Panel comes together for transgender day of remembrance

At three years old, Mitch Hymowitz told his parents that his penis was growing and that he couldn’t wait to get older and be a man. His parents fired back by reminding him that he was born a girl.

“My whole life has just been conformity,” Hymowitz said. “Conforming to femininity and gender roles and gender expression.”

Hymowitz was one of the panelists who shared their experiences as a transgender person in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance Thursday in the Richard Oaks Multicultural Center.

The Queer and Trans Resource Center hosted the event to memorialize people killed in anti-transgender violence according to Assistant Director of the Queer and Trans Resource Center Justin Boese.

According to the Trans Violence Tracking Portal, 102 transgendered people were murdered in the first four months of this year.

“Trans issues are still largely absent from LGBTQ discussions,” Boese said. “These issues in part are that we really want to bring awareness to on campus.”

Hymowitz and fellow panelist and Queer and Trans Resource Center Director Sebastian Ochoa-Kaup triggered deep emotions as they read the names of those killed by anti-transgender violence and the details of their death.

Ochoa-Kaup called for a moment of silence in honor of victims before opening the panel to share stories of identity and experiences of being transgender in the college community.

“In college I began to question what being trans meant and if it was for me,” said Ochoa-Kaup. “I kind of filed that away and years later I started to articulate my own gender identity.”

The event kicked off at 4 p.m. and captured audience members with stories of identity, struggle and perseverance.

“Besides highlighting the violence that transgender people face and honoring those whose lives have been lost, it is important to talk about the larger issues,” Boese said. “Transphobia, racism, classism and others are factors that lead to the discrimination and inequality that pervade the lives of transgender identified people.”

Attendees shared laughs as panelists detailed what it was like identifying as transgender in a college environment.  Discussions included gender-neutral bathrooms, dating, name changing and appropriate references to people in the LGBTQ community.

SF State student Jenelle Williams felt that she came out of the panel with a better understanding of LGBTQ issues and how delicate they are.

“People should just be treated as people,” Williams said. “It was really sad and heartbreaking when they were reading the names of people that have been killed and that’s not what you hear about everyday.”