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TRANSformation is an exclusive space for transgender and gender non-conforming people to navigate the world beyond the gender binary. Meetings take place every Tuesday at 5 pm, at United Campus Ministry, or UCM.

New UCM Center group offers designated trans space

Imagine a safe space where being trans is the norm, where everyone just gets it because it is their lived reality too. That is the idea behind the new United Campus Ministry Center discussion group TRANSformation.

Ari Faber, the operations coordinator at United Campus Ministry, or UCM, helped come up with the idea for the new discussion group and serves as its moderator. The group meets every Tuesday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on the second floor of the UCM library, 18 N. College St.

“I hesitate to call it a support group just because I’m not a licensed therapist,” Faber said. “But we do offer each other a lot of support. And it’s a good way to connect with other people within the community.”

This distinction is why Faber refers to TRANSformation as a discussion group. It is a designated space for transgender and gender nonconforming people to exchange experiences, ideas and get in contact with other trans folks.

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TRANSformation is an exclusive space for transgender and gender non-conforming people to navigate the world beyond the gender binary. Meetings take place every Tuesday at 5 pm, at United Campus Ministry, or UCM.

What the group talks about each meeting is entirely up to its participants and is therefore always changing and up to debate.

“We have different topics we’re discussing as well as looking at positive sources of representation in the media,” Faber said. “One person specifically asked about trans masculine representation in the media, which is something that if you just Google you can find a lot of articles about it and about how lacking it is. A lot of what we see in the media, if we see trans representation at all, it’s trans feminine people.”

Due to this underrepresentation at large and the lack of spaces designated exclusively to trans people, Faber wanted to create a safe space for trans and gender nonconforming folks in Athens to come together and be seen and understood. Part of ensuring a safe space is the group’s closed nature. The group is for trans people exclusively, so allies are not permitted to join.

“Oftentimes in spaces where it’s not a closed space, there’s a lot of labor that goes into educating other people,” Faber said. “You can be a little bit more hesitant on what you’re going to say because you’re not sure how it's going to be taken by the other people in the group. So having these closed spaces where people kind of let their guard down a little bit more, not have to worry about needing to explain things to other people can be really beneficial.”

The importance of closed trans spaces is also emphasized by Lou Helenberger, a dual graduate student studying geography and environmental studies and a part of the trans community. Helenberger is not part of TRANSformation but is engaged in LGBTQIA+ spaces on and off campus.

“For me, trans spaces are not only helpful and beneficial, but absolutely necessary for trans people to have a safe space to express themselves, to create community, to spend time, to recreate – to do literally anything,” Helenberger said.

That is also what the director of UCM Center, Mickey Hart, liked about establishing discussion groups centered around LGBTQIA+ topics.

“We really wanted to create some discussion groups that bring people together to share ideas,” Hart said. “And in southeastern Ohio beyond the LGBT Center, there are maybe one or two other small organizations, there’s not a lot going on on a regular basis for LGBT folks.”

Besides TRANSformation, UCM Center also offers the Queer & Aware group, which is open to allies.

“So we were going to create the group Queer & Aware, or Q&A,” Hart said. “In doing that, we really also then started thinking issues around gender, gender identity are different than sexual orientation and most people kind of lump them all together.”

pb172622@ohio.edu

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