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Nearly 23 residents attended a June 22 virtual workshop on trans-affirming practices, co-sponsored by Council Members Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward, and Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward.
The workshop covered topics including pronoun usage, intersectionality, terminology, the history and context of transphobic systems, “outing,” and coming out. Many parents and grandparents who wanted to better support their LGBTQ+ children or grandchildren attended the free workshop.
Ms. Fleming said the workshop is part of the Ninth Ward’s Building Community summer series, which includes free yoga classes, live music, and community gatherings.
“Building community means recognizing and understanding and valuing all the diversity the community brings,” said Ms. Fleming.
Praxis Group, an LGBTQ+ consulting practice in Chicago, facilitated the event, and Praxis Group co-founder Jes Scheinpflug led the workshop, which was only accessible to 6th and 9th Ward residents. Given the high degree of interest, Scheinpflug hopes that other Council members will bring these workshops into their wards.
The trans-affirming workshop began with an introduction on cultural humility, and went on to explore how learning to be affirming is a lifelong commitment. Scheinpflug discussed pronouns and why pronoun introductions are important. Attendants were then sent into break-out rooms to practice introducing themselves with their pronouns, and correcting themselves after using incorrect pronouns.
The workshop also covered intersectionality, sexual and gender discrimination, and the suicide attempt rate within the trans community, which is 41%. Trans and nonbinary youth who are respected by most people in their lives are 50% less likely to attempt suicide, according to the Trevor Project. Reflecting on this statistic, Scheinpflug said the disparity suggested the importance of support for trans and nonbinary youth.
Participants learned the difference between an individual’s gender identity – the gender they identify with – and their sex assigned at birth. Scheinpflug also explained how these terms differ from sexual orientation, which refers to a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction. In discussing terminology, Scheinpflug emphasized that being a supportive ally isn’t about memorizing words, but rather about knowing how to ask the right questions.
In another exercise, attendants were asked to make assumptions about Scheinpflug’s gender, and whether they presented themselves with more traditionally female mannerisms, clothing choices, and behaviors, or if they presented themselves in a more masculine manner. The array of responses underscored for participants how assumptions people make on a daily basis are influenced by their own understanding of gender, which differs greatly among individuals.
The workshop concluded with questions from attendants. “Most people there had a loved one in their life who they had specific questions about,” said Scheinpflug. “We talked about trying to create the safest place possible, knowing that no one can guarantee someone else’s safety.”
Ms. Fleming said the residents she spoke with after the workshop said they benefited from it and would like a second workshop. She said she paid for the workshop out of pocket, and doesn’t know if she’ll host another workshop because of the expense. But she hopes the City staff and City Council will organize more LGBTQ+-affirming programming.
“I hope the City of Evanston will do some more education and advocacy,” added Scheinpflug. “I don’t see a lot done for the trans community.”