This past weekend, I had the unique honor and privilege to serve as a staff facilitator for T-Camp, a 3-day retreat for transgender, genderqueer, and/or gender questioning (TGQQ) undergraduate and graduate students throughout California. T-Camp is an annual event that began in 2012 to help TGQQ folks build community beyond the boundaries of their campuses, explore gender and other intersecting identities, and for TGQQ folks to have an opportunity to be truly authentic. To read more about T-Camp, click HERE. I have consistently been committed to working with TGQQ folks and this experience further solidified my commitment to be supportive and provide folks the opportunity to navigate through the world and define and re-define themselves as the unique and lovely individuals that bring so much to this world.
From my experiences as a facilitator, I experienced the retreat as a time for connection, learning, and healing for participants. The retreat was not all “Kumbaya,” however, as students also explored challenging intellectual and emotional conversations about identity, relationships, experiences with family and broader society, and body related challenges. I had the opportunity to engage with students with regard to the “real” questions about gender identity, gender transition, living in a society with multiple oppressed identities, and the creative potential to connect with sources of joy and community. Yes, college students have educational privilege and access to resources that many people in U.S. do not have access to. And it also remains true that many TGQQ college students face substantial difficulties that can make college retention, graduation, and life in general more difficult. Typical college student challenges are often exacerbated in contexts that may not be welcoming or acknowledging of diverse gender identities. Not only do students have to go to class, complete assignments, and grow as scholars, there are also additional stressors related to navigating social stigma, gender-based discrimination, violence, and potentially facing family struggles.
I found myself balancing an appreciation for the amazing talent, multiple voices of power, insight, and perseverance and also the emotional heaviness that often accompanies being outside of “normative” gender boxes (i.e., being perceived as an “outsider” or “abnormal"). T-campers are a resilient group of individuals that I have had the pleasure to meet, learn with, and begin to grow transformative community.