The Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity hosted the fourth annual Trans Week of Visibility from April 24-28. Various events held throughout the week provided opportunities for individuals to find academic and professional resources, support and community. 

RCSGD constantly works to create programs and provide resources for transgender students, a historically underrepresented population at UCSB. Courtesy of RCSGD

Director of the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (RCSGD) Quinn Rioz said that the week-long programming of events served as an extension of International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31 to provide ongoing systems of support for the campus community.

“We really wanted to ensure that trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming folks on our campus not just had one day of visibility and support but at least ongoing support,” Rioz said. 

Events throughout the week ranged from providing access to professional and academic workshops like the Trans Can Work Trans Career Workshop and facilitating peer-to-peer spaces about identity during the IdentiTeas discussion session, to hosting more social, community-building events like the Trans Community Dinner.

Rioz said the resource center hoped to create spaces where transgender, Queer and gender non-conforming individuals know about the existence of the different resources on campus meant to support them in navigating both academic settings and finding social support systems. 

“We really wanted to make sure that trans folks know that UCSB is welcoming and inclusive to trans folks, that they belong on campus, that they belong in Santa Barbara, that they belong here and that we’re thinking about them,” Rioz said.

The week kicked off with a Trans Sex Ed Workshop workshop on April 25, led by Health Equity Advocate Buster Buchanan. 

Buchanan said this year’s sex education workshop focused on the health side of sexual intercourse, while previous years’s iterations focused on mentality. 

“The core themes were similar in providing sex education to trans and non-binary people,” he said. “I did focus a bit more on the health aspects because I feel like that’s a little more what I’m oriented to do.” 

During the April 27 Trans Can Work Trans Career Workshop, participants engaged in discussions about navigating workspaces as gender non-conforming individuals.

The workshop was led by Martha Gomez and Queen Shannon, representatives from Trans Can Work — a non-profit organization which supports transgender people in workplaces by providing resources such as resume building and career networks.

One participant sought advice on how to exist in professional workspaces without feeling the need to sacrifice their identity.

Gomez said that, regardless of where one chooses to go, the people around them will perceive them according to their own individual point of view. 

“Out in the world, there’s a lot of people who are very, like, ‘You have to be who you are,’” they continued. “The truth is that that’s not how the world works. And sometimes you have to play the game for your safety — for your physical safety, for your emotional safety.”

Fourth-year physics major Isabella Catanzaro appreciated the opportunity to speak with older transgender people who have experiences in various workspaces. 

“I very rarely meet older people that are Queer, like, ever. I didn’t have any role models growing up,” they said. “It’s become more difficult to be trans, and it was very nice to be around people that have been through all of that, and they’ve made it.”

Catanzaro said it’s important to build community spaces and provide resources for transgender, Queer and non-binary students because it fosters resilience and confidence.

“It’s important to show people that trans people are here and will continue to be here and that there are departments on campus that support them and this is not something that is going to be erased,” they said.

Fourth-year zoology major Amine Kousba added that it’s important to hold celebrations like Trans Week of Visibility because it makes campus resources apparent and accessible to those who may not be aware of where to find them. 

“It was really important to do trans week visibility and have a space where it was all about positivity and celebrating our identities and making sure that we have resources to face the different challenges that we might go through,” Kousba said. “[The events] put us in these spaces where we’re going to be able to build community with people we might not be able to be as easily otherwise.”

In addition to providing academic support and professional resources, other events held throughout the week like the Trans Community Dinner not only served to celebrate transgender identities but also tackle issues like food insecurity for Queer and trans students, Rioz said. 

With many Queer and transgender students experiencing food insecurity, Rioz said these quarterly dinners help fulfill a need for students who struggle and allows them to have a quality, full-course meal. 

“It’s really a time to break bread with other trans folks, non-binary folks and questioning folks to be able to just find each other and find some joy,” Rioz said.

Rioz said the Trans Resource Fair and clothing swap held on April 28 highlighted the different departments on campus where students can find resources easily and make those resources known. 

The clothing swap drew in a crowd of 106 transgender and non-binary community members — more than double the crowd of 45 from last year, according to Buchanan. 

“We wanted to also reduce the barrier for folks because there are so many resources on campus, but it’s so difficult to navigate because it’s such a large institution,” Rioz said. “So we wanted to make sure students could literally talk to a person — a human in a department, instead of sending an email into the abyss.”

According to Rioz, the transgender community makes up about 3% of the campus population, so the RCSGD is constantly working on creating programs and providing resources to adequately serve those students.

“If one student gets connected to a resource on campus that they weren’t connected to previously or if one trans student gets their name changed legally because of that workshop, that is success for us,” Rioz said. “If someone in the clothing swap who was questioning their gender found something that was really affirming, then we did our job. That’s exactly what we hope to do.”

Volunteer and second-year psychological and brain sciences major Alex Olsen talked about how there are often clothing swaps in other organizations and clubs, but how there is significance in having a clothing swap for transgender, non-binary and questioning people. 

“For a lot of trans people, it’s hard to shop without having dysphoria, so being able to have a bunch of people donate and be able to try things on and experiment is really nice,” Olsen said. 

Olsen added that although Trans Week of Visibility has concluded, transgender students exist year round and the expressed importance of that being acknowledged. 

“It’s the main thing, but we’re here regardless, and with everything going on in the U.S., it’s really hard to be trans and feel good about it,” he said. “So having events like this and just having a community really helps protect trans people’s mental health.” 

Buchanan spoke to the importance of hosting events focused on transgender joy as opposed to transgender suffering, saying transgender lives are just as worth being seen and celebrated. 

“A lot of the trans people that I’ve known and been able to watch, grow, transition and explore themselves have had beautiful lives that are absolutely worth celebrating, and just because some people decide to make that miserable … doesn’t mean that’s the only narrative that should be highlighted,” he said. 

“I think trans people have a beautiful, unique view on things that a lot of cis people just don’t have,” Buchanan said. “It’s a freedom from these rules of expression that people blindly follow, and a lot of trans and non-binary people are able to break out of that and see gender for what it truly is — a complete social construct.” 

Rioz said they hope to continue hosting Trans Week of Visibility in future years but also wanted to remind students that the resources presented through the week’s events are available year round at the RCSGD.

“We’ll always, always want to support you and are happy to validate and affirm who you are and help you navigate your journey, whether that’s gender and sexual orientation or whether it’s just your overall journey at UCSB,” Rioz said. “RCSGD is here for you and we want to support you. This is why we’re here.” 

A version of this article appeared on p. 4 of the May 4, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.