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New subcommittee of SIC aims to support trans students on campus

On the evening of Wednesday, September 18, students gathered in the Spirituality Room in Pearsons Hall for the first meeting of Trans Students for an Inclusive Campus, a new subcommittee of the organization Students for an Inclusive Campus, which was spearheaded by Syd Wilkov’22. On Friday, the Round Table sat down with Wilkov to discuss the new committee’s development and their hopes for it.

TSIC meets every other Wednesday at 8:30 pm. It plans to announce an official location this week.

The Round Table: In your own words, what is Trans Students for an Inclusive Campus, and what is it trying to achieve at Beloit?

Syd Wilkov: TSIC is essentially just something to fill a hole that a lot of trans students on campus may not necessarily consciously feel, but it’s there. Every trans student, when they are misgendered, or have to use a gendered bathroom, or [are] deadnamed, it can be really isolating. So TSIC was created to make a space where trans students on Beloit College’s campus can speak about their grievances; good things that are happening; stuff that we want to see on campus. We want to identify needs, and cis people just can’t identify those, because they don’t deal with the struggles that trans students deal with every day.

What I want to do on the Beloit College campus is just make it easy for a trans kid to go here. I want to make it so you come to school, and being trans doesn’t feel like a hindrance; it doesn’t feel like a disability; like something that prevents you from focusing on your education, which is why we’re here.

When you go into a class and the big thing that everybody focuses on is your gender rather than your brain, then there’s an issue. Professors do this, too; faculty members; everybody. It’s just something that people who are cis just don’t comprehend; like, “How do I deal with this person?” But we’re not something to deal with. We’re something to embrace; people to get to know. Every single trans kid is so much more than just being trans, you know? They’re a human, with their own interests and hobbies and quirks.

RT: When did you first start to feel that there was a need for a committee like this?

SW: Definitely when I came here [in Fall 2018]. I lived on a gender neutral floor, and most of the people who lived on my side of the floor — I think all of us were trans except for one person, and we’d all hang out, so it was a really accepting, incorporating environment.

But as I would branch out and go to classes, I realized, “Wow, I’m the only trans person in my class,” or “My professor asked for my pronouns but they won’t use my pronouns.”… I also noticed that my friends were getting deadnamed on their doors and understood how damaging that was.

I was like, “Oh crap, maybe somebody should do something!” And then this year, I came to school, and I was deadnamed on my door. My house mom is a wonderful woman, and she would never intentionally do that to me, but the fact that there was this discrepancy; that she was given my deadname and not my name [made me think], “Somebody needs to do something about this, and nobody else is going to do it, so I might as well.”

RT: Currently, where do gender-nonconforming students at Beloit typically turn for support on campus?

SW: Definitely their friends. There is a very strong support network of trans students on this campus. I know a lot of my friends have made their super-close friends by [saying], “You use they/them pronouns? I use they/them pronouns! We should be friends!” That’s kind of how a lot of friendships form.

For me, personally, the counseling center is a great resource, but it doesn’t work out for everybody. I’m a success story of the Health and Wellness Center, but I cannot say that about many of my trans friends.

It’s mostly just peer support. And I just created [TSIC] so that we could have a little bit more organized peer support.

RT: What was the process for developing this committee? At TSIC’s first meeting, you described it as a subcommittee of [Students for an Inclusive Campus]. How was SIC involved in the creation of TSIC?

SW: I went to the first SIC meeting of the year, and it was real cool. Each SIC [executive board] member has their own committee. I’m on Gabe Gonzalez[‘20]’s committee, which is to help create more spaces for queer people of color on campus to feel comfortable.

And after I went to that meeting, I was thinking, “What can I do? Maybe I could just have a little club with some friends,” but then I was like, …“I don’t know any faculty members who are very strong about supporting this; I don’t [personally] know any trans faculty members.” (Editor’s note: new clubs at Beloit College need a faculty sponsor, but SIC is not officially affiliated with the college.)

So then I consulted my friends about it, and they were like, “Why don’t you just do something where you don’t have to get anybody’s permission?” And I was like, “Oh! I could just do a SIC committee! What a concept!”

So I emailed Gabe, and I was like, “Hey, here’s this thing I really want to do; do you think it’s possible?” And he was like, “Yes, of course!” And I came to the SIC exec meeting the next week, and I presented my committee. Everybody was like, “This is perfect, oh my gosh, please do it!”

And then I created a flyer and found a space… and now it’s just snowballing. I have a counsel of a few of my friends who have a bit of free time and want to help me plan this, because it’s a lot of effort. I mean, I signed myself up for it and I’m glad to be doing it, but it takes a lot of time that, as a college student, I don’t have.

