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Kristin Beck, transgender activist and former Navy Seal, speaks on a panel at Weber State University's Fireplace Lounge for a Transgender Awareness Day discussion on Nov. 17. (Dalton Flandro / The Signpost)

Participants held candles on their laps as they gathered together on Nov. 17 in the Shepherd Union ballrooms. They assembled in solidarity for the transgender community at Weber State University for Transgender Day of Remembrance. They gathered together at this panel, listening to the stories and concerns of the transgender community and allies had in commemoration of Transgender Day of Remembrance.

“It’s a spiritual journey,” said former Navy SEAL Kristin Beck. “It’s a spiritual journey and an intellectual journey, rather than just a transition.”

Beck, who resides in Washington, D.C., travels the country to speak to LGBT groups at colleges.

The panel discussion consisted of a number of questions which the speakers would respond to.

“My mom will call me Dana to my face, but if she’s talking with my grandparents or with my dad, she doesn’t use my name. She doesn’t use my pronouns,” said Dana Robinson, in response to a question about the challenges they had faced for being transgender. “My dad refuses to say my name or pronouns in any case, to my face or not. He doesn’t respect me; he gives more respect to trans women he meets on the street than he does his own child.”

The panel went from experiences to being able to “pass.”

“Passing can be a positive or negative thing. If I pass, does that mean that people see me as though I’m pretending to be something I’m not?” said panelist Andi Tremonte. “Right now, passing to me seems like a safety thing for me. Being able to pass means being able to pass as the other and not being tagged as trans.”

“I think a lot of the fear that I feel stems from childhood and being told that there isn’t an option for you. You’re going to be this way for your entire life — you’re going to be this way, and you have to fight with it. I think that there is that support there. There is that family that’s going to be there for me. Sometimes there is moments of anxiety…” said Taylor Jenkins, another of the advocates.

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Candles rest on chairs during the Transgender Awareness Panel discussion at Weber State University on Nov. 17. (Dalton Flandro / The Signpost)

The conversation took a turn from fears and anxieties to what it truly means to be a part of this community.

“I’m me, and sometimes I’ll be wearing jeans and a T-shirt and no make up, and that’s fine. On other days, like today, when I need to be a little more out there … it’s kind of like armor to me, to be a little bit more feminine, a little bit more expressive in my gender. It’s not something I need all the time anymore,” said Robinson.

The event continued for about an hour, and afterward, they held a lunch where supporters could talk to the panelists. Later that night, Beck spoke about her experience transitioning from a Navy SEAL with a big, scruffy beard to a woman with long, brown hair.

Jenkins also shared her opinion about transitioning.

“We need to be treated like people, regardless,” said Jenkins. “Instead of going into a situation and looking at it as ‘I wonder what that person is,’ think ‘I wonder if that person is a good person.’”

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