TRANSforming Gender: A dialogue surrounding human rights

Author Willy Wilkinson shared his experiences as a trans man through excerpts from his recent memoir to kick off the 11th annual TRANSforming Gender Conference on campus. His poems explore many topics: hate crimes committed against trans individuals, differences in the trans experience between countries, surgery scars and the importance of self-affirmation.

Along with the selected verses, Wilkinson explained many of the systemic barriers to trans individuals, such as the denial of health care services regarding both gender and non-related services.

“[Establishing] our right to exist in public space is part of the work,” Wilkinson said.

Boulder County representative Sara Connell encouraged conference attendees to contact their representatives to advance legislation that allows transgender residents to obtain new birth certificates with their identified genders. The current process entails amending the original birth certificate.

“There’s a really big backlash happening on trans rights on a national scale,” Connell said in reference to the current administration’s rollback on trans protections.

One of the main focuses of the event surrounded combating internalized conceptions of the gender binary. Wilkinson focused not only on trans individuals’ internalized norms, but also on gender norms that go accepted in the greater community at large.

“Maybe it’s not that something is wrong with trans people but something might actually be wrong with our system of binary gender as a whole,” Connell said. “If it continues to not be able to fit millions of people, then maybe the problem isn’t the millions of people but the system that doesn’t fit them in the first place.”

JiJi Baik, a student employee at the Gender and Sexuality Center, said that dialogue is important because it shows solidarity with the trans community. It also gives individuals more visibility in the CU population.

“[It’s] kind of a reminder that we’re still here, that community is still here to support everyone who is in a community where it’s more vulnerable to this current presidency,” Baik said.

Contact CU Independent reporter Heidi Harris at

Kristin Oh

I am the copy editor and news reporter and am passionate about social justice issues such as race relations and women's rights. I am majoring in journalism and media production and am planning on graduating in December of 2019.

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