The Office of LGBTQ+ Initiatives Celebrated Colgate University’s Trans Day of Awareness

The Office of LGBTQ+ Initiatives celebrated Colgate University’s Trans Day of Awareness with a workshop on “Transitioning Families: Guidance in Supporting Parents and Caregivers of Trans and Gender Expansive Youth.” Lyosha Gorshkov, director of LGBTQ+ Initiatives, organized the event and hosted speakers Karen Fuller, a family peer advocate, and Victor Jaskula from the Q Center at ACR Health in Syracuse. This was Colgate’s second annual Trans Day of Awareness. Last year, LGBTQ+ Initiatives hosted a workshop on trans wellbeing at Colgate, shifting this year to focus on caregivers of trans youth.

Gorshkov described the purpose of the workshop as educating adults on addressing trans issues and how to navigate those issues as a parent or caregiver of a trans person. Though the workshop was geared towards parents and caregivers, the organizers welcomed students and other attendees.

“It’s not only for parents and caregivers of trans kids, trans students, but also people who want to learn more about the trans identities and identity of gender expansive youth,” Gorshkov said.

The majority of the attendees watched the workshop online in a webinar format.

“I was actually surprised that a lot of people signed up for webinars because that’s what they did to provide parents and caregivers some kind of anonymous space, confidential space. [Attendees may not] feel comfortable to come in person or they cannot physically and do not want to be exposed,” Gorshkov said.

Fuller’s position at the Q Center as the Family Peer Advocate focuses specifically on the topic of the workshop.

“I work with parents and caregivers of LGBTQ+ youth with a specific focus on parents and caregivers of trans and gender-expansive youth. I am able to work one on one with parents to answer questions they may have on gender and orientation and how they can best support their child,” Fuller said.

Fuller and Jaskula’s presentation began with general explanations of terms related to the LGBTQ+ community and then discussed ways to support someone who is trans or gender expansive.

“The presentation is one I specifically do in my role as FPA. Lyosha felt this would be a good topic this year. This is an important topic because family support has a major impact on the mental health of trans and gender-expansive youth,” Fuller said. “Studies show that those that have support from their family are less likely to have high rates of anxiety, depression, self-harm behaviors, and suicide ideation and attempts. It is also important for parents to know they are not alone and that there is support out there for them too.”

Gorshkov explained why it’s important to celebrate a Trans Day of Awareness, specifically at Colgate.

“It’s very important, first of all, because we see the very challenge and trends in national politics in some states, anti-trans politics. And we have to be aware because that ignorance brings mistreatment of trans students and trans people with kids. Secondly, because we have a significant population of trans-identifying or non-binary identifying students, and especially with the Third Century Plan, we’ve recruited more diverse populations of students,” Gorshkov said.

Fuller agrees that it is crucial to increase trans awareness on college campuses.

“I think it is important for young adults on campus to celebrate trans awareness because throughout their life they will encounter many different people coming from various backgrounds and upbringings and a good number of them will most likely be people of trans experience,” Fuller said.

Attendee Cris Amann, an LGBTQIA outreach coordinator from the Madison County Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, heard about the workshop from Fuller.

“Visibility is super important because there’s so much stigma and having visibility helps to reduce that stigma,” Amann said.

With the addition of more LGBTQ+ training and groups at Colgate, Gorshkov believes that Colgate is making progress on trans issues.

“We’re doing much better. Even the Pride Index, which assesses the college’s LGBTQ+ environment every year, improved by an average of 15 percent,” Gorshkov said.

“I believe that trans awareness increases each year with new students moving on to college,” Fuller said. “Many of them have had other classmates, friends, or family members that are part of the community before they enter college. That being said, I think having opportunities to raise awareness for any minority is important and is something that there can never be enough of until we have true equality.”