Transpectrum offers resources for transgender students

Samantha Butcher

Grand Valley State University transgender students have gained a new support network with the creation of Transpectrum, a student group aiming to provide support and education to transgender, genderqueer and allied students.

The organization, which was formed in mid-February, fluctuates between four and eight members. Johnnie Thompson, president of Transpectrum, said transgender students have needs that differ from lesbian, gay and bisexual students on campus.

“Transgender students have a wide range of experiences and hurdles in life that other LGB students don’t quite understand because they’ve simply never been there,” Thompson said. “It helps to be surrounded by a group of people who understand or have already gone through what you are currently going through.”

There are no reliable estimates about the number of transgender people in the United States or at GVSU. The Human Rights Campaign estimates that the number of transsexual people, a narrower definition, is less than 1 percent of the population.

Prior to the formation of Transpectrum, resources were available to transgender students through the LGBT Resource Center on campus and the student organization Out ‘N’ About. Colette Seguin-Beighley, assistant director of the LGBT Resource Center, said the center continues to provide support to the group.

“The LGBT Resource Center fully supports each LGBT student organization, including the new organization Transpectrum, and is happy there are many groups to reflect the needs of the beautifully diverse LGBT community,” she said.

Transpectrum partnered with the Resource Center to celebrate the International Day of Transgender Visibility on Wednesday.

“While Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is celebrated in the fall, is to mourn those who have died as a result of discrimination, Day of Visibility is designed to celebrate those who are living and all of their accomplishments and contributions to society,” Thompson said.

The group does not have any additional events planned for the semester but plans to continue providing a safe zone to transgender students, as well as allies and students questioning their gender or sexual identity. They are also considering holding a seminar in the fall to educate students about transgender issues on campus.

“We hope to keep growing and hopefully draw in more of those genderqueer, transgender and allied students on campus,” Thompson said. “We also hope to reach those students who may be questioning their identity right now and need help or simply those seeking more education. Overall, I think our presence will greatly increase the level of transgender awareness on campus, something there is very little of now.”

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