“Our love…stems from an organic place”: Reflecting on Trans/Non-Binary BIPOC Experiences

Graphic by Robert Samec

As part of the Office of LGBTQ Resources’ Transgender Awareness Week programming, Ale Campillo, JE ‘22, hosted a panel discussion on the evening of Thursday, November 19th titled “Uplifting Transgender and Non-Binary BIPOC Voices.” During this event, six undergraduate panelists—Akweley, TD ’23 (chose not to share last name), Morgan Baker JE ’22, Nolan Arkansas, TC ’23, Ananya Kumar-Banerjee, BK ’21, and two anonymous studnents—spoke candidly and poignantly about their experiences as transgender and non-binary BIPOC at Yale and beyond. Attendees responded with an outpouring of love, support and hype in the Zoom chat. The Yale Herald spoke with Campillo about the origins, planning, and goals of the event, as well as what might come of it in the future.

My name is Ale Andres Campillo. I am a rising senior, originally class of 2021, now in the class of 2022 taking some time off. I use they/them/theirs pronouns. I’m a proud member of the Latin community, and the trans community, of course.

This event came to fruition through the work of Seth Wallace, who works with the Office [of LGBTQ Resources] and other domains of Yale, including Yale Mental Health and Counseling. He pointed out to me a void in the Trans Week programming there was at the time. To this point, there still was nothing related explicitly to the experiences of BIPOC people. And this was so alarming because within the transgender community at large, BIPOC voices, specifically those of Black trans women and Indigenous trans folks, trans folks of color in general, are at the forefront of a lot of the violence and a lot of the problems that are happening within that community, because we are the most vulnerable. So I decided to help organize this panel as part of my role as a peer liaison at the office of LGBTQ resources. 

I wanted to make sure to highlight a diverse array of what the BIPOC community at Yale has to offer. BIPOC itself is a very all-encompassing term that represents Black, Indigenous, and so many other POC groups, so I found it imperative that we tried our best with the limitations of being one singular panel to highlight all those voices. We did have all four cultural centers represented, which was really lovely. We tried to make sure to get a diversity of different [class years] and different identities and different experiences so that we could have a more robust chat about what it’s like to be trans at Yale and also be a person of color.

So I reached out to these six lovely folks. It became very clear early on that everyone was super interested in doing this, but that also having one panel representing so many different experiences was a little bit alarming. [Also for] me, as someone who was tasked with organizing this a little last-minute, I too was like, this is a big fear of mine. I don’t want us to essentialize ourselves, I don’t want us to just brush over the surface, but also there’s a lot of things to cover. So I met with the panelists in groups of two to brainstorm. They did all the heavy lifting, let me tell you. Each group of two was so wildly different in terms of the things that they wanted to talk about, whether it was trans medicine and accessibility, colonialism with language and pronouns, what it’s like to come of age as a trans person abroad, or what it’s like to be a new member of the community. What’s it like to be someone who didn’t really think of themselves as part of the community, but also be the face of it? These are just some of the experiences that I’m highlighting of the other panelists. Through these two-on-one meetings, I was able to see much more clearly ways that I could try to connect everyone’s stories for efficiency’s sake. 

This evening we had over eighty participants come, which was so unbelievably exciting, especially to see so many members that are not in our community. It was so lovely to see some familiar faces, but it was also nice to see new faces. And the whole idea was for us to have this sort of unadulterated conversation amongst ourselves with me kind of just moderating every once in a while, just pushing things along to cover different [topics].

I have to give a round of applause to the panelists themselves. Because they’re the ones who really shined tonight. They were trying to demonstrate that we are a community that is so in juxtaposition with labels and boxes, and so much of our love for ourselves and for each other stems from an organic place that’s so internal, that can’t be seen and necessarily always communicated. But I’m really excited that all these people got to come. All these people got to listen, and then we can continue to have our community be amplified at Yale and [I hope] that this will continue to amplify us beyond. This was definitely one of the most popular, if not the most popular, Trans Week events thus far in terms of attendance.

So I can imagine and safely say that there will be more [panels like this] in the future. Perhaps we’ll delve more deeply into specific communities, specific identities, or just specific experiences at large. So I’m really excited for the future.

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