Students hold event to fight stigma on campus

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A student writes a message on a poster during the “Stigma Fighters” event on Nov. 16, which aspires to spread the message that everyone be kind to one another. Photo by Mariah Coleman

A student writes a message on a poster during the “Stigma Fighters” event on Nov. 16, which aspires to spread the message that everyone be kind to one another. Photo by Mariah Coleman

“Stigma Fighters” educated nearly 150 students about transgender awareness and person-first language on Wednesday, Nov. 16 in UIndy Hall B. Assistant Professor of Psychological Sciences Jackie Hess asked students in her Abnormal Psychology course to choose an advocacy issue related to the class. Nine small groups chose abnormal psychology issues to advocate, and the entire class collaborated to host the transgender awareness and person-first language event. The students named themselves “Stigma Fighters.”

Hess said that the 33 students made their decision by the third week of the course and have spent part of each evening during their night class working on the “Stigma Fighters” project. The students mean what they say, Hess said, and are dedicated to spreading the message to be kind and be aware of the way we address one another.

“Whether we’re talking about stigma regarding mental health or being transgender, I don’t believe in that. It’s about being respectful,” Hess said. “It’s about creating a world where we’re all safe.”

The students hosting the event created four sections. Each person who entered had his or her Lecture/Performance slip signed at each station in order to receive credit. The first station was educational and involved a short lecture and question-and-answer session about transgender awareness, person-first language and mental health. The second station required students to write an encouraging note to anyone who is struggling against a stigma. The third station was a game in which students were asked questions about scenarios involving the fight against stigma. The final section was to sign a “Stigma Fighters” banner to pledge to reduce stigma. Senior human biology and Spanish major Sarah Hamilton helped organize the event and was impressed with the turnout for the event. She said that she did a lot of research just trying to be sure that she and the class did justice to the topic.

Senior religion major Joshua Beach was impressed with the event as well.

“I’m very big on minorities, and I thought this is an issue that’s extremely relevant,” Beach said. “This is about treating the person first. Oftentimes, we label people first.”

Junior nursing major Alex Brinley was part of the group that originally came up with the transgender advocacy issue. Brinley acted as the transgender advocate for the rest of the class. She said that this class has not affected her, as this is her first semester living as full-time female. She said that it can be hard because many people do not know anyone who is transgender. The recent presidential election does not bode well, she said.

“The level of harassment and prejudice and hate I’ve seen has increased,” Brinley said. “The last week, there have been days where I was afraid to go outside.  I’ve seen more harassment in the last week than in the last six months.”

Brinley further stated that the Abnormal Psychology class has been very supportive. This was the only event the group will host this semester, but members all have pledged to fight stigma in their day-to-day lives and on campus.

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