Murray State remembers fallen transgender students

Story by Dylan Doyle, Contributing writer

Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day of reflection and visibility for transgender people and the LGBT community at large, will be held by activist groups nationwide Friday.

The purpose of Transgender Day of Remembrance is to memorialize the 24 people who lost their lives to violence this year simply because they identified as transgender.

“It is a time to pause and reflect on the fact that we are still losing significant numbers of people. Twenty-four this year alone, and that is not counting suicides,” said Jody Cofer Randall, coordinator of Murray State’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Programming.

Cofer Randall

Cofer Randall

“Those of us that do advocacy work around the LGBT community have tried to shine a light on the fact that these are hate crimes,” Cofer Randall said, adding that many of these crimes remain unsolved.

Even though Murray State’s LGBT community is vibrant and active, transgender students still face disproportionate amounts of invisibility and discrimination compared to other members of the community, Cofer Randall said.

“I do think there is significantly more work to be done around our transgender population at Murray State,” Cofer Randall said. “That is not meant as a negative. It is meant as an action plan. That is an area we need to continue to grow in.”

She also stated that programming and acceptance for transgender Racers is on the rise.

“There is something very significant happening on this college campus, where more students that identify as either transgender or gender nonconforming feel that they have someone that they can go talk to,” Cofer Randall said.

Cofer Randall also points to national trends of transgender acceptance that are helping transgender college students stay safe and healthy, including a recent reinterpretation of Title IX laws, which now affords certain protections to transgender individuals.

“I have had more transgender-identifying students come through my office door since the beginning of this year than I have spoken to on this campus in the last five years,” Cofer Randall said.

Michele Sumner, member of the LGBT community and one of the organizers for the day’s events, said that Transgender Day of Remembrance is about raising awareness.

“Awareness is very important to the transgender community,” Sumner said. “It shows the rest of the world their value.”

This influx of transgender-identifying students has college administrators across the country asking how they can better serve the specific needs of transgender individuals. This includes everything from housing accommodations to hiring medical and mental health professionals competent at dealing with transgender issues.

Transgender individuals are more likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety, more likely to self-harm and more likely to attempt suicide, according to recent studies by Sari L. Reisner at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The most important task for allies is supporting transgender people every day, not just on Transgender Day of Remembrance, Cofer Randall said.

“We do programming that involves the transgender community all year long,” Cofer Randall said.

Murray State’s Safe Zone Project will host a workshop entitled “Being an Ally to Transgender People” on Friday as part of the day’s activities.

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