Gee and Mayo

President Gordon Gee and Director of the LGBTQ Center Cris Mayo pose for a photo after the opening of the LGBTQ+ center in Hodges Hall.

Thursday was Transgender Day of Remembrance, a memorial ceremony where WVU and the wider community honored those who have been killed by anti-trans violence. All were welcome to attend to show support, mourn and learn, Mayo said.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights organization for LGBTQ Americans, this year is on track to be one of the deadliest years on record and, like other years, transwomen of color represented more than 80 percent of those deaths in 2017. The group has been tracking transgender violence since 2013.

While Trans Day of Remembrance is a solemn occasion, it comes during Trans Visibility Week, a time when we celebrate trans, genderqueer, intersex and other gender-creative people.

Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, for instance, were two trans women of color who not only started the modern gay rights movement at Stonewall, they also established a shelter to provide a home for homeless trans youth in New York City.

Their lives, like the lives so many other trans people, show the challenges that trans people face: lack of protection from multiple forms of discrimination, homelessness and violence. Their lives, too, like those of so many other trans, genderqueer and intersex people, show the strength of those committed to creating a better future.

The LGBTQ+ Center invites all to participate in Trans Advocacy Month. We hope that by viewing documentaries and participating in trainings on trans issues, we all can learn to continue the tradition of advocacy in and with trans communities. Teaching, learning and community improvement are what we all do best together here.

According to a survey by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, West Virginia is home to more young transpeople, per capita, than any other state. We need to learn more about trans issues to help make this be a state in which they will flourish.

At the moment, improving that sense of welcome and belonging is up to us. We have no laws protecting trans people from discrimination in this state; however, both the city of Morgantown and WVU have policies in place to protect the trans community such as the LGBTQ rights ordinance enforced in 2017 and the WVU equity assurance policy.

In the last few years, we’ve seen significant hostility directed at trans people and a rise in hate crimes across the board. In 2017, U.S. hate crimes increased by 17 percent, according to federal officials as of Tuesday. But on this campus, this is not who we are. So learn transpeople’s names and pronouns and be respectful.

Questions? Email us at lgbtq@mail.wvu.edu. Here at WVU, we are advocates for one another and the more we learn, the better off we all are.