. But it is up to us to send this message; no one can do it for us. By being here tonight, we are making a difference. By being visible, here and now, by speaking out against anti-transgender violence tonight, we can begin to create a world full of love and acceptance that we all so desperately need. We can begin to make a change.

The anger, grief, sadness, and pain we feel today is valid. And it is important. It unites us, and it motivates us to fight for a better future. We must recognize these emotions, and we must allow ourselves to feel them now if we are ever to heal, and if we are ever to help anyone else to heal. I know that I’m talking about a lot of responsibility tonight and it might seem daunting or overwhelming or too much; but we do not carry this burden alone. It isn’t fair that we must do it, but we have one another, and together we can do it. We must remember this.

For all those in doubt, I want to say this, and I need to say this: you matter, and you are loved. Your identity is valid, and it is important and deserving of respect. Trans identities are valid, and they are deserving of respect. You are worthy of dignity and respect. Love is the most radical form of resistance there is. We must believe that.

The names of trans people who have lost their lives to anti-transgender violence and hatred over the past year were then read. Their names, dates of death, places of death, and the violent means by which the person was murdered were read. This is not done to scare us, but to bring attention to the fact that these people’s violent demise was due, first and foremost, to their identity–or even simply their perceived identity–as a trans person.

This list, though depressingly full, is likely not complete. Murders will go unreported as trans homicides are often reported with the victim’s incorrect name and pronouns. No government agency currently tracks the murders of trans people. Even in death, trans people are not respected, and the violence continues. And this is a global trend. We will never truly know the numbers of people killed for the crime of being themselves. So, we gather here to remember those known, but also those unknown. In short, it is up to us to remember these people, because their killers, law enforcement, and the media will seek to erase their existence.

A complete list of names can be found here: https://tdor.info/. It is compiled each year by Smith. I also want to add a final acknowledgement, for all of the names of people who we do not know and may never know, but mattered and suffered just the same.

I want to end with these words from Gwendolyn Ann Smith: “This day we mourn our losses and we honor our precious dead — tomorrow and every other day, we shall continue to fight for the living.”

11/29/18 Drag Show Volunteer Interest Meeting

By: Ailia Rohbar

On November 29th, 2018 the Rainbow Center is hosting the first Drag Show volunteer interest meeting of the year in the Rainbow Center from 5 to 6:30pm. This is one of the first steps towards making the annual Rainbow Center Drag Show a reality. This meeting will cover various elements that are crucial to the success of our show, such as the roles our volunteers will play and potential headliners and performers. All students who would like to aid in the making of the show are encouraged to attend the meeting; we welcome everyone, as we know all have something to contribute. This is a great opportunity to use your talents and skills for the betterment of our community.

World AIDS Day Documentary Viewing

By: Anna Martineau

World AIDS Day 2018 will be on Saturday, December 1st. Started in 1988 as the first ever global health day, World AIDS Day brings organizations and people around the world together in the fight to end HIV/AIDS and promote awareness of the diseases. Although the height of the crisis was during the 1980s, there are still 36.7 million people who are living with HIV/AIDS today.  It is especially important to recognize how the LGBTQ community has been affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as well as the major role their activism has played in dispelling stigma, educating their communities, and fighting for the research and resources to improve the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS.  

The Rainbow Center will be collaborating with Partners in Health Engage on Thursday, December 6th, from 5-6:30pm in the Rainbow Center to watch We Were Here, a documentary highlighting personal stories from people who lived through the height of the AIDS epidemic. Partners in Health Engage will discuss the work that their organization has done to end HIV/AIDS around the world, and all students are invited to participate in discussion about how we can all continue the fight to end AIDS.  

10/24/18 Rainbow Center Response to Federal Policy Changes

This week, there have been several reports and statements about how the federal government is reconsidering the way that gender is defined in law, policy, and governance. There is a possibility that gender may be redefined as “biological,” “immutable” and “determined by genitalia at birth.”

This news threatens the transgender and intersex communities here at UConn and nationwide. The Rainbow Center recognizes that this change in definition has not yet happened, and no full definition has been made final, but we are also aware that a change like this could have immediate and devastating effects, were it to move forward.

Redefining gender in this way is an attempt to weaken and/or eliminate many legal protections and rights granted to both the transgender and intersex communities. In particular, this policy change would likely have a major impact on the way that Title IX has been interpreted and enacted nationally.

The Rainbow Center wishes to highlight the state-level protections that exist here in Connecticut. The Connecticut State Department of Education’s 2017 “Guidance on Civil Rights Protections and Supports for Transgender Students” (https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/SDE/Title-IX/transgender_guidance_faq.pdf?la=en)  is a good point of reference for statewide legal protections in academic settings. While these statewide protections are helpful for those who live and work locally, we also recognize that national protections are of critical importance.

We invite any UConn community members who wish to discuss this policy or the impact it has had on them to join us in the center or reach out to rainbowcenter@uconn.edu.

The Rainbow Center and the Office for Diversity and Inclusion are committed to supporting our transgender and intersex UConn community members, and we will remain steadfast in our advocacy and actions.

Daily Campus: National Coming Out Day

On October 11, 2018, the Rainbow Center celebrated National Coming Out Day in two main ways. First, Julia Anderson gave a presentation on the history and meaning of National Coming Out Day. Additionally, we hosted Alok Vaid Menon to speak and perform at an evening event. We have celebrated this day for several years, and we invite you to see more about our celebrations here:

Daily Campus Article on Out to Lunch Lecture for National Coming Out Day

Daily Campus Article on Alok Vaid-Menon at National Coming Out Day