Month: March 2015

"Trans day of Visibility 2015" over a transgender pride flag

Trans Day of Visibility

March 31st of each year is the international celebration of Transgender Day of Visibility. At Pacific Lutheran University, it’s important to celebrate by making visible the ways that trans issues come up on campus.

Transgender refers to people whose gender identity doesn’t match the gender they were assigned at birth. Simply put, just because a doctor says, “It’s a girl!” when someone is a baby doesn’t mean that they are a girl.

One way gender happens on campus is through restrooms. For people who don’t fit the gender binary of male/female, or for people who don’t match traditional notions of how men and women look, choosing a public restroom can be daunting.

Amber Jane, a trans woman, described her first experience using a women’s restroom in PLU, “I felt terrified and shook a lot.”

Jane continues, “Whenever someone else was in there I kept quiet and my face down and tried not to cause a scene with them.”

Another way gender comes up for trans students is in class. Every semester, I have to write an email to professors explaining that my gender and name don’t match the official record that PLU has.

This record is hard to change and includes student emails, Banner Web profiles, and Lute Cards.

Chris Erikson, a non-binary student, explains a possible solution, “[Allowing students to edit their gender and name on their student profile] and then the professors who have you in their class will see that instead of the full name you were given at birth.”

Such a change would make transitioning at PLU less of a hassle.

PLU has made positive strides, though. Both the Women’s Center and the Diversity Center are safe spaces for gender exploration. Gender neutral residence hall wings and bathrooms also have made an appearance on campus, though they’re just the start.

Erikson explains, “I personally would love there to be more gender neutral bathrooms […] I always feel very weird when I have to use the female bathroom in [the Hauge Administration building] because I have no clue if there are any gender neutral bathrooms.”

Resources for trans students can be found through places like the Tacoma Rainbow Center online or in person.

A group of students carry a mattress below the text "PLU Helps Carry That Weight"

The PLU Community is Strong

On March 9th, a group of PLU students gathered in Red Square to carry a mattress. These students weren’t helping a friend move to a new house or anything like that – rather, they were protesting sexual assaults on college campuses.

The idea of carrying a mattress to protest sexual assaults and rape culture began with Emma Sulkowitz of Columbia University. She began carrying her own mattress to protest the way that Columbia was handling her own case of sexual assault and the fact that the university allowed her assaulter to remain on campus.

The Feminist Student Union was inspired by that idea and decided to help #carrythatweight and further create discussions about rape culture and sexual assault on the PLU campus. The rest of the nation will be following suit on April 13th, the National Day of Action for students to help carry that weight together. On that day, other schools across the country will be holding protests to carry mattresses, much like Emma Sulkowicz and the FSU already has.

“Sexual violence is heavily important to me, personally,” says FSU co-founder Chynna Boonlom. “As a woman, it’s something that is always lurking in my mind as a danger. It almost feels inevitable sometimes, that at some point in my life I’ll have to be impacted either personally or see someone close to me be a victim. I think that PLU students sometimes feel insulated from the reality and ugliness of sexual violence because it’s not something that we talk about.”

Boonlom feels that PLU students in general are aware of the things occuring outside of the “Lutedome”, but that advocacy can always be taken further.

“I feel that student advocacy is very important, especially at an institution like PLU where we can tend to isolate ourselves from the outside world. There have been some great things happening on the campus, like the demonstration by Black Student Union for Ferguson, and the vigil for Ayotzinapa. And while I’ve attended events like this in the past, I wanted to take my activism a step further and plan events that resonated with me, and that I felt were missing from campus.”

Boonlom hopes that all students can become thoughtfully engaged in feminist discourse around campus and take part in advocacy-oriented events. For more information about PLU’s Feminist Student Union, please visit their Facebook page here. For more information about the #carrythatweight phenomenon, please visit this website . You can get involved by writing to the Matrix, the Mooring Mast, and school administrators with your thoughts.

Breaking Binaries

Spring 2015 Edition Submission

It is with great excitement that we at the Matrix are proud to unveil the theme for this semester’s issue of the Matrix and start accepting submissions for publication.

The theme is Breaking Binaries: Speak Truth to Power

Breaking Binaries: Speak Truth to Power
There are a lot of contradictions in life that don’t fit the tidy stereotypes that society gives us. Girls can like monster trucks and hunting, boys can like make up and dresses. Race, gender, sexuality, class, it seems like every category that people come up with is riddled with ideal images that are impossible to live up to and stereotypes that are actively harmful.

That’s what breaking binaries is about. Debunking the myths that things are either this-or-that, and instead showing that they exist on a spectrum. Challenging the stereotypes that society tries to force on us, and instead showing that life is full of contradictions. Denying people the right to tell us who we are, and instead speaking truth to power by self-identification.

The Matrix accepts all forms of social justice-related media such as personal essays, songs, academic works, photo campaigns, videos, spoken word, poetry, and more. Visit the submission page for more details on guidelines and to submit your works.
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