About 50 people packed into a room at the Durango Public Library on Thursday evening to learn about the lives of transgender people and the issues they face day to day.
“Trans 101” was organized by the Four Corners Rainbow Youth Center and spearheaded by Adrien Lawyer, co-director of the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico.
“This is the most basic introductory-level information we can give on this topic,” he told the crowd.
Lawyer, a transgender male, discussed a number of topics, including sexuality, gender identity and the difference between gender and sex.
“Sometimes when we get hunkered down on identity, it separates us more than it brings us together,” he said.
Sex refers to the anatomy a person has, while gender is one’s innate sense of self and how they identify. A person’s sex does not always correspond with his or her gender.
“I wasn’t born a girl, I was born into this complex package,” he said. “I was assigned female at birth.”
Lawyer explained the gender binary – how society has traditionally perceived masculine and feminine – and how some people do not feel comfortable identifying as either gender. He also pointed out that not every transgender person wants to take hormones or have sex reassignment surgery.
“More and more young folks are doing away with the identity politics, and that’s a good thing,” he said.
He engaged with the crowd and was receptive to any questions someone might have.
“I challenge you to ask me something I haven’t heard before,” he said.
Lawyer fielded questions from the audience, such as the hot-button issue of bathroom use.
“Trans students tell us that they don’t drink water all day at school because they are too afraid to use the bathroom,” he said.
The National Center for Transgender Equality surveyed nearly 28,000 transgender people in 2015, which became the largest survey ever devoted to their lives and experiences.
Lawyer talked about some of the results, including statistics on violence, homelessness and suicide among transgender people.
Forty percent of respondents had attempted suicide in their lifetime, nearly nine times the attempted suicide rate in the U.S. population (4.6 percent).
“Love and support from parents or another parental figure reduces those figures ten-fold,” he said.