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With it’s liberal lean, Boulder might seem to be a place where identifying outside the gender binary is something commonplace or accepted.
“In general, Boulder has a really liberal reputation, but I don’t think it lives up to that in any regard,” said Kyle Inselman, a 21-year-old senior film studies major.
In reality, there has not been much education on what it means to be transgender in the Boulder community.
Cathy Busha, the co-executive director of Out Boulder, said that as of right now, there is no support group that exists for transgender individuals in Boulder outside of the CU campus.
Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth, according to the GLAAD media guidelines.
Some people feel that the Boulder community lacks a consciousness of gender identity and expression, something that will hopefully be improved through outreach efforts this week.
“The people in Boulder still have the assumption that looking at someone, say they look like a man, and assuming they are one,” Inselman said.
Out Boulder is the lead organizer for the first Transgender Awareness Week in Boulder County. There will be panels and events that represent a variety of voices on the subject of gender identity, hosted throughout the Boulder and Denver area.
Busha said that she started organizing Transgender Awareness Week after seeing its effectiveness in cultivating consciousness in Tucson, Ariz. where she used to live.
“It had a lot of excitement from people in the community who identify as transgender and allies,” Busha said.
Since Nov. 11, Out Boulder has been hosting events and panels to help facilitate discussion about everything trans in an effort to increase awareness and create connections between members of the transgender community.
“One goal is to connect people who identify as transgender to one another,” Busha said. “Right now, off campus, there isn’t any sort of support group for transgender individuals. Our hope is that people will connect this week.”
On the evening of Nov. 16, Out Boulder will be screening the film “Faces and Facets of Transgender Experience” at CU’s Center for Community in room N320, starting at 6 p.m.
The movie was filmed locally at the Colorado chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. The film shares the stories of 18 individuals from the Boulder and Denver area and the emotional process of their transition, according to a press release by Out Boulder.
Inselman, a film major and enthusiast, said that the film was one of his favorite trans documentaries.
“I think [film] is the best tool available for awareness because people are on the Internet or watching movies,” he said. “They don’t really read anymore. They don’t go to lectures and stuff.”
Following the film will be an “Ask a Trans-Person Anything Panel.” This panel is an opportunity for allies and people seeking knowledge of gender identity to ask questions they might not be comfortable asking in traditional social settings.
“It just really normalizes everything,” he said. “You get to find out how boring and uninteresting we are.”
The panel is free and open to the public. It begins at 7 p.m. and will represent a diverse group of trans individuals who can provide multiple perspectives on their experiences.
The panel will also discuss what it means to be an ally in the LGBT community and how the support and education of individuals can create community, Inselman said.
This week was chosen as Boulder’s Transgender Awareness Week so it can exist in conjunction with the international Transgender Day of Remembrance, occurring annually on Nov. 20, Busha said.
“We thought it would be helpful to have events before and after the Transgender Day of Awareness to educate the community,” Busha said.
Stephanie Wilenchek, the director of CU’s LGBT Resource Center said she has been assisting with the organization of the Transgender Day of Awareness events this week.
Wilenchek said she is working to set up a display in Norlin Quad that honors individuals who lost their lives to anti-transgender violence.
The display will be up on Nov. 17 and Nov. 18 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“Hopefully, there are a few people that will notice a name and look it up,” Inselman said.
Busha said that this week is one that is decisive for how much outreach is sought in the Boulder community. After the week is over, a committee will be debriefing the events and surveying attendees to find ways to improve for next year and continue outreach beyond this week.
“It is important that the community decide,” Busha said.
Transgender Awareness Week is the first of it’s kind in Boulder.
Many locals are hoping that the programming throughout the week will encourage a stronger consciousness of what it means to be transgender in the local community.
“I think it’s been a great community builder for folks in Boulder and will definitely allow for lots of spaces for good conversation and education to happen, as well as community building,” Wilenchek said.
Contact CU Independent Opinion Editor Sara Kassabian at Sara.email@example.com.