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The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

LGBTQ+ Initiatives and Q Center at ACR Health Host Round Table For Trans Day of Awareness

Chloe Liversidge

The Office of LGBTQ+ Initiatives and the Q Center at ACR Health — a support center for LGBTQ+ and questioning youth — partnered to host a roundtable discussion on Thursday, Feb. 1. The discussion was held in celebration of Colgate Universiy’s third annual Trans Day of Awareness. It was an opportunity to educate the campus on trans and non-binary experiences and introduce trans students to what opportunities and resources are available to them in Central New York.  

Emceed by senior R Hunsicker, a student worker at the Office of LGBTQ+ Initiatives, the event featured the Q Center’s Family Peer Advocate Karen Fuller, Cultural Competency Specialist Ashley Davis and Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Health Educator Charlye Rosamilia. They were joined by the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Central New York’s (VLPCNY) Director of LGBTQ+ Program Mallory Livingston and paralegal Tara Dion.

Three years ago, the Director of LGBTQ+ Initiatives and organizer of this event, Lyosha Gorshkov, saw a necessity to highlight the experiences of and bolster support for trans students. This necessity was due to the increase in nationwide anti-trans policies, such as gender-affirming care bans in Alabama, prohibition of non-binary birth certificates in Oklahoma and the outlawing of gender reassignment surgery for minors in Arizona.

“It is our responsibility to make sure that we provide the best care and best resources for our students,” Gorshkov said. 

The panel opened with an introduction to VLPCNY, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that offers legal services to Central New York free of cost. Their LGBTQ+ program aids in workplace harassment, wrongful termination, birth certificate amendment orders and housing discrimination cases, amongst other services. 

According to Livingston, when they receive intake forms from trans people, nine times out of 10 it is a person seeking help to change their name and gender marker on government documents. They have over 250 name changes a year. 

“Your name is your first line of defense. If your identity documents are not in alignment, you are more vulnerable to discrimination […]. But it’s not just a defense, it’s an affirmation,” Livingston said. “Your whole life you’ve had people telling you you’re not who you say you are; now here, all of a sudden, you’ve got a trump card.”

The VLPCNY LGBTQ+ program hosts on-site live clinics to schedule hearings, notarize documents and file cases for their clients, all free of charge. They work to help people in need, fight back against anti-trans policies and create long-term change on a broader scale. 

“A large part of our work is finding ways around the growing number of roadblocks put in place by these anti-trans governments. People born in certain states can’t correct their birth certificate gender markers. But what if you lived in New York and could get a birth certificate with the correct [information]? One of our goals is to get a law passed that empowers the New York State Department of Health to issue corrected birth certificates to New York residents born in these medieval states,” Livingston said. “Why should Wyoming have a chain across the years and miles on a person no longer from there?”

Previously unaware of these resources, Hunsicker felt empowered and supported by Livingston’s dedication to these issues. 

“After hearing from Dr. Mallory Livingston about a trans college student’s right and ability to even just mention they have a lawyer when they face transphobic discrimination filled me with a sense of power and hopefulness,” Hunsicker said. “It showed me that I have the ability to stand up for myself and my existence here, regardless of how […] the Colgate administration’s response to these issues makes me feel. College students have power and the right to voice and justice, and this round table reminded me that that includes trans students as well.”

The panel transitioned to a conversation with Davis, Rosamilia and Fuller — leaders at the Q Center. With locations in Watertown, Syracuse and Utica, N.Y., the Q Center offers case management services, after-school programs, HIV/STD testing, support groups, therapy referrals and more. 

Rosamilia, a leader of the care management programming at the Q Center, is very passionate about their work helping people navigate day-to-day life. 

“We’ll do whatever we can to help as long as it’s within our scope, which is a lot broader than people think,” Rosamilia said. “Care management isn’t just name changes — although that is a big part of it. It’s life skills, doctor appointments and calling your landlord when you have an issue. It is a young trans person wanting to finally finish their GED because their high school was not a safe space for them.”

The Q Center finds this work all the more pressing amidst a surge in anti-trans legislation nationwide. 

“We have a lot of people that are scared. New York State is great, but there are a lot of bumps in the road for people less fortunate,” Rosamlilia said. 

The event wound down with an informal discussion between the audience members and panelists, most of which surrounded hopes to establish a stronger Q Center presence on Colgate’s rural campus. 

Gorshkov is proud of the Office of LGBTQ+ Initiative’s work strengthening the queer community, creating allyships and changing policies and procedures on campus, specifically the Office’s Trans Awareness Series and the successful campaign for student health services to offer gender-affirming care.

“I want to believe that since I arrived, the Office has become more visible, more dynamic and more involved in campus life. I am very happy to have amazing student workers and activists who make this campus better via their advocacy and programs. We still have a long way to go, but we are moving in the right direction,” Gorshkov said.

Livingston shared Gorshkov’s optimism.

“We’re winning. The reason we’re seeing all these laws and backlash is because we’ve made so much progress,” Livingston said. “What you’re seeing is a rearguard action. These hateful people haven’t realized that they are already defeated.”

Gorshkov is enthusiastic about the Office’s ambitious plan for the year: shining a spotlight on education around additional identities — such as intersex, neurodivergent and asexual — that the LGBTQ+ paradigm does not explicitly represent. 

“This is a part of our ongoing effort to move beyond the binary,” Gorshkov said. 

This plan will include a series of educational and social programs, including Colgate’s annual QueerFest, which will take place the last week of March. Looking to the future, Gorshkov urged the Colgate community to be aware and supportive of LGBTQ+ community members and their experiences. 

“I want to urge everyone to be open-minded, stay on top of the political and social challenges that trans and non-binary folx are facing today and be ready to support your peers,” Gorshkov said. “By supporting them and learning more about their experiences, you also help yourself and the future of this society.”

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