Utah Pride Center Holds Transgender Awareness Month

Each November, the Utah Pride Center holds Transgender Awareness Month to help address the needs and raise visibility of the T in the GLBT movement — the letter that is most frequently forgotten or misunderstood.

This year, however, there seem to be more events planned than in years past designed not only for transgender people and their allies to socialize and mingle, but to discuss topics of particular importance to transgender people including representations of gender identity in the media, safer sex and HIV prevention for transgender people and gender and philosophy.

Workshops and presentations on these topics and more will be presented at Un(packing) Gender, the first annual mini-conference to be held during Transgender Awareness Month. Sponsored by TransAction, the Utah Pride Center’s youth-led transgender advocacy group, Un(packing) Gender will be held Nov. 28 at the Salt Lake City Main Library, 210 E 400 S, from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Other topics covered during the conference will be a ‘Transgender 101” session on the basics of being transgender and gender identity, shaving and make up how tos, a workshop for parents, partners and families of transgender people and a discussion about issues of cisgender (non-transgender) privilege in the community, and how social biases in favor of cisgender people impact transgender people. The day’s keynote speech will be given by PJ Carlisle, an adjunct professor in the University of Utah’s Gender Studies Program.

The conference is free and open to everyone regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, and Rose Ellen Epstein, the Center’s Transgender Youth Program Coordinator, said that everyone who can attend, should.

“It’s important for everyone in our community because we all have a gender and a lot of us, even those who aren’t transgender, are stigmatized for their gender presentation,” she explained. “Transgender people are doing a lot of work and are on the front lines to make the world a safer place for all of us to express ourselves no matter what gender presentation we prefer.”

Epstein noted that the conference is free, but the Center would like all who plan on attending to pre-register by sending their name and contact information to [email protected] However, Epstein stressed that day-of registration will also be available.

The month will also include a number of social events for transgender Utahns and their allies, friends and family. On Nov. 3, all are invited to go ice skating at the County Ice Center, 5201 South Murray Park Ln., at 7:00 p.m. The Sacred Light of Christ Metropolitan Community Church, 832 S 600 E, will hold a chili cook off on Nov. 10 at 7:00 p.m. and AMF Ritz, 2265 S State St., will hold a gay and transgender-friendly bowling night on Nov. 24.

Mestizo Café, 641 W North Temple, will be home to two events for Transgender Awareness Month: an open mic night on Nov. 17 from 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. and a special evening from 9:00 – 11:00 p.m. on Nov. 21 with spoken word artist Athens Boys Choir (aka Katz), who identifies as a “Transsexual man living in the Deep South.” His lively, edgy shows often mix humor, wide-eyed movie references, dancing and education about transgender issues.

“He’s a fascinating guy,” said Epstein. “He’s really funky and does his own thing.”

Transgender Awareness Month is held during November because the month is home to the Transgender Day of Remembrance, in which observers honor and memorialize people around the world who have been beaten or killed because they identify as transgender. The day was founded in 1998 in honor of Rita Hester, a Bostonian trans woman brutally stabbed to death on Nov. 12, 1998 by two men who followed her home from a bar. This year, the day will be observed in Utah at 7:00 p.m. on Nov. 20 at the South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society. The candlelight vigil will be sponsored by the Transgender Education Advocates of Utah, who have organized similar vigils in past years.

For more information about Transgender Awareness Month events, or to express interest in presenting at the Un(Packing) Gender conference, contact Epstein at (801) 539-8800, ex. 17.

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