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Trans*Mission creating community for LGBTQ students

V Wegman, a member of Trans*Mission, says the organization aims to provide a community for transgender students at Ohio State. Credit: Courtesy of Laura Peshek

Every night before bed from the ages of 4 to 6 years old, V Wegman prayed that God would make them a boy.

“I always wanted to be a boy,” Wegman said. “I hated wearing dresses, and all reminders that I was a girl. I wanted to be as masculine as possible; wearing backwards baseball caps, jeans and androgynous shirts.”

After coming out as a lesbian during sophomore year of high school, the journey for Wegman to understand their gender identification didn’t end there. During Wegman’s first two years of college, they explored the idea of identifying as male, but that didn’t seem to fit, either.

“Then, I realized the gender-neutrality of they/them and my first initial, V, were right for me. It’s been nearly a year and a half since I accepted myself as trans, and I just came out to my parents over winter break,” Wegman said. “For the first time in my life, I am satisfied with myself. I am happy with my androgyny.“

A student organization, Trans*Mission, is working to provide a sense of home for students of the transgender community on campus.

The group is a student organization that aims to provide an inclusive social environment for all genders and sexual orientations, as well as represent the students on campus who identify as transgender, said Wegman, Trans*Mission’s outreach coordinator.

“Our big thing is trying to build visibility, because we actually have a fairly large trans population at OSU, compared to other schools in the country,” said Wegman, a third-year in communication. “We try to be an advocate for them. We try to have community for them.”

Just short of 1.5 million U.S. adults identify as transgender. Of that population, about 25 to 30 percent of people are nonbinary, meaning they do not fall exclusively in male or female categories, according to the Society of Psychological Study of LGBT Issues.

Appy Frykenberg, the Multicultural Center’s intercultural specialist for LGBTQ initiatives, said Ohio State’s percentage of students identifying as LGBTQ is higher on campus than the national average, and that the university’s size creates opportunities that might be more difficult to find in another area.

“OSU has a strong showing at approximately 11 percent of campus — when you think about the size of our student population, that number is pretty big,” he said in an email. “That means there are a ton of different LGBTQ folks to meet across campus, and accounts for a strong showing of LGBTQ leadership — including over 12 LGBTQ student organizations, which the MCC collaborates with on a regular basis.”

Wegman said the group’s signature event is an annual pool party, where members can feel free to wear whatever type of attire they feel comfortable in.

“It’s affirming, where people don’t take pictures, they don’t use social media to show who was there,” Wegman said. “It’s just a very welcoming place for people to feel very comfortable in their own skin, because going swimming and being at the beach, even at the gym, that’s one of the more dysphoric places for trans students.”

The group meets annually with University President Michael Drake, Wegman said, and this year their discussion focused on creating a centralized online hub for LGBTQ student resources to help students find organizations like Trans*Mission or other allied university programming.

“It is going to be a place where LGBTQ students and prospective students can go to learn about what it’s like to be LGBTQ here at OSU,” Wegman said. “Where they can find community, how they can find help, and different things like that, like a resource list.”

In addition to student organizations like Trans*Mission, the Multicultural Center hosts programming year-round for members of the LGBTQ community to help build a sense of community for students.

Frykenberg said student organizations like Trans*Mission also reach out to organizations in the greater Columbus area to expand the community and available resources beyond campus.

He said the student leaders in these organizations and programs are engaging with the community by being involved with Columbus resources, such as Kaleidoscope Youth Center or TransOhio.

The Multicultural Center offers a variety of different events and programs for the LGBTQ community, including meeting groups such as Q*mmunity, weeklong awareness events like Bisexual Awareness Week and special programming, like Buckeye Pride, as well as many other events.

Frykenberg said each program they offer is unique, with goals ranging from visibility and pride to community building.

“The sense of community is built up along these multiple facets, appealing to different students in different ways while letting them know that there is a strong, central resource on campus available to each of them,” Frykenberg said.

In conjunction to the programming offered by the Multicultural Center, Trans*Mission aims to create a space for students to feel supported.

“That’s our No.1 goal — community,” Wegman said.

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