Queer and Trans Empowerment Month aims to educate, inspire

Erica Snow, Reporter

Multicultural Student Affairs kicked off Queer and Trans Empowerment Month on Thursday, announcing a famous trans activist and author as its keynote speaker.

Janet Mock, author of The New York Times bestselling memoir “Redefining Realness,” will speak Oct. 14 at Cahn Auditorium. The rest of the month will include more than a dozen other events to raise awareness and celebrate LGBT identities.

Mock is the second prominent transgender speaker to come to Northwestern in the past six months. Laverne Cox, a transgender activist and an actress known for her role in “Orange is the New Black,” spoke about prejudice last year at an event hosted by A&O Productions, Rainbow Alliance and One Book One Northwestern.

Bienen junior Nicolas Wagner said he is excited about the inclusion of another transgender speaker at NU.

“It says extremely positive things about the inclusiveness and the overall attitude about what kind of groups we’re going to consider, and trying to broaden that aspect and range of who’s considered,” Wagner said.

QTEM aims to make students feel included and validated through programming and education that is often not discussed in high school or higher education, said Jordan Turner, assistant director of Multicultural Student Affairs.

This month’s events, ranging from an advance movie screening of “Suffragette” on Oct. 13 to HIV testing on Oct. 26, aim to educate LGBT students and allies on issues concerning the intersectionality of gender and sexuality, among other topics. Multicultural Student Affairs sponsors discussion groups for LGBT students in Greek life, LGBT athletes and queer and trans students of color to encourage dialogue on issues specific to different people’s experiences.

“It’s important for students to feel supported and part of a larger community because they are,” said Joe Lattal, a graduate assistant in the Center for Student Involvement.

Other events this month include an art event focused on healing at Norris University Center on Oct. 7, the Gender and Sexuality Studies Fall Reception in Parkes Hall on Oct. 8 and the opening night production of “Cock” by the Jewish Theatre Ensemble on Oct. 15.

Many events sponsored by the Multicultural Student Affairs are open to all students, regardless of gender or sexuality, and those who identify as straight and/or cisgender are still encouraged to attend, which is inline with the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center’s mission statement.

Turner said although gay marriage was legalized by a Supreme Court ruling in July, progress doesn’t stop there.

“There’s a lot of strides being made, but there’s also a lot of work to be done on LGBT issues,” Turner said.

Wagner echoed Turner’s concerns and said there is still much to be desired for transgender rights.

“The next big fight should be transgender rights and improving awareness,” Wagner said. “The way you improve the rights of a certain community is by convincing people from outside that community that you deserve rights.”

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