An Award and The Importance of a Picture

In April of 2010, I was presented the Thomas Justin Baker Person of the Year Award from Student Senate at Millersville University.  I was given this award for all of the work I had done and was continuing to do on campus for the LGBT community, especially my coalition building, bring multiple diverse groups together to address the hate that faces us all because of the things that make us different. They gave me a nicely framed certificate for the award, and I thought that was all there was to this award. I only found out almost 2 years later that another part of the award was having a plaque hung in the Student Memorial Center on campus. It’s hard to put my reaction to this discovery into words, but suffice to say I was amazed, flattered, and honored. As of last week, my plaque was completed and hung in the student center on campus. If you’re on Millersville’s campus, definitely go take a look.

The award and the plaque were both huge deals for me, however, that barely starts to scratch the surface of what this means.  Now,  I haven’t done research to ensure everything, but to the best of my knowledge, this is the very first picture Millersville University has EVER posted on their campus of a transgender person. For all I know, this may be the first time a PASSHE (Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education) has so publicly acknowledged a transgender member of their campus.  Not only was it the first picture, but the text directly below it openly speaks of the LGBT community in a very, very positive way.

But its not just an award, an honor for a trans person. It is the acknowledgment that, YES, there ARE transgender people on campus, they’re nothing to be ashamed or afraid of, and we have recognize when an transgender individual works hard for our campus. Of course, this award was given by Student Senate, not the campus itself, but the way it is publicly still sends a message of support.

For any other transgender person on campus, be they out, transitioning, in the closet, part time, cross dressing, questioning, curious, genderqueer, transsexual… anyone under the transgender umbrella, they can look at this picture and see something of themselves in it. They can look at this picture and see there are other transgender people on campus, that they’re not alone.  This doesn’t even go into how a young, just coming out of the closet gay person would feel to see the picture of a transsexual woman so publicly honored. Just the simple action of hanging a picture can send a strong message about the entire university.

I really wanted to take this chance to thank the group of girls who nominated me for this award, getting the information for the application by tricking me into showing them my resume on the guise of wanting advice on their own. I also want to thank Student Senate, of course, for awarding me this honor. Most of all, thank you to everyone in MU Allies who worked together  to make such a difference on our campus. While this award was given to me, it was all of us together who made the true change on campus.

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