Guilford celebrates Trans Resilience Week

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Trans Resilience Week was held at Guilford from Nov. 13 through Nov. 20 to celebrate resilience and hope within the transgender community. The various events of Trans Resilience Week were organized by the Friends Center and co-sponsored by the Counseling Center, art department and Multicultural Education Department.

The events, which included panels, discussions and a film screening, took place during different times to allow as many people to participate as possible.

To begin the week, a study on Trans Radicals in the Bible was held in the Greenleaf on Monday, Nov. 13. This study was led by Interfaith Community Coordinator Asher Kolieboi, and discussed the literary and theological significance of the Ethiopian Treasurer in Acts 8, a eunuch in the Christian Bible who was baptized by the apostle Paul and is believed by some to be homosexual or transgender. The story of Ethiopian Treasurer demonstrated a transgender radical who converted to Christianity in the New Testament.

The Trans Faith and Resilience Panel took place on Nov. 14. It gave Guilford students, faculty and staff an opportunity to learn about using religion as a tool for resilience and hope in the face of adversity and violence.

Moderator Hayden Young asked panelists a series of questions about how they used their faith to build resilience and to respond to anti-transgender oppression. The panelists consisted of Ignite NC Co-director Holden Cession, North Carolina State University Graduate Teaching Assistant Joshua Orol, Ignite NC fellow Elijah Rogan-Kelly and Vivian Taylor, the host of Christian Underhistory: A Christian True Crime Podcast.

Taylor spoke from her faith experience as a member of the Episcopalian Church.

“You have to be able to figure out how to communicate what you believe in a way that folks are going to hear it,” said Taylor. “And you’re going to have to be ready to take abuse coming back. You don’t know how people are going to react. It’s hard.”

Throughout the event, panelists connected their experiences within the transgender community to their religions by reflecting on how their religious beliefs have helped them to grow within themselves. Orol spoke about their experience as a member of Conservative Judaism.

“Even before I was putting words to my own gender experience,” said Orol. “I was thinking about being a minority because I am a Jew, so that’s definitely helped me in terms of how I think about assisting others.

“The Jewish community I grew up in is very involved in creating safe spaces for Jewish teens to encounter what it means to grow up in a millennia of anti-Semitism … I definitely grew up in a community that was happy to talk about what it means to be different and that has support for youth.”

While the first few days focused on religion, art also played a role in Trans Resilience Week.

On Wednesday, Nov. 15, the final Free Press event of the year was held for students, faculty, staff and alumni to collaborate on posters and t-shirts with woodcuts and screenprints. The designs used during Free Press were created by transgender and queer artists. Later that day, Part-Time Lecturer for Justice and Policies Studies Aleks Babić led a Trans Ally 101 Training. This training session helped to define the differences between sex, gender, gender identity and gender expression.

“This training is helping me figure out how to make the most inclusive environment in my classes,” said Holly Peterson, assistant professor of geology and co-chair of environmental and sustainability studies. “It helps me be more aware of the things going on around me.”

Others attendees, including Bonner Coordinator Audrey Mangili, also reflected on the important messages that they received during the Trans Ally 101 Training.

“We have to be in solidarity with others in life,” said Mangili. “We can’t just be in solidarity in the moment, but we have to do it all the time to show that we are against the oppression that is occurring.”

A film screening of “Major!” and a community discussion was held in the Gilmer Room of Founders Hall on Nov. 16. The film follows the life of Miss Major Griffin-Gracy and her fight for transgender civil rights.

To close out the week of events, a Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil was held on Friday, Nov. 20. The Guilford community came together to take part in the annual observance, honoring the memory of those whose lives were lost due to anti-transgender violence.

The events throughout the week worked to bring people together on campus to better understand the transgender community and create a feeling of hope within community.

“It’s those very struggles and those internalizations of oppression, of fear, of attachments and desires,” said Rogan-Kelly, an Ignite NC fellow. “It’s those very things that are the juice, the very elixir, of realizing how whole and complete you really are.”