Guest speaker addresses transgender equality


Mara Keisling, Executive Director of The National Center for Transgender Equality, speaks on the issue of equality for transgenders and the LGBT community on Tuesday in the Carl Sandburg Auditorium. Topics included homelessness, violence, employment, healthcare and marriage in the LGBT community.

By Rachel Scaman

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, spoke about advancing equality for transgender individuals Tuesday in the Carl Sandburg Auditorium.

The event began at 7 p.m. Keisling said she has influenced many people of all sexual orientations.

“Mara was very inspiring,” said Curtis Grimes, senior computer science major. “She covered a lot of different topics in her speech and she seems to know what she’s talking about.”

Molly Holmes, director of the LGBT Resource Center, said Keisling is well known by students for being an activist in the community.

“They were very interested in hearing her speak because there is not only an increased visibility in transgender students but also an increase in their allies,” Holmes said.

During her speech, Keisling spoke about not only the difficulties that transgender students face, but also the issues of racism and prejudice.

“She knows not to treat topics such as racism in a taboo way,” Grimes said.

Keisling kept making the point that transgender people are just like everyone else.

“I know so many transgender people that have it really hard,” Keisling said. “That’s why this topic is so important to me, because I serve them.”

Keisling said more and more transgender people are coming out and demanding their rights. She said the overall goal of promoting transgender rights isn’t only for marriage equality–it also has to do with equality in the work place and equality when it comes to going to see a doctor.

“21 percent of people have been refused medical treatment by doctors because they are transgender,” Keisling said.

Holmes said the goal of having speakers like Keisling is to make more people aware of the social issues transgender people face.

“We hope the myths about transgender people will be dispelled, and that it will inspire people to do more,” Holmes said.

Keisling has spoken to more than 30 schools and has her own goals in mind.

“I’m just hoping some people get excited about doing something about what they believe in,” Keisling said. “It doesn’t matter what they believe in as long as they fight for it.”

Keisling said the organizations at NIU, like Prism, are making it easier for transgender people to be here. Prism is an student-run organization on campus.

“We have been on campus since 1970,” said Marc Romero, PRISM president and junior business major. “Our mission is to provide support, education and advocacy to the LGBT community on campus, as well as the wider NIU and DeKalb communities.”

The next Prism event is the Rainbow Relay at 8 p.m. today in Chick Evans Field House.

For more information about Prism events or joining the organization, email [email protected].