Women on Wednesday

The Women’s Center continued celebrating their 25th Anniversary on campus through the “Women on Wednesday” sessions, Wednesday’s at noon in the Atwood Little Theater.
The fall semester was meant to explore past issues in students’ lives, the spring semester is meant to further discuss issues in students’  lives and encourage movement forward. February 4, two representatives from OutFront, an organization directed at raising awareness of LGBT rights in Minnesota, spoke to students and the audience about engaging in LGBT action rights within the community.
Monica Meyer, executive director at OutFront, began by discussing the history of the OutFront organization, being that it out of crisis in 1987.
People were calling and asking them for help after getting fired from a job, because of their sexual orientation. The 24-hour crisis line still exists today, and can be found on the OutFront website.
Meyer continued to explain that in 1993 Minnesota created a law to protect LGBT–it was noted that the Trans in LGBT was included in the law–from any type of discrimination. Minnesota was one of the first states to push this type of legislation, and many states today are still trying to push legislation of anti-discrimination.
Meyer said that the campaign decided that after the failings of Prop 8, the anti-LGBT legislation passed in 2008 in California, OutFront would get their message out by re-enforcing the idea that everyone knows people within the LGBT community, and they are people too, who deserve to be treated as such. Meyer addressed that word has continued to spread, and positive steps are continuing.
She said that we are currently living in a “Post-marriage Society,” and that while the marriage movement might be “over,” many are asking “What’s next?”
A short video was played, showing that communities outside of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area are still struggling to achieve equality amongst their citizens. The video openly encouraged more youth to get involved in the campaign.
The video also gave a call to action to young people who are trans, citing that over the summer five transwomen of color were killed. The video also encouraged elders within the communities, and more people of faith, to connect with OutFront.
Nimisha Nagalia, OutFront worker and a community organizer, then addressed the organization’s ideas to move forward. She explained the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act, a piece of legislation that took a decade to pass.
Before the bill, Minnesota had the weakest anti-bullying bill in the country. The bill was finally signed into law by Gov. Dayton on April 9, 2014. The law is designed to protect all students in schools, regardless of any reasons. Nagalia explained that, already, there is a group attempting to dismantle the bill, gut it and draft their own version.
Nagalia encouraged the audience to call their representative to tell them “to leave the Safe and Supportive Schools Act alone.”
While this piece of legislature was being pushed the “Freedom to Marry” campaign was also making headlines.
The group decided to wait until that campaign died down to try again. Nagalia explained that lots of high school students are volunteering with their group, and that their next groups of people to reach out to was the Transgender community.
“How do you support the trans group when we may not know some personally?”
It was explained that only 8 percent of trans people are visible within their community. The more active volunteers are, the easier the message is to get out, and the more people are represented within their volunteer groups the better.
Both presenters shared the group’s next plans. To introduce policies that “trans people are people too,” Meyer noted that more, children younger and younger are coming out and need help.
Both presenters explained that the trans community is still a new thing in Minnesota, and preparing communities for that is important.
At this point the room was opened up to question and answers from the audience. An audience member asked, “What was OutFront doing to get word out about intersectionality within other communities?”
Meyer and Nagalia both explained that OutFront encourages all leaders to make the change in their communities.
It was encouraged to call in to support or not support community policies. A final question was asked to address what the group was planning on doing about trans visibility within their campaigns.
Meyer explained that OutFront has gotten calls from parents of young children coming out as trans. They have had to change their last names for protection, the counseling service will talk to them about the risks of coming out and allow them to make decisions.
The next Women on Wednesday will be “The Best Party Ever: Male allies challenge gender violence” on Wednesday February 11, 2015 in the Atwood Little Theater.

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