Transgender activist says she's been denied chance to talk with St Pete College students listen04/21/11 Seán Kinane
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Gianna Chao is an advocate and activist for transgender issues and is a transwoman. She and her creative partner, Alexandria Brown, have created web videos under a partnership called Techno Feminist Utopia. They were invited to speak to an applied ethics class at St. Petersburg College, but Chao says they found out the invitation had been rescinded, but not by the professor or the students.
"From what I know, the class is an applied ethics class at St. Petersburg College and they were going to be discussing ethics as far as gender and sexuality is concerned. I think, more specifically, in the area of sexuality. I have been invited on numerous occasions to USF and HCC to speak to various sociology classes as well as classes concerning sexuality. I was given the opportunity, actually, my partner Alexandria [Brown], my creative partner was given the opportunity to be there and it was asked if I could also be present so that I could give some of my educational, I mean, my personal background as far as my own life story to contribute to the educational experience of the students."
"So, we wrote a formal letter saying what we were going to be doing. and the professor wanted for the video to be shown that we were making, so what happened was is that we were told that I could not be present. That Alexandria Brown could be present and that the reason why I could not be there was supposedly, from what I understand, is because I'm a transgender individual and my presence might possibly offend some of the students."
Why could your creative partner attend but you couldn't?
"I personally, I don't fully know. Like I said, I don't have any official statements from the school. I have contacted them to try to clarify what the situation is, but from what I understand because she is a cisgendered woman -- or a woman who is born female and lives in society as a woman -- I guess maybe her presence would be less offensive to the students and, I guess, also less biased. They also wanted for, I guess, there to be an opposing side or argument to what we were presenting. I don't exactly know what that would even entail. I think that they also implied that my personal identity would somehow bias the, whatever argument would be made about human rights for people of gender variance and various sexualities."
Was it the students in the class that wanted you not to come or the professor or was it the school?
"Actually ... well, of course the professor was the one that originally invited us and the students actually, from what I understand, none of them had a problem with it. I think that the students actually wanted to hear me speak. From what I understand, the directors were the ones that said this could not happen."
What's the best possible outcome for you in this case? What would you like to happen?
"I think that the best possible outcome would be for, of course, students to be exposed to any sort of source of information or knowledge or experience concerning a subject in order to make their own decisions because ultimately it's an educational experience. The purpose of being there is not to persuade them in any way of how they are to think but, of course, as students and as adults, to make decisions for themselves and form their own opinions because what we're dealing with here are people who are going to eventually be making decisions in society. Decisions in society that could be important.
"So having the experience of not only information as far as academically but being exposed to various other sources such as talking to somebody like myself or watching videos, documentaries and things like that, it would give them the ability to form more of their own opinion and to jog their minds about what to feel. My outcome would be to say that if any individual regarding any subject wishes to speak on a campus and that individual is going to be contributing to the educational experience, that individual should, of course, be allowed. To say that an individual is not allowed to be there based on a personal identity or some sort of political issue is, of course, absurd."
Finally, if people want to see your work online, where can they go?
"They can go to YouTube and search for Techno Feminist Utopia."
Gianna Chao's performance name is Gianna Love.
The professor, Eli Bonner, told WMNF he emailed a speaker request to the applied ethics program director, Barbara Grano, but she told him Chao could not speak to the class. Grano and St. Petersburg College did not return our calls by deadline.