(Eds: The use of the pronoun ‘they’ will occasionally be used in reference to those who prefer a gender-neutral pronoun and thus considered singular. Some last names were left out for the comfort of the students.)
A panel series created by Eastern Michigan University’s Queer and Transgender People of Color Collective (QTPOCC) started off with a discussion of Transphobia and transantagonism.
The panel was part of a series called ‘Queeries for Queers’, with each following panel planned to have different topics. Transphobia was the topic of discussion, taking place in the Intersection room in EMU’s student center from 7-9p.m., Feb. 6. Thirty students attended the event, refreshments and LBC credit offered to those who did.
All five members of the panel identified as transgender and a person of color. Panelists were Bren (he/him), Amazu Rennie-Ford (he/they), Al Mona (he/they), Moe Sewell (she/they) and Amory Zhou (he/him.) Coordinators for the event asked prepared questions for panelists to answer, though the audience was allowed to ask questions as well.
The first couple questions focused on the individual experiences of each panelist with Transphobia as well as transphobic microaggressions. Al shared an experience they had.
“I always get the ‘you can’t be soft’ or ‘men have to be aggressive’ and I am not an aggressive person,” they said. “I look like an aggressive person but I’ve literally been called a teddy bear all the time, so it’s hard for me.”
When asked about a cisgender person who gets angry or annoyed when a transgender individual is upset by how they’re addressed, Amory explained how damaging and frustrating it is to have to explain yourself over and over to people.
“Because of power dynamics existing in public and taking up space and all these layers of things trans people deal with and [cisgender people] don’t, I would be a little bit sensitive to that fact,” he said. “Even if you didn’t’ mean to be offensive, I have some frustrations sometimes with how cis or straight people feel as though they have access to trans peoples’ patience.”
Moe added to the same topic.
“Once you realize there are lots of different power dynamics going on in people’s lives, you’re a lot more willing to be more sensitive to people,” they said.
Other questions included topics like dating with Transphobia, who the most supportive people in their lives are or were and if they’ve seen any differences in the treatment of trans binary or trans non-binary people. The panelists shared personal stories of their experiences, negative and positive, resulting in range of emotions from the audience.
Taylor Amari Little (Tay), a coordinator and main contract for QTPOCC, said the group’s primary focus was for support.
“Our priority is making sure that queer and trans people of color have support and resources and access to protection and access to healing, and our second thing is about educating people,” she said. “At the end of the day, [educating people] ends up factoring into our safety and health and well-being.”
Another coordinator, Cherry Miller, explained how they try to make people who join their collective feel welcome and safe.
“If a person was to walk into one of the meetings, it would be very upbeat and you can feel the energy of love – you can feel it and understand it and you reciprocate it,” Miller said. “If someone is feeling love toward you and being accepting of all that you are, not matter your identity, you’re going to feel that.”
Marleigh, a member of the audience for the panel, has been to some of the panels before and enjoys seeing them offered.
“I fell in love with the whole set up of being able to hear peoples’ experiences and learn from those, and its always such a supportive space,” he said. “I always personally learn most from people when it’s personal experiences.”
For those who are both a person of color and identify anywhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, information on joining QTPOCC can be found on their Facebook page. Meetings are held for the group every Monday at 7p.m. in the LGBT Resource Center for those who are interested in the group as well.