Transgender activist to speak, share story at colloquium

Activist Brooke Guinan, New York City’s first openly transgender firefighter, will deliver the keynote address at Rider’s annual Gender and Sexuality Studies Colloquium on March 29.

By Jessica Nunes

With a keynote address delivered by the first openly transgender New York City firefighter, Brooke Guinan, Rider’s Gender and Sexuality Studies (GSS) Program will present its 36th Annual Colloquium on March 29.

The event is a tradition started by the founder of the GSS program and former professor Virginia Cyrus, and gives students an opportunity to share their voices and research centered around social issues.

“The GSS colloquium is an important event on campus because it shines a spotlight on timely issues related to gender and sexuality, something very necessary in today’s world,” Erica Ryan, director of the GSS Program, said. “And it provides a forum for more than 15 Rider students to present their work at an academic conference, an invaluable experience for them and one that benefits the community as a whole.”

This year, Guinan, nicknamed the “superhero of the 21st century,” will deliver her speech, “Living Limitless.”

“We always look for keynote speakers that will engage or inspire our students, and one of our GSS faculty — Professor Megan Titus — knew about the documentary titled ‘Woman on Fire’ that featured Brooke,” Ryan said. “So we reached out to her through a mutual friend of [Titus].”

Ryan said that Guinan was chosen for a multitude of reasons, including the need to highlight not only an activist, but also “issues of gender identity.”

“Brooke brings both of those things to the table,” she added. “And her story is truly inspiring.”

One of the students presenting research during this event is senior psychology major Ashley Leeds, who has worked on a project titled “Familial Support Through the Coming Out Process.” It is Leeds’ first year participating in the conference.

“My colloquium piece is about individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual or beyond (LGBTQ+) featured in the media and their coming out stories in relation to their families support and response to their classification,” she said.

Other presentations include exploring gender norms in the cartoon “Rugrats,” masculinity in advertising and LGBTQ+ representation in the Latinx community — a gender neutral term to encompass Latino and Latina.

Leeds stated that her work has a personal connection.

“It relates to me because I have friends who identify as LGBTQ+, and I want to be seen as someone who they can confide in during times of need, with my acceptance and multitude of resources,” she said. “Moreover, I strive to be a social worker and psychotherapist and will potentially see clients who fall on the LGBTQ+ spectrum.”

The event is a great way for students to share their thoughts among their peers and the community, according to Ryan.

“I think the colloquium has become a 36-year tradition because it promotes the development of Rider students’ own voices, allowing them to demonstrate their critical thinking and their hard work in front of Rider faculty and students,” Ryan said. “It has also highlighted important political, social and cultural issues in the past several decades, both through the keynote address and the thematic choices of the students themselves.”

To see the full schedule of the GSS colloquium, visit


Published in the 3/27/18 edition.

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