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Campus group aims to provide support for transgender students

Joelle Gates

Joelle Gates

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TranSLAYtion, a student led support group, aims to create a safe space for students who identify as transgender by establishing a sense of community amid obstacles.

“When the rest of the world is calling us gross, the ability to have this group helps us feel like we’re supposed to be here,” Mason Coleman, a junior visual arts major, said. “It validates us and makes us feel like we matter.”

With only two LGBTQ organizations on Marshall University’s campus, Ian Clark, a senior sociology major and co-facilitator of the group, said it is important for every queer identity to have a space on campus.

“Marshall often labels itself as being LGBTQ inclusive, but a lot of that inclusion stops after LG,” Clark said.

As the group begins to initiate conversations on making campus more gender inclusive, Cas Simpkins, a first year visual arts major, said finding friends within the group has already impacted his experience on campus.

“Being able to talk to other transgender students face-to-face is better than going on the internet and connecting with faceless people,” Simpkins said.

Despite the group providing a sense of community for students, Coleman said there are still many obstacles surrounding bathrooms, housing and inclusion.

“It’s scary to be transgender at college,” Coleman said. “Sometimes I use the men’s restroom, but it’s always terrifying.”

With conversations surrounding bathroom policies spreading throughout the nation, Eli Cooper, a senior psychology major, said Marshall should provide students with more gender-neutral restrooms.

“Gender-neutral bathrooms should be everywhere,” Cooper said. “It’s not much help when they’re spread out over campus.”

While there are still challenges that transgender students face, the group agreed many solutions to these issues could be solved with basic education.

“Coming to college exposes you to all kinds of people,” Gabe Brown, a junior biology major and co-facilitator of the group, said. “Since society sometimes has a negative opinion on us, it would be beneficial [for Marshall] to provide students with information on transgender identities.”

In addition to gaining more resources on campus, Clark said he would also like to see more transgender students be involved in the solutions.

“Efforts made by cisgender people may not be executed the right way with no input from trans people,” Clark said. “Our voices help.”

Although the group has just held their first meeting of the year, O’Ryen Mattas, a first year member of the group, said he is excited for the future.

“This could be a gateway for more trans people to be more comfortable to come out,” Mattas said.

For students who may be coming to terms with their trans identity, Coleman said to never be afraid to look for help.

“Reach out because someone on campus has to know something connected to us,” Coleman said. “You’ll find a community with us.”

The group will be meeting once a month in the LGBTQ office and will be announcing the date of their next meeting in the coming weeks.

Joelle Gates can be contacted at [email protected]

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