So I’m very grateful that now I have… a little counsel, and we have our queer brunches on Sundays, when we do all our planning for the week. It was way easier than I thought it would be. It just took somebody having an idea and wanting to put in the work to make it happen.

RT: TSIC’s first meeting was on Wednesday [September 18]. What were your initial expectations, and what are your expectations now, having seen the interest and moving forward? What did you discuss that you’d like Round Table readers to know about?

SW: I had high hopes for the meeting, and all of my expectations were met, and passed, and it was beautiful. I was so happy.

I went into this thinking, “Okay, maybe we’ll have eight people.” I was crossing my fingers, like, “Maybe we’ll have too many people to fit in the fishbowl [in Java Joint],” which ended up happening… I think the total was 28 people.

And now, just the fact that everybody was so okay with airing their grievances, with being comfortable with each other and making this space a safe space — that checked all the boxes.

Going forward, I want to make this space encompassing for people who are allies to the trans community; our cis allies. I think it’s really important for cis students on this campus to stand up for their trans friends. I know I have a lot of friends who will never, ever correct anybody on their own pronouns, but they will jump to correct somebody on their friend’s pronouns. And having cis allies do that for their friends, and understand what they can do for their trans friends without intruding or impeding on their identity — that would be a great goal, just to make this a totally trans-inclusive campus.

[We discussed] getting a few more gender-neutral restrooms, and we want to solve the ID card and email [deadnaming] debacle, and just deadnaming in general on campus.

I have a big future-Syd goal: I want to do a seminar with staff and faculty all over campus to teach them how to coexist with their trans students and coworkers. We have trans people who work here, you know? They exist! They’re out there! Making it a more friendly environment for students will automatically make it a more friendly environment for trans staff and faculty.

And I want this to continue after I graduate. I would love to take on an apprentice of sorts.

RT: What are your most immediate plans for this committee? What’s the first thing you’d like to see happen?

SW: The first thing we’re going to work on is the [Residential Life] and name discrepancy issue. We want to make sure that Reslife always gets the right name; that emails are correct; that if you want to get an ID with your name on it and not have your deadname on it, then you can. We want to make it easy for trans students who have either legally [changed their name], or have not legally changed their name yet, but go by something other than their birth name. So definitely the name discrepancy is our first big hurdle that we’re going to try and accomplish.

And then we’re going to move on to other things… but introductions are important, and what people see is important, and we want to make sure that matches what students want.

RT: You’ve already discussed this a bit, but what are your plans in the longer run? What would you like this committee to look like after it’s been around for a while?

SW: I want this committee to stick around. [The Office of Academic Diversity and Inclusiveness] was dissolved [in Spring 2019], and [Sexuality and Gender Alliance] is a great place, but there isn’t a purely trans space on campus. And now there is one.

I want this space to stay for years and years to come. I want it to be a place where trans students and cis allies to trans students can come; have questions; get educated. I want to make sure that it can be a place of resources, so that if students want to start [testosterone hormone therapy], or if they want to start estrogen, they can get referrals to doctors around here.

I’m from California, and I know where all my friends in California got their hormones, and their [gender affirming surgery], and everything. I don’t know jack squat about Chicago or Wisconsin at all. So we want to make it so that when students move here, they have access to resources, and they don’t have to go questioning every single department, plus the internet, plus their friends, plus their family. Having a singular source with everything compiled there is definitely the goal.

We just want to make life easier. Being trans is hard already. You go through a lot of emotional turmoil, and a lot of trans students have a lot of other things in their lives. [For example,] there’s a big cross-section on this campus of LGBT people and disabled people. And a lot of things that disabled students on this campus need accessibility for, LGBT students need accessibility for as well.

It’s so hard to go to school and be trans, because there’s all these little things that cis people don’t have to deal with. But all of these little things can be fixed if someone just wants to take the time and energy to fix them, and that’s what I’m trying to do.

RT: Who can come to TSIC meetings?

SW: Everyone! Please, bring your friends; bring your dogs… invite yourself; your professors; your staff members; invite your housekeeper. Just bring everybody, because the more people who come, the more people are educated. And the more people who are educated, then it just makes life easier.

RT: Finally, is there anything else that you would like Round Table readers to know?

SW: Humans are visual creatures, and we assume a lot about a person when we look at them. Ask. If you have a question, ask. It’s so important to not let your assumptions or questions stay silent, because if you’re confused; if you look at someone and you’re like, “I don’t know if you’re a girl or a boy, or anything in between,” ask, because I know when somebody asks me my pronouns, it makes my day.

And if you do that for another student, it’s just showing them that you want to make sure that they’re comfortable, and that they are valid.

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