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Transgender Awareness Week: a time to understand
BY MOLLY SCHNEIDER
During the week of Nov. 17, The Bayard
Rustin Center for LGBTQA Activism,
Education and Reconciliation hosted a
weeklong event at Guilford College to
provide community members a deeper
understanding of what it means to
be transgender. The events included
performances and panels revolving around
The week culminated with a Trans
101 training, an informative session
differentiating between people who
identify as cisgender or transgender. The
training overall covered the idea that
gender and sexuality is not so black and
"Although I wasn't in attendance this
year, I have been through the training, and
I found it to be enjoyable and accessible,"
said senior Chelsea Yarborough, a women's,
gender and sexuality major. "It's a good
way for everyone to come together and
learn about something we've been taught
to think of as rigid in a much different way."
The events continued on, including
a Q&A Tuesday afternoon with Tona
Brown, the first openly transgender
African-American musician to perform in
Carnegie Hall. Following her Q&A was
a musical performance by Brown and an
accompanying pianist, Myron D. Brown,
later in the night.
The purpose of this week was to bring
awareness to the transgender experience
through events that shed light and clarity
on a subject many are unfamiliar with,
building a bridge connecting trans, cis,
non-binary and gender nonconforming
students at Guilford College. Tona Brown's
event was very successful in strengthening
the bond between all members of the
"It's very important to have figures like
Tona Brown come out," said sophomore
Taylor Brown, public relations manager
for Guilford PRIDE, who identifies as
trans masculine gender fluid. "In society
it is thought that trans people do not live a
normal life, but we do. We just go through
maybe little more difficult changes than
Brown found that a week of awareness
surrounding Nov. 20, Transgender Day of
would be an
opportune time to
educate current students
and prospective students
visiting campus on the
identities of community
"Last year, I was going
through many changes
and discovering who I
was," said Brown. "I found
that there weren't many
resources on campus, so this
week would be something for
other students going through
what I was going through.
"1 really wanted this week to
happen so people can get the idea
that there aren't just gay men, lesbian
women and bisexuals. Gender and
sexuality falls on a very wide spectrum."
Guilford's efforts in accommodating
students that identify as transgender have
begun, starting with the implementation of
gender-neutral housing in the basement of
Shore Hall. But, what trans students would
really like to see are some gender-neutral
"First-year dorms are the most difficult
place to live for gender non-binary," said
transgender first-year Alex Conkright,
treasurer for PRIDE. "The bathrooms
are strictly male and female, and you're
automatically assigned a roommate that is
of your birth gender, or essentially, your
Although there are options, the options
are limited. Together, as a campus, w^e need
to work harder to be more than just half
meeting the needs of transgender. Right
now, there is not equality, and that is an
issue we need to work on.
"Guilford is relatively accommodating,"
Courtesy of QoiMfWNS.vv»LMeD».ORG
said Colin t;-
Nollet, president of Guilford PRIDE.
"We are still working on the availability
of gender-neutral bathrooms and the
availability of gender neutral housing that
isn't hidden in a basement.
"Part of it is they are tied up in housing
policies put forth by North Carolina laws,
but I know specifically that tour guides are
asked not to mention the gender-neutral
housing option in Shore."
The Greensboro community
has many transgender
according to Brown,
Guilford is the only college
in the city with gender-
neutral housing. It would
be realistic to advertise that
"It's also due to the fact
that students come here
with their parents, so it's sort
of a parents ideals issue, but
I find it counterproductive,"
said Nollet. "If we want to
actually be a school that is
inclusive, we need to advertise
our inclusivity rather than hide it."
When prospective students come
to Guilford they should be aware of
our community dynamic, a dynamic that
is accepting, supportive and progressive.
"Having the incoming first-year know
that people who don't identify as male or
female exist is important," said Brown.
"When coming to college, it's very different,
and many people have never been exposed
to the idea of being transgender before this
At the student panel on Wednesday
aftemoo!n, Xaylor Brown and Alex Conkright
high school and rnow^tb^ifege;
Raising community awareness of other
sexualities and genders is important.
