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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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GSRC, NU STANS and Rainbow Alliance crowdsource information on transitioning at NU

Illustration by Ziye Wang
The information from the crowdsourcing form will be used to create a guide for current and future transgender students.

The Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, NU’s Society of Trans and Non-Binary Students, and Rainbow Alliance are crowdsourcing information from transgender students about transitioning at NU.

The information will be used to create a guide to aid current and future transgender students. On the crowdsourcing form, which was released Mar. 8, submissions remain anonymous. The form calls on students to reflect on University offerings like Wildcard name changes, all gender housing and on-campus medical services.  

“What we want to do is really highlight all of those aspects, so that trans and gender non-conforming folks can see and experience a resource guide that is curated by their community rather than the same three places we send every student to,” GSRC director Matthew Abtahi said.

A natural collaboration arose when Abtahi found out that NU STANS was also planning to compile resources for transgender students.

Weinberg junior Mattie Poelsterl, head of advocacy and education at NU STANS, said the initiative was inspired by experience of transitioning at NU. 

“I faced a lot of the difficulty figuring out exactly how to go about that, and there was not much information that I could find readily available,” Poelsterl said. “That’s broadly an issue within the trans community who are transitioning.”

She added that processes at NU, such as changing one’s email or name on documentation, are still somewhat hard to find. 

Similarly, Weinberg junior and Rainbow Alliance External President Zoryah Gray said the project is important because resources for queer students can be outdated.

She added that one queer student is not a spokesperson for all queer experiences. To Gray, this means crowdsourcing has the opportunity to highlight different perspectives about transitioning at NU.

“It’s information that you trust more from your peers, just knowing, ‘Oh, that’s a real person.’ They actually exist.” Gray said. “This isn’t just some website saying, ‘Oh, here’s the top 10 transitioning guide resources.’ This is what works in this area, which can be very different from a different area.” 

Abtahi said the idea of crowdsourcing stemmed from the sharing of intergenerational information on back channels employed by LGBTQ+ people at NU in the past.

As a local, Poelsterl said she found a lot of the information she needed for her transition on her own, aided by the Chicago transgender community. Her difficulties inspired her to consolidate information for non-local students.

In her ideal world, Poelsterl said there would not be a need for NU STANS to crowdsource and advocate for transgender and non-binary students extensively.

“Hopefully with some of the work of education efforts that we’re doing, regular trans students don’t have to be doing as much of that in their daily lives, if we as an organization can make some kind of change,” Poelsterl said.

Although information access can be contingent on who students know, Abtahi said the GSRC’s new location on campus allows LGBTQ+ resources to be highlighted more easily.

Abtahi highlighted the education and advocacy work done by student organizations like Rainbow Alliance and NU STANS in fighting for recognition and respect for the LGBTQ+ community at NU. He said his job would not exist without these initiatives, so his office is committed to building solutions alongside students.

“I want students to get the experience that they want out of Northwestern, so a large part is identifying the barriers and starting building solutions,” Abtahi said. “The GSRC through and through never built a solution without students … because our office would not exist without students.”

Abtahi said they will also consider how to encourage students to engage more with off-campus resources, as many may be unaware of community resources in the Chicago area.

“For me, it’s all about: ‘How do we give trans folks and non-binary folks as much autonomy as possible in every aspect of their life?’” he said. “And I see that as a very large charge to my work and how I move through the Northwestern space.”

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