Vows of silence mark day of transgender awareness at U

The event will continue today with a film showing and a panel discussion.

by Kori Koch

Nationally recognized transgender activist Andrea James spoke to University students Wednesday in one of four programs scheduled to honor the National Day of Silence.

During the now-two-day event, students at the University and across the country took a temporary vow of silence to raise awareness of violence toward sexual minority groups and their allies.

This year’s programming focused on issues specifically affecting transgender people, rather than those troubling the entire queer community, said Emily Souza, Queer Student Cultural Center co-chairwoman.

“James will be the center point of this year’s event,” Souza said. “She’s an amazing resource and can provide life-changing information for trans women.”

James explained to approximately 25 University students how to accurately address transgender issues and how to become an activist and ally in her speech, “Break the Silence,” in Cowles Auditorium at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

James said she also planned to discuss how institutions attempt to control transgender people and reveal false portrayals of transgender women in the media.

A false fire alarm interrupted James’ presentation.

A silent-witness rally organized by the institute preceded James’ speech.

During the rally, traffic in and out of Coffman Union slowed as students stopped to read true stories of hate crimes committed against transgender people.

“Students seem fairly receptive,” Souza said.

The visual display was in remembrance of silenced transgender victims and allies. University students read the obituaries taped against the chests of 12 full-size, human-shaped cutouts positioned around the union’s main entrance.

Two additional events scheduled for today include an informational session taught by Owen Marciano, assistant director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Programs Office, called “Trans 101.” It is geared toward people who know little to nothing of being transgender, Souza said.

Marciano said, “I want to provide a better understanding to students of the complex nature of being transgender.”

The course will be at noon in Coffman Union.

There will also be a showing of a documentary titled, “A Boy Named Sue.”

Audience members can field questions to a panel of University transgender students following the documentary at 4 p.m. in Coffman Theater.

All events are free and open to the public.