Music, laughter and chatter echoed from students sitting in a circle sharing personal stories in celebration of transgender people.
Helping Everyone Regardless of Orientation hosted its second annual event for Transgender Day of Visibility by exhibiting art, music and poetry by transgender students at Northwest and local artists April 10 in the living room of the J.W. Jones Student Union.
HERO Vice President, sophomore Simon Hamilton, and activities coordinator, freshman Noah Wolfe, started planning and organizing the event in February.
The International Transgender Day of Visibility was March 31, but the event couldn’t take place earlier due to spring break.
Hamilton wanted the event to raise awareness about trans people.
“Not a lot of people necessarily know who trans people are or even know any trans people,” Hamilton said. “Trans people exist all around you. You see them day to day. … It’s just to show off that trans people exist, and they make wonderful things.”
The artwork was shown physically on tables and through multiple slideshows set up around the room on various laptops. There were two tri-fold poster boards displaying poetry. Music by Against Me!, Left at London and other trans musicians played in the background during the event.
Most of the displayed art was created by Northwest students. Hamilton and Wolfe reached out to HERO members, their friends and the art department to find artwork to showcase. They also contacted LGBT groups in Kansas City, Missouri, and other artists that publish their work online.
Hamilton hoped to educate people on the correct terminology to use with trans people and other members of the LGBT community.
“(We’re) just informing people and making them more knowledgeable of our existence,” Hamilton said. “A lot of people will say rude terms, and they won’t even realize it because that’s kind of the norm. There isn’t as much awareness for it.”
Hamilton and Wolfe chose to display art specifically to make the event memorable. Last year, the event was mixed with Transgender Day of Remembrance, so it had a more solemn and sad tone.
“This year, we’re trying to do more uplifting, creative sides of it,” Hamilton said. “If you meet a trans person and see all their art … it makes a little more lasting impression.”
Seniors Mariah Erickson and Alannah Williams attended the event to support Hamilton and see his artwork. He covered four tables with his sketchbooks and paintings.
“(We’re here to) support HERO,” Williams said. “It’s a group that I haven’t really heard a lot about, so I just wanted to come to one of their events. It’s got a really good vibe to it too. I like that it’s kind of open and everybody can just walk around and look. … I would come to another event like this again.”
Other students attended the event to earn extra credit or diversity hours. Junior Joseph Cole was the latter. He was curious about the event after seeing a brief summary of it online, and he hadn’t heard of HERO before.
“I wasn’t expecting all this art and poetry to be here,” Cole said. “I’m kind of interested because these are really good art pieces. … There’s a lot more of a community than I knew about before. This is my first HERO event, and I’m interested in attending more if I can.”
Hamilton was happy with the turnout because more people attended it than last year. He said HERO plans to host more events next semester, including monthly bake sales.
“I hope more people show up to more events like this in the future,” Hamilton said. “We’re definitely going to be holding more.”