UIndy PRIDE sponsored a lecture titled “How to Be an Ally to the Transgender Community” on Monday, Oct. 24, from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. in UIndy Hall A. Author of “Taking the Science Route to Manhood” and CAMPUSPEAK professional speaker Jeremy Wallace spoke to the University of Indianapolis community as a continuation of the Diversity Lecture Series.
The purpose of the program was to introduce the subject of gender identity and the challenges faced by members of the transgender community. Throughout the program, Wallace gave examples of situations that occur in the daily lives of transgender people, some of them personal situations. He also explained how a person who is transitioning would experience the change among others in the community and explained the best way to help that person get through his/her change.
Wallace said that along with the emotional side of changing genders, the surgery transgender individuals go through could be personal information to them. Some of the advice that he gave was to avoid asking about the life they used to have and avoid asking about how the surgery went. They may have gone through multiple surgeries to get to the point where they are today.
Wallace said his program was meant for people to understand how to become an ally to transitioning LGBTQIA individuals.
“Talk about how to be an ally to the transgender community not so much on campus but also in your everyday life…. ” he said. “And I think you can take this material and apply it to anybody that is not like you, that you can be an ally to them.”
Focusing on one another’s similarities rather than differences is a way to be able to make them more comfortable, according to Wallace.
“I think that for the people that were here tonight, what I would hope that they keep in mind is that the first thing to do [understand] is—whether talking about the trans community or anybody in the LGBTQ[IA] community—is that we’re all so similar, and we’re all just humans, and just want to be validated, and loved, and liked. And we’re no different,” he said.
After the lecture, junior criminal justice major William Parslow explained that to be an ally you have to be more conscious about what goes through your head, and that even with professional training, there are still instances that can be corrected to help people.
“To be honest, when he walked up on stage, I did not realize that he was transgender until he said something. And I was still confused until multiple times of him saying [it],” Parslow said. “And when he started to go into his story saying, ‘Yes, I’m transgender.’ I was like, ‘No way. This man looks like a man.’ And I think that sitting back and realizing that that was what was going through my head [proves that] we really need to be conscious about what we say around people. Because if I was sitting next to him in a normal setting, not a lecture, I could have said something that easily offended him. As an RA [resident assistant], I’m trained not to do that sort of thing. It happens to all of us, and we all make mistakes. So seeing how much he looked like a man, even though he’s transgender, it really stuck out to me and showed me we really need to be conscious about how we act around everyone. You don’t want to upset people because you can upset people really easily without even realizing it.”
According to Wallace, in order to help, individuals just need to be there for one another. He said it is best to learn through experience and put yourself out there to be able to understand the situation that a transgender person is going through.
“We’re talking more and more in the world about the transgender community,” Wallace said, “what that means, what that community looks like, what we’re all about. And I would say that if you have a chance to kind of dig around, do some homework and ask questions. If you have an opportunity in your life with someone who is trans, talk with them, get to know them, ask some questions about their experience—not because you’re nosey, but because you want to understand that experience. And from that, I think personal stories are what changes hearts and minds.”