Even with the growing support given to the transgender community, there are still many misconceptions and a panel at Barry University hopes to educate the public.

Hosted at the university’s Center for Human Rights and Social Justice, four community experts and leaders will discuss the special needs and struggles of the transgender community and how to improve them. The center focuses on human trafficking, sexual abuse, creating inclusive communities for LGBT people trauma, and marginalized communities.

"The new administration is a wake up call for us and I think it reminds us that we have to protect one another,” said David Jobin, the president of the Our Fund Foundation.

“I think you’re only as strong as the most vulnerable in your community and I think that it’s our responsibility to make certain that transgender people and rights are protected.”

The panel participants are Dr. Ashley Austin, a distinguished professor at the center and an associate professor of social work who focuses on the transgender community; Masen Davis, senior director of special projects at the Gill Foundation focusing on the advancement of transgender people; Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality; and Mona Pittenger, the co-executive producer of the documentary “Just Gender” and the co-founder of the Tulsa Girl’s Art School.

“The needs and experience of trans people are different from the needs and experience of LGB people,” Austin said, citing legal and physical transition, the cost of transition, social and mental health services, and health issues.

“I think there continues to be a lack of awareness about trans specific needs and trans specific experiences even in the broader LGB community … much of society remains uninformed, misinformed.”

This misinformation has lead to a lack of empathy in a part of the gay and lesbian community, Jobin said, when the transgender community is in its greatest need. In the panel, he hopes that people will learn more about why it’s important to lend a helping hand.

“There was a time when the LGBT community — and predominantly the gay male community — started to step away from funding for HIV/AIDS when the face of that disease started to look like something other than what they were. We fear that,” Jobin said.

“I’ve heard people in the LG world say they’re not certain why the T is included. It’s because they’re about sexuality and not about gender, and I don’t think they understand the connection between those two.”

With the panel, Austin also hopes guests take away the reality that the transgender experience is all encompassing and needs to be acknowledged in all parts of life. With a child recognizing his or her gender as young as 3 years old, pediatricians, educators, and parents need to be educated on what it means to be transgender.

“We think [the transgender community] is getting a lot of attention because there's a couple shows or a couple documentaries, but it's just the tip of the iceberg,” she said.


If You Go:

What: Understanding Transgender Identities Panel Discussion

When: April 4 from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

Where: Barry University’s Center for Human Rights and Social Justice, 11300 N Second Ave. in Miami

Cost: Free

RSVP: Our-Fund.org/identity