Each year, the Office of LGBTQ+ Services celebrates the identities of Central Michigan University’s queer and transgender students during its annual pride week. On Monday, April 11, keynote speaker Dr. Niccolazzo lectured about transgender and queer issues on college campuses.
Niccolazzo, who identifies as transgender, is an assistant professor at Northern Illinois University, and responds to the pronouns ze and hir. Niccolazzo spoke about the difficulty of coming out, and how it is unsafe for a number people in the LGBTQ+ community to be visibly out, and the pressure within the community that comes along with that.
“The idea that coming out is always the best option is overall simplistic,” Niccolazzo said. “Whenever coming out weeks roll around each year, I cringe. I worry about those who cannot come out because of safety concerns. “
Niccolazzo also pointed out the concerns of queer and transgender students, and the lack of comfort on our campus. Niccolazzo stated that heterosexual and cisgender identifying students are in a position of power, and encourages them to stand alongside their queer counterparts and help make a change.
“For the cisgender and/or heterosexual people in the room, I implore you to stop waiting for us, as queer and trans people, to come out for you to take action,” Niccolazzo said. “We know our campus feels unsafe and uncomfortable for queer and trans students. So, instead of waiting for more data, you all need to use your agency and act. Only you as cisgender and/or heterosexual people in this room can do this work, and I encourage you to do it.”
The speech ended with uplifting words to the campus’ LGBTQ+ community.
“To my queer and trans family in this room, I want you to know that I see, feel and am with you. Regardless of how you showed up, whether you’re out or not, if you feel not enough or not, I’m with you. You are enough. You always have been, you always will be,” Niccolazzo said.
Junior Autumn Gairaud attended the speech, and said that Niccolazzo’s message on visibility was a wake up call for many queer and non-queer students.
“I thought it was an interesting view to talk about that even if you can’t come out, or don’t come out, or don’t want to come out, that your queerness or transness is just as valid and just as important as anyone else’s,” Gairaud said. “Visibility is powerful, but it’s not your obligation as a queer or trans person to be visible.”
Gairaud also mentioned that it’s important for both queer and non-queer identifying students to attend educational events on LGBTQ+ issues because you can never be educated enough.
“I think as a cisgender bisexual, coming to events that aren’t necessarily just about sexual orientation, but are more about gender identity are important for me so I can continue to educate myself, and so that I can stand in solidarity and be a good member of the community,” Gairaud said. “If you’re cisgender, heterosexual, or both, you have so much privilege, and privilege right now in our society is power, so I would encourage someone who’s not in the community to come to these events to learn more so they can help make a change.”
To learn about upcoming LGBTQ+ programs on CMU’s campus, you can go to the office’s website.
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