Societal norms are shifting, and each day
we are becoming closer to the acceptance of
alternative w'ays of loving and living.
"If you're a girl and you think you are a
guy, then you can be a guy," said Conkright.
"If you are a guy and you think you are a
girl, then you are a girl. Genitals don't
define your gender."
Amina Wadud exemplifies Islamic feminism, makes significant strides in research
For more information^
check out this video:
Interview with Amina Wadud
Watch this collaborative video for
more of this prominent scholar’s
insight and opinions on women
in the Qur’an.
BY TAYLOR HALLETT
^ BY TAYLOR HALLETT
On Tuesday, Oct. 28, Dr. Amina
Wadud, Islamic feminist and
scholar, gave a fascinating lecture
in the Carnegie Room in Hege
Library on the current debates
and struggles in Islamic feminist
The work Wadud is undertaking
as a scholar is unique given her
specific focus on a woman's
perspective of the Qur'an. She is
not, however, the only individual
involved in the burgeoning Islamic
"I prefer to speak in terms of
women's activism and engagement,
as opposed to 'Islamic Feminism,"'
said Wsiting Assistant Professor of
Religious Studies Betsy Mesard in
an email interview. "Many Muslim
women who are doing work to
transform women's roles and
rights don't like this term."
Mesard is currently teaching
a course offered in the religious
studies department entitled "Islam
One student in the class, junior
Katie Fullerton, decided to do an
in-depth research project on the
body of work that Amina Wadud
has contributed as a scholar in
"Researching Amina's work
has given me a glimpse into the
complexities of Islamic feminism,"
said Fullerton in an email interview.
"Her initial rejection and then her
gradual acceptance of the label
'feminist' gave me some insight
j into the negative impression the
term has in some Muslim circles."
Fullerton described her
experience in Mesard's class in
"We are discussing various
Muslim responses to 'modernity,'
primarily defined as the influences
of European and Western
domination," said Fullerton.
During her lecture in October,
Wadud made clear to the audience
the significance of the current
women's movement in relation to
the history of Islam,
"There have been more radical
considerations of the possibilities
of how to live as Muslim women
in our time rather than at any other
time," said Wadud during her
So, what is it that makes Wadud's
work especially important at this
point in time?
"She, along with many other
Islamic feminists, makes a
distinction between feminism
inspired by Islamic ideals versus
feminism inspired by Western and
modem ideals," said Fullerton.
Associate Professor of English
Diya Abdo, who attended Wadud's
lecture in October, shared similar
thoughts on the importance of
"Wadud's work is significant
because it brings a much-needed
perspective to religious exegesis,"
said Abdo. "Her methodology's
clear emphasis on justice shows us
how we can live and be better as
Mesard found importance in
Wadud's work for its thought
"Amina Wadud's work is
significant in part simply because
it has provoked debate," said
Mesard. "Whenever people
are forced to think carefully
about, clarify and defend their
commitments, there is a potential
for change — even if it is not
immediate change along the lines
that she calls for."
Wadud's work is also significant
for its emphasis on "tafsir,"
meaning interpretation in Arabic.
In a video interview with The
Guilfordian, Wadud elaborated on
the strategies she employs in her
methodology of applying "tafsir"
to the Qur'an.
"If you have a 14,000 year history
of engaging with the text, but you
don't have a record of women's
responses to that text until this
last century, then maybe we are
missing something from the story
of how the text is understood," said
CXher prominent scholars in
the Islamic women's movement
include journalist Mona Eltahawy,
Harvard professor Leila Ahmed
and Egyptian writer Nawal el-
"Many of the things that she
said during her visit have stuck
with me, and most of what has
stuck with me are life lessons
rather than comments specific
to Amina's experience," said
Fullerton. "Above everything that
I admire about Amina though, I
most appreciate her ability to claim
power for herself in a situation,
while also empowering those