Community gathers, remembers victims of anti-transgender violence

Theresa Sparks, executive director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and former K-State student, speaks of her experience growing up in Kansas and her struggle with gender identity at the Transgender Day of Remembrance event in the K-State Alumni Center on Nov. 19, 2015. The K-State LGBT Resource Center held the event to remember the transgender individuals whose lives were lost to both suicide and homicide throughout the past year. (George Walker | The Collegian)

In honor of Transgender Remembrance day, students and faculty members gathered in the Alumni Center Ballroom Thursday night to pay respect to victims of anti-transgender violence and prejudice.

Theresa Sparks, activist for the transgender community and former K-State student, spoke about her life as a transgender woman and issues that the transgender community faces today.

“Sometimes I think it’s educational to hear other people’s experiences,” Sparks said. “A lot of people can relate to that person and that experience and that’s, to a certain extent, what I’m going through now.”

In her presentation, Sparks spoke about her history as a transgender-rights activist and what the next step in the transgender movement will be.

“It’s moving so fast now that even people who do this for a living can’t keep track of it,” Sparks said. “There’s still many things going on. There’s laws happening, there’s administrative changes happening. If you look on TV, there’s popular shows happening. There’s just a lot happening. That’s good, but there’s also possibly some negatives because as visibility occurs, so does violence.”

Following Sparks’s presentation, K-State Alum and local transgender person Amy Teresa Bosch read a list of people who have lost their lives in the past year through homicide and suicide to the audience.

Brandon Haddock, coordinator of the LGBT Resource Center, said that the list contained the names of known transgender men and women who were victims of homicide and suicide in the U.S.

“The loss of one of our community members – of any of our community members, where ever they are – to violence or to suicide, I feel like affects all of us in the community and on a much broader scale than that,” Haddock said.

While reading the list of names, Bosch said she knew one of the suicide victims.

“She was a casual acquaintance of mine on the Internet; not real close, but I knew her and it’s hard,” Bosch said. “I don’t want to sound cruel, but I’m used to the thought that people are dead. It happens all the time.”

There was an increase in violence against transgender people this year. Bosch attributes this to an increase in media attention.

“We’ve had more media exposure and with that comes more visibility, and with that comes more people who come down very hard,” Bosch said. “It’s also made more people who are transgender aware of the fact that they are transgender, and they’re coming out and sometimes it doesn’t always work when their family and friends turn on them like a pack of wolves.”

Breanna Nechols, K-State alum and transgender activist, said that K-State is definitely effective in the way it reached out to the transgender community by starting the LGBT Resource Center.

“K-State is promoting it’s self as being LGBT-friendly,” Nechols said. “In a recent report, K-State was put out there … as the most LGBT-(friendly) university in Kansas.”

eCollegeFinder released a report stating that K-State is the most LGBT-friendly college in the state. The Campus Pride Index rates K-State with four out of five stars on its institutional commitment to LGBTQ-inclusive policy, program and practice.

According to Haddock, the best way K-State community can prevent further loss of life to anti-transgender violence is through “education, outreach, advocacy for students who identify as gender queer – or even of another sexuality – and helping them find an identity in community on campus.”