Transcending differences

Making campuses more inclusive for all

aScreen Shot 2017-01-30 at 3.44.10 PMWhether it’s a career choice, a different lifestyle, or an internal change, everyone hopes to be who he or she truly is, without the fear of judgment or shame placed upon them.

Dr. Lee Airton, who has a PhD in language, culture and teaching from York University, said that as times are changing, we as a community need to be more accepting of those who identify as a different gender or sexual orientation. 

Airton, for instance, prefers the pronoun “they” to signify their gender-neutrality. 

“People need to be aware that transgender people are becoming more and more visual in the Canadian public life,” they said.

With transgender individuals coming to campuses, they are expecting to be treated as normal human beings and to be respected through things such as proper pronoun and name use, said Airton. 

Airton said that since some individuals don’t think they know a transgender person or have never met one, they may feel uncomfortable talking about the matter. 

“There’s a misconception that transgender people live extraordinary lives, but they’re exactly the same as someone else,” they said.

“[Transgender individuals] just expect respect and acceptance in their lives, just as someone else would.”

Airton said the difference between someone that is transgender and someone that is cisgender (identifying as the gender they were born in) is noticed when people don’t use the right name or pronoun, or deny them access to facilities that match their identity. 

“The things [transgender people] do and things we want are quite similar [to those of someone that is cisgendered],” they said. 

Airton said they also believe that people are afraid of making mistakes and being awkward, and that can get in the way of advocating for those of all different gender identities and sexual orientations.  

“I do believe in Canada we are going to see more recognition and support as people have the opportunity to be exposed to more transgender people,” they said. 

Colleges and universities are becoming more accepting of people in the LGBTQ community, but people still need to care for those within that group. 

The number one thing someone can do for anyone is to follow their lead, let them tell you what their needs are and do your very best to fulfill those needs, said Airton. 

“A wonderful gift is an ally or friend who can listen and accept that these are the things that we need and [that they] can do their best within their limitations.” 

Becoming more aware of LGBTQ issues from media, and reading and talking to someone in the community are also great ways of getting involved in transgender and gender identity issues. Getting information from a variety of perspectives can also help, said Airton. 

Airton said simple things such as proper pronoun use, name use and overall respect for someone indicates that you’re aware of these issues and are willing to listen. 

“I see a really bright future for us.”

Dr. Lee Airton will be speaking at SAIT on Tuesday, Feb. 14 from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. in MacDonald Hall in the Heritage Hall Building.  

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