Members of the College of William and Mary community gathered on the Sunken Garden Thursday, Nov. 20 for International Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day reserved to commemorate the hundreds of lives lost each year to anti-transgender violence.
The Sunken Garden was dotted in white flags, each commemorating a life lost, as Kat Contreras ’15, Nell Garver ’15, Zoe Padgett ’15 and Andrew Wood ’15 read the names of the hundreds of people killed in recent years because of their perceived or known trans* identity.
“Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day to remember those who lost their lives to anti-trans* violence,” Contreras, who organized the event with Garver and Padgett in conjunction with the Student Assembly and Lambda Alliance, said. “Not everyone we remember identifies as transgender, but they still were products of violence that were directed because of transphobia.
Observers came and went throughout the four-hour ceremony, during which thousands of names were read.
“It’s important to remember them,” Lambda Alliance Publicity Chair Anna Gosling ’18 said. “We have members on this campus that are trans*, transgendered, or fall under the trans* umbrella, and it’s important to show that we care about them and recognize that they’re people. It’s a really solemn ceremony, and it’s hard to hear the number of people … it’s so sad. I feel angry that it still happens, but also determined to stop it.”
Following Transgender Day of Remembrance, Contreras, Garver and Padgett intend to petition the College for more transgender inclusive policies. Their proposal, which has gained over 100 signatures from students, highlights the three main problems transgender students face at the College: housing, healthcare and school records.
“Currently, we have the adaptive housing policy, which basically means trans* students can apply through the Center for Student Diversity and Residence Life to get a single room on campus,” Garver, President of the Lambda Alliance, said. “But the problem is people get treated by the biological sex on their birth certificate, so if you’re a trans-man who is biologically female, you still might end up on a female hall. You might potentially out someone that way. Our goal is for gender-neutral housing as an avenue for transgender students or other students who might not be comfortable with the traditional rooming arrangement to have another option. The company that underrides our health insurance now, United Healthcare, they just added coverage for hormone replacement therapy and sex reassignment surgery this past September, so when it comes time to change the contract, we would like to see the College add this service for our trans* students.”
Garver, Contreras, and Padgett are also campaigning for an easier way to change gender and name on university records. Currently, one must legally change their gender and name to change it on school documents. Their petition proposes to work with Information Technology to make it easier for students to change their name and gender on Banner and their Student ID without going through the legal system.
“We have a lot more trans* students than people realize, and then they don’t realize the issues that those people face with medical care, bathrooms and worrying where to live,” Garver said. “Everyone should be in an environment that is healthy and helpful to them.”