The unique struggles of transgender individuals and the effects of violence against them was recognized at the National Trans Day Vigil Wednesday in the Ludwick Center for Spirituality, Cultural Understanding, and Community Engagement Sacred Space.
“Today isn’t just to honor those who have passed away, it’s to recognize in our community the need for acceptance in order for the transgender community to thrive,” said Sahiba Lidhar, freshman sociology major.
Vincent Jude Arroyave, 16, and a student at Upland High School, spoke about his experience as a transgender man.
“I don’t remember being in the womb, being born, or even what I ate yesterday, but what I am sure of is that when my mom was pregnant with me, my parents were asked if they wanted a boy or a girl, and I am sure she said something along the lines of ‘We don’t care as long as the baby is healthy,’” Arroyave said. “Who am I kidding though, we all know that wasn’t true, well at least for my dad, who so desperately wanted a boy.”
Arroyave said that his father was not happy when he found out their baby was born a girl, but was okay with it. Arroyave said that he was his father’s companion and did everything together.
“In my three foot five little mind, I was his son, he just didn’t know it yet,” Arroyave said.
In preschool, Arroyave did not understand societal norms, but asked the other kids to call him boy names. Tommy was the name he was frequently called, because that is what he would have been called if he were born a boy, Arroyave said.
“Going to preschool like all other kids, I had absolutely no idea about society’s impact on gender norms or even what society was, but lady-like mannerisms were already being forced upon me,” Arroyave said.
While Arroyave loved being seen as a boy and being called by his preferred name, it caused him trouble early on in life, he said.
Arroyave recalled a moment on Valentine’s Day in preschool when he did not receive a Spider-Man card like all the other boys in his class did. He said his heart was crushed, and his teacher pulled him aside and scolded him for his feelings.
“She roughly sat me down, and I was left to cry not knowing that this scenario was just the beginning of the many repercussions I would face for being who I am,” Arroyave said.
Arroyave said he shared his story in hopes to educate and to stop ignorance from killing or hurting.
“Becoming the man I am today, was and continues to be, an exhaustive and uncomfortable process,” Arroyave said. “Everytime I walk into a room, I’m stuck with nerves. Do they know? Could they tell? Should I speak? What if my voice gives me away? What would they think of me if they find out?”
This worry is always on Arroyave’s mind, and it was not until his freshman year of high school that he had the term to explain his feelings, Arroyave said.
“It’s called gender dysphoria, a condition where a person experiences distress and discomfort because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity,” Arroyave said. “In simpler terms, I was born with a male brain in a female body.”
Arroyave said it is important to understand that being transgender and transitioning is different for everyone, but that each person deserves respect.
Lidhar named some of the people who have lost their lives this year to violence against the transgender community: Dana Martin Jazzaline Ware, Ashanti Carmon, Claire Legato and Michelle “Tamika” Washington.
“These are just five of the 22 reports this year who have come out of the transgender community who have passed away,” Lidhar said.
Ryan Konrad, freshman political science major, led the 20 people in attendance in a prayer to honor the lives of all transgender people.
“Grant that our transgender loved ones will have their daily needs met. That they might find gainful employment without discrimination. That they might have access to medical care without fear that they might have their rights and lives protected. That they find a loving community to belong to and call their own,” Konrad said.
Misty Levingston, associate director of multicultural services, said that everyone should advocate for and support the transgender community, even if they are not part of the community.
“If you are not part of that specific community, become an ally. It doesn’t hurt to help somebody else,” Levingston said.
David Gonzalez can be reached at email@example.com.