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Speaker urges transgender acceptance


Lilian Briggs speaks Tuesday night about her experiences as a transgender and how she became a human rights advocate. She encouraged people to look at others for being human, not for any other traits.

Lilian Briggs spoke about her life story and being transgender to a classroom full of students Tuesday night.

“The ultimate goal is to inspire change,” Briggs said. “If I just reached one of them, it’s worth it.”

Briggs is a student at Owens Community College, where she is a sophomore, president of the Gay Straight Alliance and the LGBTQIA Student Initiatives Director. The event was titled The Gender Trouble and is part of the Mosaic Cultural Diversity Colloquium Series, hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

Krishna Han, assistant director for diversity education at the University, hosted the event and invited Briggs to come.

“The program was originally designed to raise awareness to highlight diversity and the communication that kind of sustains our world,” Han said. “I came to realize that having a open and honest conversation seemed to be the most powerful way of reaching to people’s heart.”

Han wanted Briggs to come instead of just having a panel because he is a believer in the power of storytelling.

Briggs told of the struggles she went through becoming transgendered and through seeking the acceptance of her parents.

“My mom used to say ‘I gave birth to a boy and I’ll bury a boy,’” Briggs said.

Today, Briggs said her mother buys her makeup, and is more accepting.

Transgendered people don’t just struggle with their family’s acceptance, Briggs was also discriminated against by others.

During one instance, Briggs was trying to get away from someone discriminating against her. She hit the person with her car twice to get away and was sentenced to six years in jail. While in jail, Briggs was assaulted, raped and told to get over it.

“It took all these things to happen to me … ” Briggs said. “I will be damned if for five years I wasn’t anything but a number.”

Briggs now advocates for others and said she doesn’t judge people on race, gender or sexual orientation.

“You are a human being and as a human rights activist, that’s all that matters to me,” Briggs said. “Being transgender is not who I am, it just happens to be something I’m classified as.”

After Briggs spoke, three students in the LGBT community at the University took part in a panel discussion with Briggs. The panel answered audience questions.

Freshman Jazmin Baldwin attended the event for a class and said Brigg’s story and the event really opened her eyes.

“I never really thought about trans,” Baldwin said. “I knew it was there, but I never thought about what they go through.”

Baldwin said she thinks other students should learn about transgendered people as well.

“To do what it did for me,” Baldwin said. “To have people open their eyes to the world and accept what the world really is.”

Briggs said she wanted to speak because it’s the right thing to do.

“If I can get it done the next Lily doesn’t have to worry about it,” Briggs said. “That’s why I do what I do. I’m tired of waiting for someone else to handle it.”

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