Transgender Awareness Week began on Monday, Nov. 13, at Montclair State University with a flag-raising ceremony outside the Student Center led by the Office for Social Justice and Diversity. Transgender Awareness Week lasts from Monday, Nov. 13, 2023, until Sunday, Nov. 19, Transgender Day of Remembrance.
The ceremony was led by members of the Office for Social Justice and Diversity (OSJD) such as Adela Caceres, director of OSJD, Rebecca Dickerson, graduate coordinator for identity-based programming at Montclair State and OSJD ambassadors, including Lily Esdailes and Max McFadden.
Caceres began the ceremony by explaining what Transgender Awareness Week is and how important it is to show solidarity with the trans community.
“It’s important for us to be able to have these conversations about prejudice, the discrimination, and the violence that people who are trans often face. But also to celebrate them, celebrate their strength, celebrate the courage, celebrate the tenacity,” Caceres said.
Students from programs and clubs like Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (GSWS) and Daughta Speaks spoke about their personal experiences and how invaluable learning more about the LGBTQ+ community has been.
Roman Rodriguez, a program intern for GSWS, showed appreciation for their education in LGBTQ+ studies at Montclair State.
“Gender and Women’s Studies programs serve as beacons of knowledge illuminating the intricate tapestry of human experience,” Rodriguez said. “Instead of viewing gender as something up for debate, these classes reinforce the idea that gender and identity is an essential part of everyday life that deserves to be studied, expressed and celebrated.”
Elijah Jackson, the co-event coordinator for Daughta Speaks, explained the symbolism behind the transgender flag.
“The light blue signifies the traditional color for boys, to light pink for girls, and the white stripes represent those who are non-binary, genderqueer or identify outside the traditional gender binary,” Jackson said. “Together these colors, weave a tapestry of diversity and inclusion.”
Jackson emphasized the need to build a society where the transgender community is able to live freely without fear of discrimination.
“Let us on this occasion, educate ourselves and others, fostering empathy and compassion and allyship,” Jackson said.
aedy miller, the communications manager for Garden State Equality, an organization dedicated to uplifting the LGBTQ+ community throughout New Jersey, spoke about how to be an ally to the trans community, inclusivity and trans joy.
“We need people who are going to show up to school board meetings. We need people who are in positions of power to think about us, not just passing white trans women like me,” Miller said. “We need people in positions of power to be thinking about trans and non-binary people of color, immigrant trans people, disabled trans people.”
Dr. Dawn Soufleris, vice president of student development and campus life, was proud to address the audience and recognize the trans community on campus.
“When we talk about having people feel like they belong, that is really important for us to say and then in loudness of this next week and every day that our trans community belongs at Montclair State University,” Soufleris said.
Soufleris formally proclaimed and recognized Transgender Visibility Week on behalf of Montclair State, emphasizing the inclusive and diverse nature of the campus.
Students helped raise the flag together as the audience cheered and applauded. After the raising, Kaz Charles, a poet, read an original poem that portrayed the feelings of isolation within the LGBTQ+ community.
OSJD ambassadors Lilly Esadailes and Max McFadden closed out the ceremony by discussing their work in the student group, Transcending Boundaries, and personal experiences.
“Those of us who are trans, take a moment to revere yourself. You are something to behold. You have transcended everything you were taught about who you are and come out the other side,” Esadailes said. “You have experienced something beautiful, and you should be proud and want to share it with the world, and you should never have to hide it.”
For more information on groups like Transcending Boundaries follow the OSJD, on Instagram @montclair_osjd.