GV observes Transgender Day of Remembrance

GVL / Michael Dykstra
Sean Diaz (far right)

GVL / Michael Dykstra Sean Diaz (far right)

Hollywood film director Lana Wachowski is best known for films such as 1999’s “The Matrix” and 2005’s “V for Vendetta,” which both earned between $25 and $27 million during their opening weekends in the United States.

Fifteen years later, these films are still viewed throughout the country and even the world, but how much do people know about the director?

Cael Keegan, a Grand Valley State University professor of LGBT studies and women and gender studies, said Wachowski and her brother have been making films for 20 years. Wachowski first spoke about her experience of being a transgender woman in 2012, when she received the Human Rights Campaign’s Visibility Award.

“She is an example of someone who has been in the public eye for a long time but never came out about this issue because of the scrutiny of Hollywood players,” Keegan said. “She is an incredibly powerful person in the media because her work reaches the most people in popular culture.”

Keegan is giving a talk called “Lana Wachowski’s The Matrix: Toward a New Trans Aesthetic” to address the importance of transgender people in popular culture. The presentation takes place at 6 p.m. tonight in Room 2215/2216 of the Kirkhof Center as part of Transgender Day of Remembrance.

“People get together to remember all transgender people who have been killed in the last year,” Keegan said. “This (Transgender Day of Remembrance) focuses on affirming things. We want to have a sense that trans people are overcoming violence, surviving and changing culture today.”

In the presentation, Keegan will focus on the modern technology in “The Matrix” as a way to highlight the movement away from 20th century notions of transgender people.

“The old context portrays transgender as serial killers, psychotics and prostitutes,” Keegan said. “These negative stereotypes are usually attached to forms of violence. There has been a transition to transgender as an idea, a new kind of aesthetics that matches the development of transgender politics as a new form of politics.”

He added that he will concentrate on how students can improve their media literacy and critical thinking in a world that bombards them with images on a daily basis. It is in this world that transgender often gets left out.

“We live in a click culture where images have a politics because of things like Tumblr and how we circulate images,” Keegan said. “There is not a lot of education about trans people, though they are all around us and changing how things work and look. If we focus on groups that are least represented, we will gain the most.”

Colette Seguin-Beighley, director of the LGBT Center, spoke highly of Keegan as an important addition to the GVSU faculty.

“Professor Keegan is a noted scholar in the burgeoning field of transgender studies,” Seguin-Beighley said. “Anyone who is interested in better understanding trans studies will find this presentation both fascinating and accessible.”

Leslie Boker, a GVSU senior and member of Out ‘N’ About, said they are looking forward to the event.

“I have him for WGS 224, Intro to LGBTQ Studies, and he’s fantastic,” Boker said. “I think everyone at GV should be taking that class.”

In addition to Keegan’s presentation, there is the Transgender Day of Remembrance: A Gathering of Hope event at 7 p.m. tonight at the Plymouth United Church of Christ in Grand Rapids. The keynote speaker is Mira Krishnan, the CEO of The Network, a West Michigan organization that offers resources, support, social opportunities and education to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities regardless of their demographics.

For more information and resources, visit
www.gvsu.edu/lgbtrc/. For more information about Transgender Day of Remembrance, visit www.glaad.org/tdor.

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