New major inspires more than classroom education

KSC celebrates its first Transgender Awareness Week with guest speakers and workshops

Allie Bedell

Equinox Staff


Just weeks after Keene State College’s Women’s Studies Program received notice to modify itself to the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, KSC hosted a Transgender Awareness Week to educate the campus community of transgender issues.

“We received word this past February that our proposal was successful and that Keene State College could offer a new major in Women’s and Gender Studies beginning this fall,” Sara Hottinger, chair of the Women’s Studies Program, said.

The Women’s and Gender Studies Program was approved by the University System of New Hampshire’s System and Academic Planning Council. The program has been modified to include gender studies to meet the “need for a more visible and vocal community of students and faculty who are knowledgeable about feminist and queer politics and willing to productively engage with, transform, and build communities that can support sexual and gender diversity,” according to the proposal submitted to the System and Academic Planning Council.

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Transgender Awareness Week took place across campus between Monday, April 10, and Thursday, April 14, in the form of workshops and lectures, ending with a performance by transgender author, Kate Bornstein.

Multicultural and Diversity Intern Matt Gill organized the week in order to educate the campus about transgender issues.

“Why don’t we create a comprehensive event that will get students involved?” Gill asked.

Senior Ashley Kent contributed to the week with the possibility of having Bornstein speak.

“Since the end of November, beginning of December, Matt Gill and myself were thinking of ways where we could have the campus become more aware of gender identity,” Kent said. “Matt came up with the idea of Transgender Awareness Week and I had used Kate Bornstein’s book, ‘My Gender Workbook’ in my gender course in the fall of 2010 and thought Kate would be an excellent addition to this week.”

Events of the week included a panel of several transgendered speakers who described their experiences living transgender, workshops with speaker Mae Dunn, a transgender activist, and the culminating performance by Bornstein. An exhibit called Pioneering Voices, located in the Mason Library, remains on display for the entire month of April. The exhibit includes photographs and brief biographies of people living transgendered.

Gill also spoke during a workshop on Monday on gender identities and the separation of gender and sex.

“Gender and sexual orientation are two completely separate things,” Gill said later in the week.

He explained that, although gender and sexuality are typically thought of on a linear scale, the two can reach across those bounds and include everything in a more circular manner.

“We are not one identity,” Gill said as he explained that each of us aren’t merely a sex, but a gender, race, and so on. “It’s not just either or, it’s more of a spectrum.”

Gill said that this is the key reason for the organization of Transgender Awareness Week. He explained that if someone is cisgendered, meaning their gender and sex match up, they may not be aware of the other possibilities.

“This is why it’s so important; people don’t look outside of their sex,” Gill said. “If you’re cisgender, you never think your gender could not line up with your sex.”

Although Gill is unsure of the possibility of another Transgender Awareness Week next year because he may not return next year due to his contract with KSC, he believes that its goal will not be forgotten.

“It’s going to be a big focus on this campus no matter what,” Gill said. “Issues of gender are coming up all the time.”


Allie Bedell can be contacted at

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