By Savannah Lewis
For the past four years, Cleveland State University has offered a unique service to students within the transgender community. The Trans Student Support Hour offers students who identify across the gender spectrum or intersex individuals a safe place to express themselves together. These group sessions will be available from 3 p.m.- 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, all semester until Dec. 3.
“The title is a little misleading,” Bruce Menapace, a psychologist at Cleveland State’s counseling center explained. “It’s really a group for anyone who is perhaps exploring their gender identity or concerns around gender.”
Menapace explained that this group is one of the more attended services that the counseling center offers. The service offers a chance for people to discuss different factors of their gender identity and understand what the best path for them could be regarding their gender.
“This hour is there for building social support and community, for people who are across the gender spectrum and are exploring it, ” Maenapace noted.
“Transgender people and people with gender identity concerns are in a breaking moment in U.S. history in terms of the transgender activist movement,” Menapace stated while explaining the reason student support groups like these are necessary.
Along with the social support, this program also offers its attendees the support that is necessary when dealing with discrimination.
“Our trans students, as you may know, can very often be misgendered or be spoken to in derogatory terms, or their preferred names are not utilized by faculty, even though there is a preferred named policy on campus,” Menapace said. He has seen many students come in who have faced these types of issues and offered them a place to work through it and feel comfortable.
One issue that has impacted many gender diverse students on campus is the recent protest from a preacher who was allowed to speak on campus in the Student Center Plaza. Menapace stated that many students were upset about the preacher’s presence and his ability to be derogatory toward them with no action.
“Our best option as a university in a forward-thinking society is to win the fight through education,” Menapace stated, when asked about what he feels is the best step to help students on campus who may be dealing with concerns regarding people using the plaza in this way.
Along with the support group, the counseling center itself helps students with different aspects of their gender expression through writing letters of support for hormone therapy and surgeries as well as gender therapy. When asked what advice he would give students exploring or questioning their gender identity, Menapace encouraged them to do what feels right for them.
“Take the next step that you are comfortable doing,” Menapace advised. “Maybe that is just telling a supportive friend about your thoughts regarding your gender identity, perhaps coming to a one-on-one meeting with one of our many counselors here at the counseling center.”
Menapace wanted students across the gender spectrum to know that they don’t have to be a political activist or fully out to start becoming more comfortable with gender identity or sexual orientation concerns because there are resources here at Cleveland State.
To friends and family of gender diverse individuals, Menapace suggests for them to become aware of different terminology that is used within the LGBTQ+ community and checking out the LGBTQ+ resource guide that is listed on Cleveland State’s website.
“By doing a little bit of studying, you can become more educated on how to be supportive to LGBTQ+ people in general.”