LGBTQ Discussion

Alexandria Smith, Copy Editor

Staff, students and members of the local community participated in discussion surrounding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer issues and experiences during Ally Week.

Though gay marriage is winning increasing support among lawmakers and citizens, people of the LGBTQ community still struggle to achieve acceptance. Kellin Tamagnini, Lehman resident and graduate of Lake-Lehman High School, is one of these people.

A female-to-male transgendered individual, Tamagnini has become a spokesperson of sorts, speaking to different psychology classes about his experience with “transitioning” or undergoing steps to have his body match his gender identity.

He attended classes of clinician and psychology professor Jeanne Schmid, who is very proud of his progress.

“He spoke in my class yesterday in regards to transgender issues and apparently was a huge hit. Three different people emailed me that I don’t know in regards to his speech and asked us to come here (to Coffee and Conversation),” said Schmid.

Tamagnini admits that though he is somewhat accustomed to speaking about his life as a transitioning female-to-male transgendered person, he did not expect such a positive response from students.

“I’m shocked that it went over so well, but I get a sense of satisfaction from it because I’m actually getting my point across. The reason I got into speaking was because I wanted to  bring more awareness to transgender issues and I feel like speaking to the classes and coming here (to the Coffee and Conversation) that I’m getting that across,” said Tamagnini.

This is mostly because “many Americans have a profound lack of understanding of what it means to be transgender,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union. This misunderstanding often leads to discriminatory barriers in society.

Some of these barriers include “difficulties meeting their basic needs (getting a job, housing, or health care) or in having their gender identity respected (like in the simple act of going to a public restroom).”

Tamagnini admits that although his family is supportive there are problematic issues, including access to public restrooms, which he often avoids because he feels he does not “pass,” or blend in well as a  man.

He also has to cope with the possibility of victimization by perpetrators of hate crimes, he said.

“It’s like, when I spoke in the classes, I got kind of nervous because, you don’t know if there’s going to be the one psycho in class who’s going to, like, stalk you on Facebook, find out where you are and jump you. So, you kind of have to figure out if want to do it, and if it pans out and you do it, you take the risk.”

Schmid believes that what he is doing to promote understanding and acceptance of people with transgender identities is very positive.

“I think that they (my students) learned a lot. It also helped to diffuse any sort of fear, or misunderstandings, or misinformation about what a transgender person is.” Schmid said “People really need to be educated on awareness and understanding on the humanity to what it’s like (to be transgendered), reduce the stigma, and develop a human-ness to the issues that makes people stigmatize.”

Tagamini still feels very passionate about speaking out and advocating for transgender rights.

“I feel like it’s worth it. Like I said, I feel that, people need to accept the T (in LGBTQ). Even in the (LGBTQ) community, the T is kind of shunned. It’s more focused on mostly gay men, and lesbians, and bisexuals, but you usually have people who leave the T out,” he said “So I feel like we need to have everyone become aware of this in the area because it’s so closed-minded and backwards.”

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