CLEMSON — Many transgender people feel awkward, even uncomfortable, talking about who they are because they fear a lack of understanding will lead to rejection. The Harvey and Lucinda Gantt Multicultural Center at Clemson University hopes to change that sentiment during Transgender Awareness Week this week.

“What most people see and hear about the transgender community is all from news or politics,” said Joshua Morgan, chair of the President’s LGBTQ Commission. “There is a lot of misinformation out there about what it means to be transgender and the grueling process of becoming who you really are.”

The Gantt Center put together a series of events and programs to raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people and address issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) communities.

Cooper Library book display

Ally Training creates dialogue on what it means to be an ally for LGBTQ people. The Gantt Center is offering the training. Pre-registered participants will explore their own biases, build knowledge and understanding and develop empathy. The training will also offer attendees a better understanding of:

  • Various terminology related to LGBTQ communities;
  • Services and resources Clemson offers to students, faculty and staff;
  • How to create safer and more supportive environments for LGBTQ individuals; and
  • The unique challenges facing LGBTQ people.

“These are real people who want to live everyday lives but they are faced with discrimination and ignorance wherever they go, even in the LGBTQ community,” Morgan said. “Transgender Awareness Week is about recognizing their contributions and sacrifices that have made the entire LGTBQ community more accepted and open in today’s world.”

Violence and the threat of violence is among the issues facing transgender people. This year 25 people nationally died as a result of shootings or some other means of violence. Advocates tracked at least 23 deaths of transgender people in 2016. Some murder cases involved clear anti-transgender bias. Investigators say victims’ transgender status also likely put them at risk in other ways, like forcing them into homelessness.

Books on display at Cooper Library center on the transgender and the non-binary experience.

Books on display at Cooper Library center on the transgender and the non-binary experience.

The Gantt Center will host a candlelight vigil at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the amphitheater to remember the lives of transgender individuals who lost their lives to violence.

“Over the past several years, homicides of transgender people increased annually in the U.S.,” Morgan said. “This vigil is meant to honor their memory and remind us that our work is never done.”

The R.M. Cooper Library also put together a book display featuring works centered on the transgender and the non-binary experience. The books are located on the fourth floor of Cooper Library and all are available for checkout.