October is LGBTQA History Month and on October 28, UMBC hosted speaker S. Bear Bergman for his talk, “5 Things People Always Ask the Transsexual, but Shouldn’t.” In this talk, Bergman brought many issues of the transgender community to the forefront and cleared up some common misconceptions the general public have about this community, given the social conditioning and culture around American transsexuality.
Among the questions that people always ask Bergman is “did you have surgery yet?” He said this question is misguided because “it portrays being transsexual as a process that has an end.” Another question that he brought up was “how old were you when you knew you were a transsexual?” He said this question is problematic because the public seems to think that the answer to that should be something along the lines of “ever since I was a little boy/girl, I always knew I was different.”
“People discover their transsexuality at a variety of different ages, ranging from 5 to even 60 or 70,” said Bergman.
UMBC has many LGBTQA programs and resources that students and faculty can access. For example, the Freedom Alliance is a social and community-building student organization for the LGBTQA campus community. Everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, is welcome to be involved and talk about their personal experiences.
UMBC also has a group called Spectrum for those who identify outside of the binary and those questioning their gender identity. UMBC has more than just clubs, including a Safe Zone training program which is designed to help students, faculty and staff create a more welcoming, affirmative atmosphere for LGBTQA members.
The program includes a variety of workshops for people at all levels of knowledge and comfort with LGBTQA culture and concerns, from basic ideas and terminology to practical, skills-based sessions on pronoun usage.
Amrita Gulati, a senior, said, “publicizing events such as Bergman’s talk is something that needs to be done in order to educate college students about sensitive issues like this. Getting the word out several weeks in advance and advertising it more will bring a bigger student audience.”
Dr. Robert Anderson, a professor in the psychology department, said, “courses regarding this topic should be offered here for students to take.” He mentioned that, the psychology department is thinking of creating a course called “Sex, Gender, and Orientation,” which would educate students on the roles of sex and gender in our society and how they shape our worldviews.
All of these improvements will help to make people more aware. As Bergman said in his talk, “whatever doesn’t get talked about gets erased.”