The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

Transgender Olympian and Triathlete speaks at GV for Trans Week of Visibility

GVL | Trenton Estrada

Six-time member of Team USA and National Gay & Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame inductee Chris Mosier came to Grand Valley State University on Tuesday, March 26 as part of GVSU’s events celebrating Trans Week of Visibility. After a student-led assembly at the Cook Carillon Tower, Mosier gave a keynote speech titled“Out Loud!” in the Cook-Dewitt Center Auditorium, which was followed by food for those in attendance. 

For GVSU, this week of celebration is still quite new. DL McKinney, the director of the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center, created GVSU’s Trans Week Of Visibility last year in partnership with the Grand Rapids Transgender Foundation and the Grand Rapids Pride Center. For many transgender students on campus, these events aimed to serve as a reminder of hope, support and empowerment, despite the challenges they may face.

This year, programming started on Sunday, March 24, and ended on Saturday, March 30– intentionally scheduled to build up to National Transgender Day Of Visibility, which falls on March 31.

“Last year, for our first Trans Week of Visibility, we went through the entire week. It was beautiful, it had challenges,” McKinney said. “Then, the following Monday, a student organization brought Riley Gaines (to speak) on campus, who is anti-trans.”

Gaines, a swimmer who competed against openly trans woman Lia Thomas in the 2022 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, has been vocal about her dislike for trans athletes after losing to Thomas.   

“She made her tour just about Lia Thomas, and her speech had a lot of transphobic-ness, fatphobia, a little bit of racism sprinkled in,” McKinney said. “For the next eight months, people felt that hard. So we said, ‘This year, the following year, how do we combat that and say that there is positive representation?’’”

McKinney said Mosier, who has long been an activist for gender inclusion and trans visibility, proved to be the perfect candidate for this year’s programming.

“Chris, being a trans man and being an Olympian and winning championships for America is super super huge,” McKinney said. “Having him out and talking about his truth and what he experiences and empowering our students in knowing that the Riley Gaineses of the world don’t outweigh the power of the folks that are doing good.”

While Mosier was the keynote speaker for Tuesday’s events, McKinney said the student empowerment assembly’s focus was to “make our commitment to our trans siblings and trans community clearer.” They said these events allow individuals to be seen for who they are. 

“This assembly in itself actually was really uplifted by a group of GAs (graduate assistants) who started a series called Action Without Reaction. They did a full series over the last two, three months where they spoke into equity work, how our voices matter and how to use them correctly, and that inspired us,” McKinney said.

Mae Zurita, a GA for GVSU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), is an openly transgender woman who helped put together the Action Without Reaction series. She, alongside colleagues from the on-campus Social Justice Centers, were behind this student assembly as well.

Zurita was among eight students who spoke on Tuesday at the Cook Carillon Tower. Zurita said the group of students part of the assembly were not “all trans people on this campus.” Rather, they were some of the people “who are very out and open about their identities receiving this treatment.”

During her speech, she talked about multiple things, including her experiences as a transgender woman at GVSU and other issues related to social justice and equity on campus. 

“The empowerment assembly was really to (allow students to) exist in the expressive activity space as trans people, and show that we exist, we’re on this campus, we’re very proud of who we are and we’re not being treated well by the campus community and the institution,” Zurita said. “Which is really questionable, because that suggests GV has this culture of ‘Stay quiet; don’t ask, don’t tell.’ Being out is kind of dangerous. I’m part of a community of people that currently cannot disclose that they exist for fear of being targeted.” 

McKinney said empowerment is essential in supporting the transgender community at GVSU.

“Representation matters. Being able to see Chris (Mosier) smiling proudly within a sport that he actually wants to do, and isn’t forced to stick into a box with, I think can hit people’s souls in a lot of different ways,” McKinney said. “It gives us the purview that we can be different, we can be more than maybe our family tells us we can be or the institution tells us that we can be, and we can step outside that.”

More to Discover