This fall semester, a year after Mills became the first women’s college to officially admit transgender students, the Gender Splendor club has made great strides in ensuring that Mills be a more inclusive space for transpeople by creating a scholarship specifically for Trans Women of Color (TWOC) and holding a memorial for Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR).
The club, specifically started for those who want a space to discuss gender identity, is spearheading the Miss Major Scholarship, a scholarship exclusively for TWOC. Club president Erin Armstrong said the club saw a lack of representation and wanted to address this lack of representation by offering a scholarship specifically for them.
“The administration failed to take the initiative on this, so it fell to the club to get something started,” Armstrong said.
Gender Splendor named the scholarship after Miss Major Griffin-Gracy because of her service and activism in support of the trans community. According to Armstrong, she has met with Dr. Chicora Martin, dean of students, to plan for the scholarship. Even though the club wishes the administration had led the efforts to create more diversity, according to Armstrong, the administration is supportive of the scholarship.
“Not only does it send a message that they are wanted, it seeks to address the socioeconomic barriers that stand in their way,” Armstrong said.
Statistically, many TWOC deal with homelessness or become sex workers to survive, which are barriers that prevent them from attending institutions like Mills.
ASMC Vice President Erin Clark believes this scholarship will help create more conversations surrounding trans visibility on campus. Clark said she feels the campus is missing a valuable perspective by not having the trans community involved in more dialogues.
“I feel as though community-established systems of accountability can allow us to grow this institution into the feminine-centered-university that will reflect the critical thought needed to remedy the issues that marginalized communities face,” Clark said in an email.
Gender Splendor also recently hosted a TDOR memorial. Members of the Mills community gathered in the chapel on Nov. 20 to remember the lives of transgender people murdered this past year. This is the second year the club has held a memorial to remember the 271 trans lives lost around the world. This was the 16th year TDOR has been celebrated nationwide.
Armstrong and two other people, Marcel Million and Akira Jackson, talked about the importance of TDOR and the issues of transphobia trans people face everyday. While it’s important to remember those that the community has lost, it is also crucial to fight for the living, Armstrong said.
“Fighting, for me, means being authentic in who I am,” Armstrong said. “It means coming to school here at Mills everyday and being okay, being out as a trans woman. That is something that is not easy to do, but it is something that is important.”
Following the speakers was the reading of the names of the 271 victims. Armstrong explained that compiling the list is very difficult because oftentimes, the news reports on the murders will misgender the victims. Students lined up to speak every single name of a murdered transperson.
The memorial concluded with a candlelight vigil with Armstrong encouraging everyone to celebrate and support trans lives.