GU Pride’s board will now include a representative for trans* students, a position formerly absent from the group.
The group voted unanimously to establish the position Tuesday. The newly elected board member, Celeste Chisholm (COL ’15), is an out transgender woman.
“Being the first student at Georgetown is interesting for me because I know more people in the past would have done it if there was any sort of precedent,” Chisholm said.
The position was created after GU Pride’s board decided to prioritize the rights of the queer students of color and transgender students in the coming school year. The only other specified position on the board is for an ally representative.
“It became clear to us that for the first time we have several out trans* students who might be willing to be on the board,” GU Pride President Thomas Lloyd (SFS ’15) said. “We thought this was the perfect time to recruit one of them and give the trans* community a chance to be more visible and prominent within Pride’s structure.”
Shiva Subbaraman, director of the LGBTQ Resource Center, said she was energized by the new position in light of how difficult it can often be for trans* students on Georgetown’s campus.
“That is something to celebrate. The truth is, on this campus, it has been very difficult for gender non-conforming members,” Subbaraman said. “We have had gender non-conforming students before but often did not feel safe or empowered enough to take leadership on this campus.”
For Chisholm, this board position will mark the first time that she is putting herself into the spotlight as a transgender female.
“This is my first year really being involved in GU Pride. It’s tough being out there in the spotlight,” Chisholm said. “I’m just tumbling through my existence, and I just happen to be knocking into glass ceilings as well. To me, it’s just a matter of having the confidence to be yourself.”
Though no out trans* student has yet to graduate from Georgetown, two out transgender students ran for the position Tuesday night.
“This is the first time we have more than one non-gender-conforming person out on campus who are willing to share their lives with us,” Subbaraman said. “Having her and other students here who are out now give a face to this issue, which has been abstract until now.”
Lloyd said the election reflects a growing desire for trans* students to establish a place for themselves on campus.
“There being two out trans* students who both want to become more visible demonstrates that the community has definite needs and desires to change the university — it’s ready to move forward and organize to make being trans* at Georgetown easier for everyone,” Lloyd said.
Chisholm noted that, while she can often pass for a female, resisting complacency is an important part of representing the community of trans* individuals.
“There’s this false dichotomy of people that pass and people that don’t,” Chisholm said. “I quickly realized I was slipping into that habit of being someone that didn’t want anything else but normalcy. I realized I had a responsibility to be there for other people, like paying it forward.”
For all that she hopes to accomplish as a GU Pride board member, Chisholm boils her goals down to raising awareness of the experience for transgender individuals on the Hilltop.
“Once a person is introduced to a transgender person, people are pretty accepting once you have a face and a voice you can attach to the concept,” Chisholm said. “I think a lot of it will be putting it in people’s faces for the first time, allowing Georgetown students to see that this is totally normal and establishing a safe environment for us here.”