Transgender Awareness Week took place the second week of November. Due to COVID-19, however, the usual celebrations were unable to take place, including events at Drake University.
Astrid Jones, a sophomore at Drake, is a trans woman who came out in her freshman year of college.
“I got tired of being in the closet, and it just kind of wore me down with time,” Jones said.
Jones said her experience coming out was taxing.
“It was a little stressful that I already kind of knew everyone but I didn’t like, know everyone well enough to know how the people I spent my time with would take it,” Jones said. “I’d been here a while and made some connections, but they were still new ones.”
She said that the Drake campus has issues with inclusivity.
“I feel like it’s hard to speak about the campus community at large about that because a lot of people have been great and the actual employees have all been great,” Jones said. “But it’s hard to speak in generalities because when it comes to the student body there’s still some outright bigots.”
The transgender experience is often difficult according to GLAAD, a media source dedicated to amplifying LGBTQ+ stories and experiences. Transgender people struggle more than the average American.
“It gets kind of tiring standing up for yourself constantly when you’re not sure if anyone is going to help out so it’s helpful to actually be an active ally to trans people and if someone is being repeatedly misgendered or dead-named sometimes we don’t have the energy to correct it,” Jones said. “It’d be nice for someone else to help out.”
A survey conducted in 2015 of trans Americans by GLAAD showed transgender people experienced homelessness and had attempted suicide than the general population.
Suicide in the transgender community is commonplace according to GLAAD’s 2015 survey of trans people, with 40 percent of respondents saying they had made attempts on their own lives, compared to the 4.6 percent national average.
Due to COVID-19, Drake’s Rainbow Union was unable to hold any events for Transgender Awareness Week. Last year, Rainbow Union held a candlelight vigil in the Olmsted breezeway in honor of the final day of Transgender Awareness Week, Trans Day of Remembrance.
“Trans Day of Remembrance is a day to remember all the trans people that have died, and especially as a result of mistreatment by people because they were trans,” Jones said.
For anyone struggling with their sexual or gender identity, some resources can help, including glaad.org, Drake’s Rainbow Union and the Drake University Counseling Center.
Danielle Green, a therapist for the Drake Counseling Center, said the center provides services to LGBTQ+ students.
“We try and be inclusive. We’ve updated all of our forms for preferred names, pronouns, and the ability to self-identity/explain gender, orientation and sexuality,” Green said. “We also have pronoun pins students can use in appointments. We can also help refer them to community resources if we’re unable to support them in what they need.”