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Chico State Gender and Sexuality Equity Center hosts fifth annual Trans Conference

Elena+Rose+Vera+was+the+first+speaker+at+the+fifth+annual+trans+conference.+She+spoke+on+the+rich+history+of+trans+people.+Photo+credit%3A+Josh+Cozine
Elena Rose Vera was the first speaker at the fifth annual trans conference. She spoke on the rich history of trans people. Photo credit: Josh Cozine

Elena Rose Vera was the first speaker at the fifth annual trans conference. She spoke on the rich history of trans people. Photo credit: Josh Cozine

Elena Rose Vera was the first speaker at the fifth annual trans conference. She spoke on the rich history of trans people. Photo credit: Josh Cozine

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The theme of the fifth annual Trans Conference, “Existence is Resistance,” was reflected by a variety of speakers Saturday on campus.

The conference took place in the Bell Memorial Union Auditorium from 10 a.m until 4 p.m. A tabling event was held for an hour while people signed in, with community and campus groups like GSEC, the Catalyst Domestic Violence Center, the Stonewall Alliance Center. and more who provided information and resources on sexuality and sexual violence.

“Let us all conspire together,” Elena Rose Vera said to student and community members gathered as she started her speech.

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Elena Rose Vera was the first speaker at the fifth annual trans conference. She spoke on the rich history of trans people, and their constant struggle to simply exist Photo credit: Josh Cozine

“To conspire” together, Vera said, has a much different meaning in today’s world than it did not long ago. She then asked everyone to breathe in-and-out as one. To conspire together, she explained, used to mean exactly that, to share the same space, and breath the same air as someone else, highlighting how interconnected we are.

Also a Reverend, well versed in the history of religion, gender studies and more, Vera explained the rich history of trans people as being nothing new. She also said that while under the current Trump administration it can seem like attacks against trans people and struggles are increasing, that is nothing new. Trans people have been existing and resisting throughout human history, she said.

“They come for us first, because they have to,” she said, mentioning communities of trans people that existed decades ago in Europe, before destruction by Nazis. Trans and gender fluid people will always be at odds with cultures of conformity, she said.

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Elena Rose Vera was the first speaker at the fifth annual trans conference. She spoke on the rich history of trans people, and their constant struggle to simply exist Photo credit: Josh Cozine

She ended her speech taking odds with phrases prevalent in today’s society that marginalize trans people like “traditional gender roles.”

“Whose tradition?” she asked, “Who gets to decide? The truth is it’s much more complicated,” she said.

After the keynote, address attendees broke up into two groups for breakout sessions on the second floor of the BMU. One titled “Safe 2 transition” showed people where to find resources and safe places to support or learn about gender transitioning. The other, titled “Taking action, keeping ‘ally’ as a verb,” was designed to help teach people how to be better allies for trans people.

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Students sign-in and grab informational pamphlets and programs outside the BMU auditorium. Photo credit: Josh Cozine

Conner Wenzel, from the Stonewall Alliance Center and also works with Safe Place, both of which groups provide support to people in the gender minority, led the ally discussion. It highlighted understanding and paying attention to issues of safety, remaining patient, and to be careful about the words you use, not just with pronouns, but even watching out for backhanded compliments, like “you don’t even look trans,” he said.

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Conner Wenzel led a breakout session titled “Taking action, keeping ‘ally’ as a verb,” where he helped explain how to be a good ally to trans people Photo credit: Josh Cozine

“If you aren’t sure what pronoun to use, first listen,” Wenzel said, and if it doesn’t come up, “maybe you don’t need to know how they identify,” he said.

“Someone’s identity is their own private information to share, or not,” he said and added that you don’t need to know someone’s identity to respect it, or them as a person.

After the breakout sessions attendees took a short lunch break, refreshments were provided, as well as a list of local restaurants, before the final keynote speaker took the stage.

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Seve Christian, Trans Program Coordinator at the Gender and Sexuality Equity Center, helped set-up and host the conference Photo credit: Josh Cozine

Juniperangelica Gia Cordova, who has served as an AS senator at UC Berkeley, as well as running for AS president, spoke on her experiences growing up poor, brown, and trans, and the obstacles she had to face just to exist.

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Juniperangelica Gia Cordova spoke about her life a trans woman of color, her struggles, and how she stays positive Photo credit: Josh Cozine

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Juniperangelica Gia Cordova spoke about her life a trans woman of color, her struggles, and how she stays positive Photo credit: Josh Cozine

After the speech, Cordova opened up the floor for questions.

“What would you tell your younger self, if you could?” asked Drew Belisle.

“You’re gonna experience a lot of s***,” Cordova said. She then told of one of her lowest moments when she suddenly remembered her childhood and growing up with nothing and still being happy. It’s ok to be sad she said, but in the end, it’s your life. “Try to have fun,” she said.

“Don’t you get tired of it?” asked Adela Gutierrez-Diaz, referring to the theme of the conference. “Shouldn’t it just be existence?”

“Yes,” Cordova said, “I think it about it every day when I get dressed. I know that sadly, even what I wear is a political statement.”

She said that sometimes she wished she could just wear whatever without it being a statement, or sometimes wishes she was a white woman and no one would care, but “as a brown trans woman, I can’t.”

“We can just exist, we have to resist,” she said.

Josh Cozine can be reached at [email protected] or @joshcozine on Twitter.

 

 

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Chico State Gender and Sexuality Equity Center hosts fifth annual Trans Conference