In honor of Transgender Visibility week, hosted by Multicultural Services with the support of LGBTQ+ services, University of Central Florida faculty members met Wednesday to discuss the history of the transgender movement and how to better enhance transgender services on campus.
Guest speaker Davina Hovanec joined the conversation to share her life story as a trans woman. Hovanec has been a UCF faculty member since 1996 and is currently working in the John C. Hitt Library as a computer analyst.
The discussion began with the history of the transgender movement, starting with the Compton Cafeteria riots which occurred in 1966, one of the first recorded transgender riots in United States history, preceding the famous 1969 Stonewall riots.
“When the Cafeteria riots initially started there were a lot of trans people who would do drag,” Hovanec said. “It was still illegal in the United States to dress as the opposite sex in the 60s.”
Because cross dressing was illegal at the time, police could use the presence of transgender people in a bar as a pretext to raid and close the bar. In response to the arrests, the transgender community banded together and launched a picket of Compton’s Cafeteria, starting one of the first demonstrations against police violence in regards to transgender people.
The conversation continued with discussion on how faculty can approach trans students, ensuring that they feel safe and how to identify themselves using the appropriate pronouns.
“Controversial within the trans community now is instead of preferred we say correct or demanded,” Hovanec said. “You can use ‘them’ or ‘they’, not ‘it’, people aren’t ‘it’, don’t use ‘it.’”
Leaders and advocates of the transgender movement became a part of the discussion. People like Gavin Grimm, the trans teen fighting to use the men’s restroom at Gloucester High School in Virginia, has been a prominent figure in the news recently.
“It’s important to raise visibility and to talk about these issues because what ends up happening when we erase individuals from our history or don’t really take the time to figure out what accommodations, or not even accommodations, what policies we should have in place to be inclusive,” Andrade said.
UCF has made it so that students can change their names through Webcourses, within Millican Hall and the registrars’ office and can choose which name they would like printed on their diploma, according to LGBTQ+ Services graduate assistant and counseling education masters student Michael Nunes.
“A lot of our trans students usually opt for initials because it’ll be easier and it’s not as difficult if they get a legal name change. We have legal services which helps our trans students get the fee waived,” Nunes said.
Legally changing your name can cost anywhere between $500 to $600, and that’s not including buying new documents afterward according to Nunes.
The health center has also made huge strides in their care in regards to transgender individuals on campus.
According to Andrade, DIY hormones can be dangerous and a lot of times trans people are either unable to afford proper medication, are unable to receive an initial signature to see a doctor, or worse are turned away. What can end up happening is they have an adverse reaction and have to go to the doctor to receive treatment.
“So, at that point you’re playing with life because you don’t know what kind of reaction your body will have to these hormones,” Andrade said.
The office of LGBTQ+ Services also connects students with the resources that are offered on campus. They work closely with not only the Health Center but also with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). There they have a trans care committee, a team who worked with The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), a global organization that focuses on transgender rights health all over the globe. Counselors who attended the conference were able to develop a process to help faculty and staff provide more support for UCF’s transgender students.
In the fall LGBTQ+ Services will be launching UCF’s first gender inclusive housing.
“It’s the Social Justice Living Learning Community where essentially we’re providing students the opportunity to live on a floor regardless of their gender. They would have to meet some other criteria, as other students would, but gender will not be a factor in that process. So, that’s a huge stride for us as well; to be able to provide a safe space for our students,” Andrade said.
Faculty members who attended the event came for personal enrichment and to learn more about the community. As well as ways to remain open and inclusive with students and to better understand how not to address people in a binary manner.
“The reason why I go to stuff like this and other things in the past is that I wanted to be there, I wanted to be visible,” Hovanec said. “There’s no real way to deal with it other than just to be yourself. Every aspect of society puts you down, throws you out, forgets you, they don’t want to deal with you, they don’t know how to deal with you. This is such an issue, at least for people like me.”
Hovanec addressed the group stating that it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there and that most transgender individuals will never out themselves because as soon as they do, they get treated differently or they’re viewed differently.
Hovanec went on to say that people don’t usually hear the daily struggles of everyday trans individuals, those who are homeless or turn to drugs, are sex workers, lose their jobs, or are murdered.
“Media and television sort of portrays some of the LGBTQ+ life as being fabulous and its easy, and you have access to surgery and that’s just not the case,” Andrade said.
According to Andrade, there’s a term in the transgender community called “to pass” or “stealth,” essentially meaning to look like or pass for what society states binaries should look like. A big part of that is to have the access to go through Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS), laser hair removal and other major surgeries. Not all trans people will “pass” because of prominent features and the occasional side effects caused by hormone treatments, such as male pattern baldness.
Hovanec shared the story of her transition and reflected on the road that led her to Central Florida and the UCF community. A cancer survivor and suicide survivor, she continues to work closely with LGTBQ+ services to better support UCF students.
“If I didn’t work at UCF I don’t know where I would be,” Hovanec said.
Students can seek guidance and find resources by visiting the Social Justice and Advocacy website http://sja.sdes.ucf.edu/lgbtq
Originally published April 2, 2017