Workshop examines issues faced by transgender community

Posted May 8, 2019

“Growing Up Transgender,” a workshop to help participants understand the intricacies of the transgender community, will take place June 12 in River Falls.

The workshop will feature instructors Christopher Jorgenson and Dr. Alexandra Hall. Jorgenson is director of the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center at the UW-Eau Claire, while Hall is a family physician and senior lecturer at UW-Stout in Menomonie.

Jorgenson said he believes the eight-hour workshop is packed with vital lessons for its participants, including gaining empathy for the problems that transgender youth face.

“There are substantial challenges that transgender youth have to experience both culturally and as far as infrastructure is concerned,” Jorgenson said. “Access is a huge issue for trans youth. The ability to just go to the bathroom in any building is a huge barrier to trans inclusion.”

Hall said that the workshop will also feature a biology lesson component as it helps people understand that even something like “biologic sex,” or what anatomy one has, “is not binary.” She added: “There are a lot of commonalities that exist in terms of how we are formed and how we start off regardless of whether you end up as a mostly male body or a mostly female body.”

Hall said it is important to understand all of the factors, including the medical and biological ones, in order to comprehend the first-hand experiences of transgendered people. It’s important for everyone to understand what transgender people go through in their daily lives because, Hall said, “This has been a community of people who have been misunderstood and discriminated against for a long time, so they have disproportionately poor outcomes.”

Hall cited academics, mental health and physical wellbeing as some of the areas that transgendered people are the most at risk for negative outcomes. This is why it is important to improve our current systems to better serve members of this marginalized community. Jorgenson also said he believes that lack of support for transgender youth in the family and the community, coupled with “a huge amount of bullying, discrimination, and bigotry,” is contributing to the negative repercussions that transgender people feel. Jorgenson said he wants the workshop to demystify the transgender experience and lead to members of that community living healthy and productive lives.

“The goal is to be able to provide inclusive environments for all youth and in order to do that we have to be very critical about our cultural understandings or misunderstandings about communities to which we don’t belong,” Jorgenson said.

Hall added, “By learning more about a community of people who are different from yourself, it really opens your mind and opens your heart and allows you to interact more effectively and more meaningfully.”

On how people can help the transgender community, Jorgenson said, “I think cis people need to do far more listening and far less judging. They need to be willing to reassess their worldview when what they have been told about trans people does not reflect reality. The fact is people feel very strongly about the trans community whether they know a thing about the trans community or not.”

The “Growing Up Transgender” workshop begins at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 12, in the St. Croix Valley Business Innovation Center, 1091 Sutherland Ave., River Falls. For further information and to register, visit the workshop’s website at