The Sac State transgender community discusses violence

Kevin Hendricks

In a society that has steadily become more inclusive of those who lead alternative lifestyles, certain sects of people have taken solace in the fact they are allowed to be more honest and open about who they are.

However, while great strides have enabled people to embrace those who lead a different way of life, the struggles of those who do lead alternative lifestyles are just as prevalent than ever.

An event was held at Sacramento State on Nov. 20 that highlighted the plight one group of people have battled with for years: violence in the transgender community.

Alejandra Medina, a 20-year-old English junior, aided in planning the panel discussion, going into the event with the purpose of allowing those who participated to highlight the violence that often occurs in the transgender community, as well as share their own personal experiences as transgendered people.

“For me, the big purpose of [the event] was to realize [violence] is a big issue that needs to be talked about, and I want to incite that conversation,” Medina said. “I wanted participants in the event to leave and continue the conversation that we were having, and become a stronger ally, and anytime that you hear anything that may be offensive, or isn’t inclusive or things like that, to encourage yourself, and encourage others, to change that.”

J’lissabeth Faughn, director of the Pride and Women’s Resource Center, as well as the Multi-Cultural Center, detailed her own violent encounter at the hands of four assailants in 2008.

Faughn was hit with a crowbar and stabbed multiple times, resulting in a two and a half week hospital stay.

“There were times, particularly early on, the pain was so much, and part of it was seeing the fear in my mother, when my mother came,” Faughn said. “My mother has been very honest that she never, ever, did not accept me, from the very moment that I told her I was trans’, and she said that she cried because she cries about knowing the hurt and the pain and the discrimination that I would face for the rest of my life.”

The discussion also delved into the panelists’ past, and featured Vicente Zavala, a Sac State alum; and JoAnna Michaels, an educator of transgender issues, as they talked about the internal battles as they came to terms with their identities.

Michaels was raised as a boy and lived the first part of her life as a man. She remembers being constantly groomed by her parents when she was younger, to behave like the other boys she was surrounded by.

“Everything I did that seemed natural to me, got redirected … I had to learn how to be the boy [my parents] wanted,” Michaels said.

Michaels now lives her life openly as a woman, where she is able to spread her message of survival.

“I’m just enjoying life, and Sac State and a couple other places, have given me a purpose, and the purpose is to go out and talk to people, and to let them know if they’re transgender, there is hope,” Michaels said.

While the panel discussion offered real insight into the plight many transgendered people face, there was a general consensus that the fight for transgendered rights is far from over.

“I want to reach a place where we’re not sort of like, ‘Oh, we’re all the same people,’ because that erases people’s identities, [and] I never want to erase someone’s transgender identity, however, I do want to erase all the stigmas behind it,” Medina said. “We’d like to get to a place where we come together as a community, not specifically talking about the ‘LGB,’ [but] including that ‘T’ in there, and really just knowing that [the] struggles are similar, and we really need to come together.”