LGBTQ services discusses trans, non-binary support in virtual event


Shannon Jolliff-Detore, director of LGBTQ Services and Gender Equity Programs, discusses supporting transgender and non-binary students during a virtual event April 13.

The Office of LGBTQ Services and Gender Equity Programs held a presentation and discussion about transgender and non-binary inclusion as a part of CMU’s Pride Month celebration.

The virtual event on April 13 covered topics like transgender and non-binary language and inclusive strategies for engagement. After, audience members were placed in one-on-one break-out sessions to discuss these topics. 

“What we're looking for is authentic engagement and being in community with each other,” said Shannon Jolliff-Detore, director of LGBTQ services. 

To start, Joliff-Detore defined transgender, non-binary and cisgender, and discussed the importance of pronouns.

“We are asking (trans and non-binary people) to share their pronouns versus using the language of ‘preferred’ (pronouns),” she said. “Preferred leaves space to choose, and there is no choice in this matter. We are honoring what folks are asking us to do”

Jolliff-Detore said asking people for their pronouns is a necessary sign of respect. She said it's also important to understand the current terminology used in the transgender and non-binary communities.

Breakout sessions during the second half of the event provided attendees a space to reflect on what they learned about gender in their childhood. Everyone reconvened in the main Zoom room to share what they discussed.

One group discussed the lack of education on gender and sexuality in public schools. Another group shared that they learned most of what they knew from the internet, which Joliff-Detore said is common.

“What we have access to based on geographic location or who is in our home, sometimes having access to technology can be a really great support system,” Jolliff-Detore said.

Engagement and support was another topic discussed at the presentation.

Jolliff-Detore said CMU supports transgender and non-binary students by updating student ID's and class rosters to reflect a student's chosen name.

Jolliff-Detore encouraged attendees to educate themselves on the transgender and non-binary community. She also said it’s important to take responsibility when mistakes are made.

“We're going to mess up, we're going to make mistakes,” she said. “It is our responsibility to do the work of what happened in that moment.” 

Pride Month events are taking place on campus all throughout April. The next event is the Pridepalooza Lip Sync Extravaganza hosted by the Organization of Women Leaders (OWLS) at 7 p.m. on April 14 in the French Auditorium.