President of Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) gave a presentation at the Rainbow Center Wednesday afternoon called “Families in Transition: Navigating and Changing the World with a Transgender Child.”
Before presenting, Lori Davison made sure to meet everyone in attendance and ask if they came here as an obligation or out of interest. Regardless of what people’s answers were, she was more than happy to have everyone there to talk about what life is for those in the LGBT community.
Davison’s main focus was about transgenderism. She explained it through her own personal experience with it by first showing slides of her two daughters, 20-year-old Kaeleigh and 18-year-old Jamie.
She talked about how Kaeleigh lives here in Connecticut and Jamie works in San Francisco, both living regular, happy lives. Then, she explained that her eldest, Kaeleigh, is transgender. She was born identified as a male, but showed signs that she felt female since the age of three. Kaeleigh would draw herself as a girl, play with girl toys, and always tell her family members and friends that her parents had two daughters, not just one.
It wasn’t until Kaeleigh watched an episode of Ugly Betty at the age of 11 that had a transgender actress on it when she began to become more comfortable with the idea of her officially transitioning.
Three years later, she watched another show that had a transgender teenager in high school who took hormones and went through the entire process. This is when she told her parents that she wanted to do the same thing. With the influence of media and after many visits to the clinic and much thought, Kaeleigh began her process and had full support from her family.
Davison used this example of her family’s experience to segue into talking about the common misconceptions and confusions that people have about the LGBT community.
She brought out a bag of “Genderbread Cookies” and passed one out to each person in the room. She then explained that all cookies are baked with the same ingredients but are somehow still able to turn out uniquely. Some of the cookies had missing parts and were shaped differently, but still had the same taste.
“It is the same with children. You raise them and care for them all the same way, and they still come out different from one another. Different looks, personalities, passions, feelings,” Davison said. “It’s not about the superficial things like appearance, gender, or sexual orientation, but about their hearts.”
Davison opened the audience’s minds to what the LGBT community was all about by encompassing it in four parts: presentation, gender identity, sexual orientation and biological conditions.
Presentation is referred to as the “tip of the iceberg,” having to do with clothing, body shape, gestures and postures. Then comes gender identity, which constitutes what feels natural and normal to someone, and what they can choose to express or repress.
After this is the sexual orientation process, which is who someone gives romantic attention to, who makes them “tingle,” and it is something that can change or evolve over time within a person. Lastly, there are biological sex or conditions, which are our natural hormones, genitalia and more, which can also change over time.
She did this to sift through the different misconceptions that people who are uneducated have. Then, she spoke about how because of some people’s beliefs; LGBT members fail to feel accepted into their school and work environments, friend groups and even families.
“When people place negative judgments, I feel like I can’t truly be myself…that people like me can’t be ourselves,” a first semester exercise science major who identifies with the LGBT community Natalie Pacheco said. “In some situations, I basically feel like myself and others have to in a way hide what is a big part of us in order to feel accepted and not receive the negative judgments that are still thrown out there by people who have different views.”
There are people who form ignorant and negative beliefs such as “all transgender people are gay” or that “pansexuals suffer from a hormonal disease” and shun these people solely because they disagree with their lifestyles.
What Davison wanted to convey that the LGBT community is not suffering from anything other than lack of support and respect.
She stressed that it is “so important for them to be able to experience equality through the respectful treatment they receive from others, regardless of what their beliefs might be. These people deserve the same love, respect, support and rights that anyone else does,” and that is exactly what everyone who attended this event was able to take away.
Gabrielle Ferrell is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.