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Western trans community finds affirmation through gatherings

Legislative attacks prompt trans students to support each other

A hand stirring a cup of transgender-pride-flag-colored tea. Finding community with each other has been a way for the trans community to get through the rise of anti-trans legislation. // Illustration by Alfie Short

As of Feb. 21, 31 states have introduced anti-trans bills in their legislatures, according to Freedom for All Americans. Freedom for All Americans is a campaign that advocates for nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ Americans and tracks bills affecting the LGBTQ+ community. 

With this recent rise in anti-trans legislation, Western Washington University’s transgender students are supporting each other through a regularly recurring gathering.   

Trans Tea is a bi-monthly gathering for trans students to connect with other trans students and discuss topics related to their experiences. The gatherings started in October 2021 and are hosted by Litav Langley, the director of LGBTQ+ Western, and Sharlotte Lily, the program assistant of LGBTQ+ Western.  

The most recent meeting was held on Feb. 15 in VU 462. There, students discussed the concept of gender euphoria, which describes when a person feels comfort and happiness in the alignment of their gender expression and identity. 

Langley said it can be affirming for trans students to hear about how their peers find joy in who they are. 

“The self-actualization and the self-love that people can find in even those small moments of gender euphoria is important to hold on to and to acknowledge and to honor always, especially when folks are feeling attacked,” they said. 

TRANS TEA BODY

A poster advertising Trans Tea hangs on a wall on the first floor of the Communication Facility in Bellingham, Wash. on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. Trans Tea meetings are held on the first and third Tuesday of every month, at 4 p.m. in VU 462. // Photo by Sol Vandeman 

During the meeting, attendees also discussed the recent national rise of anti-trans legislation. Langley said Trans Tea provides a positive counter-narrative to the anti-trans narratives being pushed by state representatives in recent legislation. 

“What matters most in my mind is having a community that is informed on the issues that affect you and that cares about the issues that affect you,” fourth-year TJ Reyerson, a Trans Tea attendee, said. “Read up on these bills, know what's going on because it's demoralizing when the people who claim to be your allies when you ask them what’s going on that's causing this community so much distress, and they don't even know.” 

Much of the anti-trans legislation being introduced in state legislatures targets trans children’s access to transition-related healthcare and trans students’ eligibility to participate in athletics.  

Washington currently has two anti-trans bills sitting in the Washington House of Representatives, HB 1556 and HB 1960

HB 1556 would require students who participate in school athletic activities to provide their birth certificate in order to determine if they’ll play on the male or female team. Trans student-athletes whose birth certificate sex does not align with their gender identity would be barred from competing on the team that aligns with their gender identity. 

HB 1960 would bar a trans inmate who has previously been convicted of a sex offense from being housed in the correctional facility that aligns with their gender identity. 

As of Feb. 21, both bills have not left the introduction stage and have remained in the House since January. 

This recent rise in anti-trans legislation is a reflection of growing hostility towards marginalized groups, Raine Dozier said. Dozier is a sociology professor at Western and teaches in the human services program. 

He said research supports the importance of community for trans people during times of legislative attacks. 

“We do better when we have other trans and gender-nonconforming people in our lives,” Dozier said. “We do better when we have that community. There's no doubt that it works against our experiences of general oppression like legislation and even interpersonal violence or interpersonal discrimination.” 

Reyerson said attending the gatherings organized by LGBTQ+ Western are a healing and affirming experience for them. 

“As trans people, I think a lot of us feel alien from the world around us and the narratives that are around us,” Reyerson said. “So, to hear other people's stories and to know that other people are going through the same stuff that you are and that they're on these really incredible unique journeys, it's wonderful.” 

To learn more about Trans Tea, go to LGBTQ+ Western’s “Workshops & Events” page. To stay up to date on the status of anti-trans legislation nationally, go to Freedom for All American’s Legislative Tracker.


Sol Vandeman

Sol Vandeman (they/he) is the campus life editor for The Front this quarter. They’re a sophomore currently pursuing a major in journalism with a minor in women, gender and sexuality studies. Sol would describe themselves as the “Elle Woods” of The Front. As a reporter, they focused on art and social justice at Western. Outside of journalism, Sol enjoys doing drag and religiously listening to pop music divas. Their Instagram is @solasinthesun. 

You can contact them at campuslifeeditor.thefront@gmail.com or solvandeman.thefront@gmail.com


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