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Pride Week keynote speaker talks transgender rights, issues


To end the first night of Pride Week, more than 30 people attended “I’m Looking at the [Wo] man in the Mirror” at 8 p.m. on Monday in the Terrace Rooms in the Bovee University Center.

The speaker, Northern Illinois assistant professor Z Nicolazzo, spoke at length of the trials transgender individuals face in society and what cisgender individuals can do to help.

Nicolazzo uses ze/hir/hirs pronouns.

“I’m always thinking of different ways to share information,” Nicolazzo said. “The faculty from where I work need to do a lot to write the information for the students to read, but I’m afraid that the students don’t read it. So me and Shannon Jolliff-Dettore decided to share it (tonight during Pride Week).”

Terms to know

transgender: someone who does not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth

cisgender: someone who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth

non-binary: someone who does not identify within the binary male/female gender designations

ze/hir/hirs: pronouns used by Dr. Z Nicolazzo. They would be used accordingly: 

  • He went to the store but left his credit card at home.
  • She went to the store but left her credit card at home.
  • Ze went to the store but left hir credit card at home.

Nicolazzo speech was divided into the three categories: “Mirrors,” “A Tale of Two Tales” and “Imagine Possible Futures: Counter-stories.”

In “Mirrors,” Nicolazzo discussed how the mirrors metaphor of “I’m looking at the man (or woman) in the mirror” connects with the topic of transgender and how ze uses the metaphor in hir discussion.

In “A Tale of Two Tales,” Nicolazzo used mirrors as a metaphor for notions of visibility and invisibility among transgender people. Visibility, in the sense that trans men and trans women don't get the chance to 

In “Imagine Possible Futures: Counter-stories,” Nicolazzo spoke at length with members of the audience, asking how to make Central Michigan University's campus better at handling equality issues among transgender people and other minorities.

After the speech ended, students were free to ask and discuss with Nicolazzo regarding the keynote. One student asked about the lack of data for people who identify as non-binary, or not identifying as the normative male and female gender designations.

Nicolazzo said it's difficult because of the lack of definition available for defining the different sects in the transgender community. 

Midland senior Jessica Winslow and Lennon senior Samantha Bent said Nicolazzo's speech related back to much of what's currently going on around campus, citing the extension of the diversity assessment at CMU and the building of a gender equity center.

“(Pride Week) has been great so far,” said Shannon Jolliff-Dettore, director of the office of LGBTQ services. “The panel earlier today and the keynote discussion have been key factors in impacting (and spreading awareness for the LGBTQ community) on our campus.”

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