Guest Post: Mara Keisling at the Campus Pride Summer Leadership Camp

August 8, 2011

Camp Pride, a summer leadership institute for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and ally (LGBTA) college students, has featured a keynote from Mara every year, beginning with its second. Her presence there, in addition to providing an accessible model for trans student leaders, consistently provokes enthusiastic engagement from all campers. For me, both as a camper, and in subsequent years as a teaching team member, her involvement with camp and representation of NCTE has offered a rare note of affirmation that someone cares and something is being done–a sentiment I hear echoed among other transgender participants at Camp Pride, especially those who, like me reside in red states where even cisgender members of the queer community are largely legally unprotected.

Mara’s Friday appearance at Camp Pride emphasized skills integral to leadership in any movement, focusing in particular on the importance of knowing one’s direction, taking practical steps to get there, and finding a cause and community to love. She also spoke to the tendency of leaders to isolate themselves, urging Camp participants to “make yourself replaceable” and “bring more people into your getting-work-done machine.” Throughout her keynote, Mara affirmed the necessity of approaching queer activism in terms that embrace broader social justice issues, pointing in particular to the disproportionate impact of violence and anti-queer oppression on people of color.

The keynote was particularly relevant for student leaders, whose academic contexts tend to generate unique social and financial constraints, often creating a high degree of homogeneity and spurring the whitewashing of identities and oversimplification of activist agendas. As a trans-identified social justice advocate working largely in and around university contexts, and serving in a number of mentoring and advising roles to younger student leaders, I was heartened by the dialogues sparked by Mara’s presence and presentation. Her clear identification of activist work on multiple, intersectional fronts with other practical necessities for leadership developed themes that continue to be underexplored, but intensely important for emerging LGBTA movements.

Asher Wickell is an artist, activist, and educator; a founding co-facilitator of the Wichita Transgender Coalition; and a Master’s student in marriage and family therapy at Friends University.


Massachusetts High School Students Donate Money to NCTE to Combat Transphobia

June 14, 2011

Transgender people are often discriminated against in many aspects of life, and are also the victims of hateful harassment and verbal abuse. Being transgender myself, I find this to be an injustice that needs to be changed. What makes matters worse is that often times there are witnesses to the abuse, harassment, hate, and discrimination, and yet no one ever does or says anything about it, and various incidents are ignored most of the time.

This past May a group of students really stepped up to the plate and showed me a lot about character and also showed that not everyone is a bystander when a discriminatory and hateful act occurs. These students are part of Brookline High School’s Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is program out of Brookline, Massachusetts, the students decided to raise money and donate it to us here at the National Center for Transgender Equality. In total, the students raised and donated $180. The donation was sparked by an incident at the students’ school that involved transphobia and homophobia.

Brookline High School

Brookline High School

A derogatory note was found in someone’s mailbox at school which stated “Do you consider yourself to be transgender because you’re really just a homophobic faggot”. A note containing language of that nature is very offensive and degrading, and all it does is spread a message of hate and ignorance.

The students were very alarmed by this note and wanted to take a step towards erasing transphobia and homophobia. They stated in a letter delivered to us here at NCTE that they hope the money “helps in allowing transgender voices be heard and to stop all kinds of discrimination toward the transgender community”. The  fact that they had such a great concern for the transgender community and their school’s community that it caused them to reach out to us on a voluntary level and to be so selfless at such a young age is something we all respect and honor here at NCTE.

This is one donation that goes above and beyond simply giving money to a cause, and all of us who are a part of this organization are thankful for students like these from Brookline High School; not only for their donation, but also for their commitment to ending discrimination against transgender people and striving for equality for all. We would also like to commend them on rising to the occasion and noticing discrimination when it’s happening, and taking action toward ending it! Great job and thanks to all those at Brookline who were a part of this!