Trans Day of Visibility Gathering

Meeting hosted for International Transgender Day of Visibility by Senior Juniper Chien in collaboration with Spectrum.

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Outside room 229 on Stuyvesant’s second floor, there is a transgender pride flag hanging on the wall, quiet and unassuming. However, if you happened to pass by the area before or after school on March 24, International Transgender Day of Visibility, you would have seen a group of students surrounding the flag, sharing stories about their respective experiences being transgender before rushing to class or out of the building. This gathering of students was planned by senior Juniper Chien in collaboration with Spectrum.

Chien’s gathering ended up drawing students from all grades in the time between the meetings, which were held before first period and after 10th period. “In the morning [...] there were around six [or] seven people. Not all of us were trans. [...] After school there were more people, [...] around fifteen,” Chien said. “Obviously, there are more trans people at the school, [...] and if we were in a more accepting environment then maybe more of us would come to [events like] this.”

During this meeting, transgender students and allies shared their own experiences and talked about issues that affect trans people. “We shared about our personal stories, gender crises, the ongoing anti-trans legislation on the state and federal [level], [and] a lot about our experiences in general,” freshman Iris Tam said.

As March 24 was a half-day, students couldn’t stay long after school before being asked to leave for rapid dismissal, but that didn’t stop students from taking the time that they had to talk. “We weren’t supposed to be there in the afternoon, [but] no one cared. We sat in a circle, listening, chatting,” freshman Henry Grace said. “People were talking about their experiences and their genders and their experiences with finding them and coming out to their parents.”

While this event began as an idea among Chien and her close friends, it quickly grew. “I thought it was going to be a really small gathering, just my closest friends, [who would] go there [and] surround the flag,” Chien said. “After that, I was trying to be more open, have the seniors, upperclassmen, share their own experience of being trans [...] It evolved into a gathering where the upperclassmen would have speeches.”

To get more people to attend the meeting, Chien reached out to Spectrum, which helped advertise the event. “Juniper was the one who came up with the idea and she reached out to [the] Cabinet of Spectrum and we [...] [thought it was] a good idea,” Spectrum President Tegris Lin said. “We sent a message [that] on Trans Day of Visibility we’re planning on doing a small get-together around the trans flag. It was very loosely organized, [and] we didn’t really have a plan.”

Chien was one of the students who gave a speech surrounding her experience at the meeting. “We were [sharing] encouraging words, like [to] be proud of yourself, and keep fighting because there’s a lot of pressure from your parents and from society that’s against your identity,” Chien said. “For the students that go there, they could also learn about the process of getting medical treatment.”

Chien also shared her own experience as one of the very few openly trans women at Stuyvesant. “I’m the only trans woman who’s really out in this school, and who’s been medically transitioning [...] As far as I know, no one else at the school, at least for trans women, [has] this privilege. There’s a couple of trans men [...] but even [they] have to be [hide] their own identity to live a rather normal life,” Chien said. “There shouldn’t be any shame in being trans. That’s why I feel like I want to share [my story]. There’s no one type of trans people, we’re all different, we have different races, genders, socioeconomic backgrounds that I feel like having my [...] story wouldn’t hurt.”

Sophomore Koi Zavialova was another student who shared their experience as a trans person. Like Chien, he also wanted others to feel less alone in their experiences. “For me, it was a bit easier in accepting myself for being trans [...] but I know a lot of people struggle with their identity,” Zavialova said. “I just wanted others to know that they’re not alone in that.”

For one attendee, freshman Starwind, this was the day she came out, and the queer community she met at Stuyvesant helped her with that decision. “It took a lot of courage to make this change,” Starwind said. “I love my trans and gay friends at Stuy. It’s a very fulfilling sense of community, [and] it’s helped me. The most important part of Stuy for me is my queer friends [...] [and] the event is part of that.”

Most attendees went to the event to meet other trans people at Stuyvesant. “First of all, I am trans, but not a lot of people in my year are trans. I thought it would be a good opportunity. Even though I knew a good amount of people already there, I thought it would be a good opportunity to branch out a bit,” Tam said. “I thought this was a good opportunity to meet other people with shared experiences.”

Aside from community bonding, Chien planned this meeting to bring attention to Stuyvesant’s trans population. “A lot of people don’t take bigots seriously because they don’t know [of] our existence. At Stuyvesant, which is a really liberal place where people are really open-minded [...] there’s still a lot of people [...] who will just say random stuff [and] fearmonger about trans people because they don’t know who we are,” Chien said. “I just want to show that I’m at Stuy, I’m a Stuy student, and I’m trans. And there’s a lot more of us who are trans. And we are normal people.”

Senior and Spectrum President Michelle Zhang echoed these sentiments. “[At the meeting], Chien talked about Trans Day of Visibility and what it is, we’re here to be seen and let other people know of our presence and there are enough of us,” Zhang said.” [We want to] make ourselves be seen and be heard, so cis people know we exist, there are trans people at this school [...] [and] aware of the fact that trans people are not that uncommon.”

Ultimately, the stories shared at this event helped inspire and provide hope to younger trans students. “Some of [the stories] were definitely sobering, just realizing how difficult it is to exist as a trans person, even at Stuy, which is very accepting and diverse,” Tam said. “For me, transitioning feels kind of impossible sometimes, with all the obstacles and hoops I have to jump through and the timeline of how long it’s going to take. But hearing these other people, especially seniors, talking about how far they’ve come and how far they’re going to go, it made it feel possible.”