Transgender icon to speak on campus

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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Hoefle

Mara Keisling, founding director of the National Center for Transgender Equality and prominent transgender activist, will give a presentation in Drachman Hall today at 3p.m. titled “Injustice at Every Turn.”

Hearts were broken when Alexander Goodrum, a local African-American transgender activist, took his own life on Sept. 28, 2002. Mara Keisling, a close friend of Goodrum and the founding Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, will take the stage in Gallagher Theater today to honor the countless transgender people like Goodrum who have suffered physical and emotional abuse because of their gender identities.

“I know I’ll be remembering him,” Keisling said of her friend. “He was such an important part of the national movement.”

Transgender Awareness Week, which aims to celebrate transgender identities in the Tucson community, began last Wednesday and will continue through Tuesday.

Along with being the keynote speaker for Transgender Awareness Week, Keisling will also be presenting the data of the largest national transgender awareness survey to be conducted to date, titled “Injustice at Every Turn,” at 3 p.m. today in Drachman Hall.

“[The data] is truly appalling at every level,” said Jennifer Hoefle, program director for LGBTQ Affairs. “I think part of what I imagine, and what I’ve seen her talk about before in the presentation of this data, is that to deal with this, it’s going to take all of us. We need people from every area of our public sphere to participate in making the world a safe and wonderful place for transgender people.”

The theme for Keisling’s keynote address will be “Celebrating Trans* Lives,” which she will reflect on the national movement in recent years.

Along with the violence and opposition that transgender people face, the community has also experienced significant gains and has come a long way in its activism, Hoefle said.

“We know that the transgender community is facing inordinate amounts of discrimination,” Hoefle said, “but there are also amazing heroes and sheroes and activists and just people who are transgender-identified who need to be celebrated, who we don’t know enough about, who aren’t part of the national dialogue to the degree that they should be.”

Rae Strozzo, programs coordinator for the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance, said he’s looking forward to hearing a woman of Keisling’s success speak on the issues that the transgender community faces.

“Having Mara here, for the community, is a really, really amazing opportunity, because she’s the head of a very important organization around trans* rights,” Strozzo said. “It’s nice to be able to have that moment of collaboration and talking to somebody who really has her thumb on the pulse of what’s going on all over the country.”

Strozzo said he’s looking forward to Keisling’s take on the progress the transgender community has made in recent years, despite the struggles and opposition it has faced.

In the past, Transgender Awareness Week in Tucson has hosted keynote speakers such as Loren Cameron, a transgender photographer, and Kate Bornstein, a performance artist, author and national leader of trans* issues.

Stefanie Mach, a representative for the House of Representatives for District 10, read Mayor Jonathan Rothschild’s proclamation to officially recognize Transgender Awareness Week during the Wednesday kickoff on the UA Mall.

“I really think it’s important to talk about transgender awareness,” Mach said. “I think the community has suffered from a lot of discrimination, misinformation and violence.”

Coupled with the week of events, Mach added that she hopes Keisling’s keynote address today will clear up some of the misunderstandings and discrimination that the community continues to face.

“You know that question, ‘Is that a man or a woman?’” Mach said. “Who cares? Are they nice? Do they do their job? Do you interact with them in any other way? That’s what really is important.”

If You Go
What: Mara Keisling: Celebrating Trans* Lives
Where: Gallagher Theater
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Admission: Free


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