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The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

“I deserve to be seen, and others deserve to see me”: Transgender Awareness Week

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Transgender Flag hold in the sky. Photo retrieved from Getty Images.

Each year between Nov. 13 through Nov. 19, people and organizations around the country participate in Transgender Awareness Week to help increase understanding about transgender folx and the issues members of the community face. 

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse recognized Transgender Day of Remembrance on Monday, Nov. 20. Transgender Day of Remembrance is an annual observance on Nov. 20 that honors the memory of the transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. 

In honor of Transgender Awareness Week and Transgender Day of Remembrance, The Racquet Press interviewed five transgender students at UWL about their stories and experiences on campus. Two of the five students asked to remain anonymous. 

The students interviewed were asked about their transitions coming to UWL from their hometowns. Second-year Student River Podjasek (he/him) said, “Coming to UWL was like a breath of fresh air compared to where I was.” 

An anonymous first-year student said, “The transition from home to UWL was a window of opportunity to be viewed how I would like to be viewed without any external forces changing that.” 

Second-year Student Kaj Jensen (they/them) attended UWL their first year and is now a second-year student at UW-Madison. When asked how their transition from their hometown of Waunakee, WI, to UWL, was, Jensen said, “I was a little surprised how similar it was, but it proved to be better than I was expecting.” Jensen continued, “There were many resources, multiple clubs, out-staff, and more breathing room where I didn’t know everyone.” 

UWL has multiple resources for students of the LGBTQ+ community including, but limited to, the Pride Center, Gender Inclusive Housing, and Scholarship Opportunities.  

All five students interviewed were asked how UWL supports its transgender and non-binary students.

Podjasek said, “I love the availability of gender-inclusive housing.” A second-year student said, “UWL has plenty of events that promote the community and make us seen.” A third-year student said, “Will and the Pride Center are amazing at creating fun and inclusive events and are very knowledgeable when people need help on queer issues.” 

The students were then asked how UWL could better support its transgender and non-binary students. 

Podjasek said, “Educate and provide resources for trans and non-binary students,” He continued, “I feel like unless you are somewhat involved with the Pride Center, which is great, you don’t hear about a lot of the resources and events that are available to you.” 

Jensen said, “The way introductory student training handles gender needs to be better as a whole because the same basic information isn’t cutting it anymore.” 

Second-year Student Seren Adams (he/him) said, “It would be helpful if the school made sure teachers and other staff were familiar with using pronouns other than those listed.”

Two of the students mentioned wanting UWL to have more access to gender-affirming care and hormone replacement therapy (HRT).  According to Planned Parenthood, HRT consists of either feminizing (estrogen) or masculinizing (testosterone) hormones. Many transgender people take hormone therapy as part of a gender transition to help their bodies and appearance align with their gender identity

Jensen said, “Many students don’t have access to it [HRT] safely at home, and it can be lifesaving.” 

Three of the five students said they would like to see more gender-inclusive spaces on campus including, but not limited to: bathrooms and housing. While UWL has resources available for LGBTQ+ students, there is still more work to be done as stated by the students interviewed. 

The students were asked to describe the culture of UWL as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. 

A third-year student said, “The institution of UWL is not actually the most welcoming to the queer community.” They continued, “It is like every other flawed institution and not to be trusted; you have to fight to get what you need still…The only people who really make the effort are Will and the Pride Center staff or people on the individual level.” 

Jensen said UWL’s culture was “better than it could’ve been, but still not good enough.” 

“I do think this is a fairly accepting campus,” said Podjasek. “There is a level of casual visibility that the community here has that is really encouraging.” 

The Third-year Student said, “There are still a lot of overly gender-focused places, especially sports spaces.” They continued, “Overall, most of the students seem neutral to the community or pro-LGBTQ+.” 

Transgender Awareness Week is only a few days of the year, but transgender students, staff and faculty are a part of UWL’s community every single day. UWL values “Diversity, equity and the inclusion and engagement of all people in a safe campus climate that embraces and respects the innumerable different perspectives found within an increasingly integrated and culturally diverse global community.” 

Jensen said, “My advice to trans people that I’ve learned is in your transition– do what makes you happy in a room of no one but yourself.” They continued, “When you are alone with no perception or pressure, who do you want to be?” 

“It’s hard to be who I am, but it’s not going to stop me,” said Jensen. 

“I deserve to be seen, and others deserve to see me.”

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About the Contributor
Sophie Miller
Sophie Miller, Social Justice Reporter
  • Year at UWL: Senior
  • PGPs: She/Her/Hers
  • Hometown: Prairie du Chien, WI
  • Major: Dual Major in Political Science & Communication Studies with a Public Communication and Advocacy Emphasis
  • Minor: Social Justice Minor
  • Other Campus Involvement: Intern in the Financial Aid Office
  • Future Plans after Graduation: Attend Graduate School
  • Favorite activity in La Crosse: Going to Pettibone Beach
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