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Transgender flag at Bentley University

(On Monday, members of the community gathered for the annual Trans Pride flag raising to start Transgender Awareness Week. Matt Banks, assistant director in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, gave the welcoming remarks.)

Welcome, everyone. I am excited to join you today for the Trans Awareness Week flag raising. I am Matt Banks, and my pronouns are they/them/theirs.

Trans Awareness Week always brings forth complex, conflicting emotions for me. As someone who has been openly trans for almost a decade, this week has personal significance, particularly as I look back on the college sophomore sitting in their Sexual Medicine course and realizing that their longstanding ambivalence for both genders was the first sign that maybe they weren't what they thought they were. It is weeks like this that remind me of the journey from those initial realizations through constant auditions of different performance styles before I landed the dream gender role I live in today.

This relief and joy are mirrored by the pressure and discomfort I often feel from cisgender folks, both queer and straight. The pressure to have a label. To have the words. To act a certain way. To show up a certain way. To prove my "trans-ness." As someone whose gender is not easily understood, even by myself, this week necessitated by the fact that transgender people are not acknowledged, understood or respected, reminds me that in many ways our society still isn't ready to hear the beautiful ways in which trans people can and do exist.

In many ways our society still isn't ready to hear the beautiful ways in which trans people can and do exist.

The discomfort is compounded by grief. I am always intimately aware of the approaching Trans Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20, when we gather to mourn the individuals who have lost their lives to anti-trans violence in the last year. This day was started in 1998 to honor the life of Rita Hester, a Black trans woman murdered in Allston, Massachusetts. Since then, more vigils have arisen across the country, including here at Bentley. This week, we will remember at least 71 individuals in the United States and 460 worldwide who have been killed simply for being trans.

This grief is accompanied by reflection. As a white, masculine, non-binary person, it is not lost on me that a significant proportion of the individuals targeted by anti-trans violence often live at our society's self-designated margins. They can be BIPOC women. They can be those without the financial means for hormones or surgeries. They can be undocumented. They can be sex workers, non-traditionally educated, disabled. They are made to feel unwelcomed. Unloved. Unworthy.

Those three words are difficult to sit with. But we must. Remembrance does not have to be passive. It can be something that brings forth action, determination and change. And that is what this flag represents. Not simple awareness of identity, but an awareness that we have an obligation to push for change. For us to one day look back on these moments of grief and remember we changed the world for the better.

Thank you all for being here. 

Diversity and Inclusion at Bentley