The 411 on Transgender 101

Transgenderism. What is it? Who is it? If faced with it, how do we handle it? These were the questions answered by keynote speakers Laura A. Jacobs and LGTBQ advocate Emet Tauber in a presentation entitled “Transgender 101” held by the GLOW organization at Westchester Community College on April 6.

Tauber, 21, is a senior at SUNY-Purchase and is currently serving on the National Advisory Board of GLSEN, The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, an organization for students, parents, and teachers that try to affect positive change in schools. Tauber has experience with addressing the issues on LGBTQ both personally and publicly.

Tauber took the time out to give the audience a brief history on his personal experiences. With both parents passing away at an early age, Tauber was faced with a very difficult childhood every since he could remember.

As a child Tauber always knew he wasn’t straight and was very isolated from other kids. Later in life he went on a journey “googling,” where he found a meeting that was being held about transgender people. After attending the event and meeting new people, it was then that Tauber knew that he was transgender.

“Literally the next day, I came out to my [adoptive] parents,” said Tauber.

Although his parents were understanding, they were really worried about what life had in store for their recently transitioned son. Soon Tauber informed his high school advisor, whom like his parents, had no prior knowledge of the topic.

This was the first time Tauber’s private and religious school had to deal with a case like this. For a while the topic was left alone, until the following school year when Tauber’s advisor gave the entire faculty and staff a crash course on Transgenderism, but because she knew so little, she gave them the basics. The whole ordeal was not a pleasant one either.

“My advisor made me write a general letter to every teacher, I don’t recommend that to be the way to come out,” said Tauber.

High school was tough for Tauber. Not being able to use neither male or female restroom caused him to use the handicapped restroom and the coach’s office to change after gym classes.

Despite his trials and tribulations, Tauber continued positive and even became an advocate. He was fortunate enough to work for TSER, Trans Student Educational Resources, the largest trans conference in the US. TSER is by youth for youth, with no one working there over the age of 25.

Tauber stays devoted to spreading important information about trans youth.

“Trans youth are more likely to drop out, not attend college and commit suicide. They also suffer from depression,” said Tauber.

Tauber informed the audience on some very important tips on how to approach transgender people.

“There is a difference between gender identity and gender expression, which people tend to mix up. Also, always ask people their pronouns and never assume,” said Tauber.

Tauber stressed the importance of being educated on the facts of transgenderism for both students and professors.

“Professors should expect to have at least one transgender student in their class, we’re not unicorns, we do exist, “ Tauber said.

After Tauber’s presentation, Laura Jacobs took to the stage. Jacobs is a psychotherapist, activist, lecturer and writer devoted to the diversity of gender identity and sexual expression.

Jacobs likes to refer to herself as transgender and genderqueer.

“It’s fun for me to play with gender,” said Jacobs.

Her PowerPoint presentation gave very important information for the event and discussion, and she started with the big question “What is Trans?”

“For those who don’t know, trans is shorthand for transgender, and an umbrella term for anyone who feels or expresses a gendered identity other than that assigned at birth or outside the norms of society,” said Jacobs.

Most people know Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono, and Janet Mock, but those are celebrities. Trans goes way beyond what you see on television.

The first modern day sex changes were performed between 1920-1930. And the terms go far more deep than just trans. As the years have passed, terms such as binary, non-binary, genderqueer, and androgynous have surfaced making transgender people easier to refer to, allowing everyone to have a place in society.

Most of the time, someone who is trans will be open to let you know their preference. However, if they are not, no means no, so just leave the conversation as is.