The Online Beacon

The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

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The Lavender Voices Lecture Series: Dr. Genny Beemyn

Photo+by+MCLA
Photo by MCLA

On November 8th, 2023, Dr. Genny Beemyn visited MCLA to speak, as a part of the Lavender Voices Lecture Series. These are lectures that cover LGBTQIA+ issues and topics in order to try to ensure that LGBTQIA+ students lives on campus are enriched and protected. The lectures are funded through The Lavender Fund, which raises annual support to bring LGBTQIA+ community speakers to campus (such as Dr. Beemyn), send students to LGBTQIA+ conferences, as well as sponsor student trips to historic and influential locations associated with the LGBTQIA+ civil rights movement. The focus of the lecture was to discuss the changing nature of gender in the 21st century.

Dr. Beemyn is the director of the UMass Amherst Stonewall Center and the coordinator of Campus Pride’s Trans Policy Clearinghouse, and the premier resource for transgender policies at colleges and universities. At this lecture, they talked about the impact that being unprepared for the needs of transgender and non-binary students can have individuals. They told the audience a story about a transgender woman that attended the school UMass Amherst. Up until she came to the school to ask for gender inclusive housing, Dr. Beemyn had been struggling to convince the school to have gender inclusive housing set up for transgender students. The school claimed that they had no need, because there were not any transgender students on campus.  Obviously, this was not the case. What was true was that the students that were transgender likely did not feel all that comfortable coming out a school that did not give them unconditional support. According to Dr. Beemyn, the college admin said that they would address the need when it came up. So, when the anonymous college student went to look for an inclusive housing option for herself, the school was, according to Dr. Beemyn, “scrambling to get something together”. The end result was that this woman ended up being placed in a housing area for international students. The school’s lack of preparation resulted in her lacking a sense of community, and ultimately, she attempted to commit suicide and then dropped out. Since then, Dr. Beemyn has heard from her, and while she struggled after leaving college, she is thankfully still alive.

The lecture was not entirely saddening. They also talked about how far we as a society have come, despite what one may think when looking at this country’s current political climate. They related the eventual acceptance of transgender and non-binary people in society, to gay marriage. Specifically stating that with gay marriage, there was a historical path that ultimately led to it being accepted within the United States overall (there are obviously exceptions to the rule). The order of this path was: First, gay people started to make themselves more visible to the greater society, so as more people came out more people began to associate gay people not just with this stereotypical image, but as people they knew. Unfortunately this also led to more people pushing back against issues, such gay people being able to marry, and as it became more and more controversial, the Supreme Court stepped in. We all remember Obergefell v. Hodges; it was a historical moment in our country’s history. Since its ruling, overall gay marriage became less of a hot-topic issue. Again, there are exceptions, plenty of politicians are still homophobic, but it does not benefit them to take on gay marriage to the same extent that it did years ago.

Dr. Beemyn believes that the acceptance of trans people will follow this path. Though they admit that, “It’s taking longer than I thought”. They talked about how we are in the first stage, where trans and non-binary people are beginning to be more visible. I mean look at how many famous people that are out as non-binary: Demi Lovato, Amanda Stenberg, Sam Smith, Janelle Monáe, Ruby Rose, and many others.  these are only a handful of the growing number of people coming out as non-binary in the public eye.

At the end of the lecture, Dr. Beemyn took some time to answer questions from people in the audience. One of the questions that was asked was what advice they had for transgender and non-binary people, on how to handle living in the current state of this country, with all these laws being that attack transgender and non-binary people. They emphasized the importance of having a community, people to stand with you and remind you that you are not alone.

If there are any LGBTQIA+ students out there looking for a community or support system here on campus, Queer Student Union meets every Thursdays at 7:30PM in CC324, the gender affirmation closet is on the third floor of the campus center and is open anytime the campus center is, the gender and sexuality center is open every day from 7 am to 11 pm in CC324, and counseling services is on the top floor of the health services building and is open Monday-Friday, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. In order to schedule an appointment, you can contact them at: (413) 662-5331 and [email protected].

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Em Marlay-Wright, Staff Writer

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