Part 3: Advocacy Work For Transgender Community

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From discrimination to even hate crimes, people who are transgender deal with a lot. 

In the final report on being transgender in the Northland, FOX 21’s Dan Hanger explores the positive advocacy work of two Duluth transgender people, and how UW-Superior is creating an accepting culture of diversity, with a strong focus on the transgender community.

“I want to do things that make me happy and make the people around me happy,” said Nathalie Crowley, a transgender woman, who says she’s the happiest she has ever been.

 “I own a house. I have a job. I have great friends, great partners. So, yeah, it’s great.”

It’s partly great because of the growing trans community in the Twin Ports that’s becoming more comfortable to be out.

 “I have been able to walk from my house to downtown and I run into eight trans people on my way there. … We’re out in the community, there are a lot of us, and these are just ones that I know,” Nathalie said.

Nathalie has become a leading advocate for the transgender community.
In the coming months she’ll be speaking at local hospitals about better healthcare for men and women who are transgender.

“We don’t want to have to educate our doctor. If I’m walking into a doctor’s appointment and I have to tell them what to do, I am kind of questioning why I’m paying the big dollars to do a job I’m doing for them,” Nathalie explained.

For Sean Hayes, 28, and a transgender man from Duluth, it’s all about letting other gender-questioning people know they’re not alone.

“You know there are those of us who are willing to come along side and talk with them and support them and encourage them if they need it. Just to let people know they aren’t alone,” Sean said.

Sean currently organizes a support group in Duluth called Trans+, which meets monthly and includes men and women from across the Northland.

“We’re consistently averaging around 10 to 15 at each group with new people every time almost,” Sean said. “Ages vary anywhere from 18 to 70.”

Meanwhile at Nathalie’s alma mater UW-Superior, the administration there is more focused than ever on making the campus’ culture inclusive of all, especially transgender students.

“We are a small institution that really strives to provide that welcoming and safe space for all difference cultures, all different genders, all different abilities,” said Tammy Fanning, Associate Dean of Student at UWS.

UWS prides itself on its Gender Equity Resource Center, which is a safe place and educational resource for the entire campus.

“Just be willing to have dialogue and to be able to sometimes get ourselves out of our comfort zone and listen to people’s story,” Fanning said.

The campus is also home to seven private gender-neutral restrooms – something Sean and Nathalie say is important for the safety of transgender people and the security for anyone who does not feel they fit in society’s one-size fits all.

“It’s a spectrum. Gender in itself is a spectrum. We’ve always been taught it’s this or that — male or female. And there’s this whole space between and outside of that,” Sean explained.

And that spectrum, according to Nathalie, also includes the straight community and should be a reason to stop labeling and start accepting.

“I always say like in the Northland, you see women with flannel and car heart jeans on and that’s just the norm. If you go down to the cities people are going to think maybe she’s a lesbian,” Nathalie said.

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