Student stands up to transphobia

Vigil honors transgender lives lost to violence

By Gianluca D’Elia

Students spell out “TDOR 2017” with candles outside University House on Nov. 20.

As part of the nationwide Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), one student took it upon himself to raise Rider’s awareness of anti-transgender violence on Nov. 20.

Discrimination against the transgender community hits close to home for Austin Morford, a junior digital media major who started his transition shortly before college. At the event, he recalled an instance a few years ago when another man forcefully pushed him out of a men’s bathroom, telling him he wasn’t supposed to be using it.

“I’ve always gotten a lot of questions about what it really means to be transgender,” Morford said. “So I decided to bring light to that and show people around campus that we’re not these aliens you have to stay away from. I want to take the stereotypes away from it.”

The TDOR event kicked off with a series of speeches and monologues in the Sweigart auditorium and ended with a candlelight vigil outside University House.

As a crowd of students started to fill up the auditorium for the event, a slideshow displayed photos of the 25 transgender people who were killed because of their identities over the past year.

“People shun out different ideas too frequently,” said sophomore political science major Charles Palmer. “[TDOR] raised awareness to a sensitive topic, and it really spoke volumes.”

Morford’s event was also sponsored by the Rider University Greek Council, which he considered an important step for himself and for the Greek community. Last year, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to come out to his brothers in Sigma Phi Epsilon.

“I was nervous about what people would think of me, or that they wouldn’t talk to me anymore, but I wanted to prove to myself that not all guys fit the stereotype of hating the LGBT community,” he said. “Shedding a light on transgender issues is something new, but that process isn’t new. It’s like desegregating schools in the 1960s. It’s another roadblock we’re trying to push down, and we’re doing pretty well with it at Rider.”

Looking back on hosting Rider’s first TDOR, Morford said, “I’m happy knowing people understood what I wanted to get across. I hope I can do it next year.

“I told everyone at the end of the vigil, ‘With all the hate going on in the world, just make sure you love everybody,’” he added. “I don’t think that’s said enough or taken seriously enough. Don’t hate on people for what they look like or how they act. You don’t know anybody until you start talking to them.”

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