OCCC has not had an active lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer student club on campus for at least two years.
Two students, Aubrey Meneses and Ryan Middleton, are working to change that.
“We for sure need one of these spaces like this here on campus because every—I mean almost every—other school does have a space for LGBTQ students,” said Meneses, a photography major and junior at Pathways Middle College high school on campus.
Her club SAGA, Sexuality and Gender Acceptance, will follow in the footsteps of other OCCC LGBTQ focused clubs including LIFE and the Gay-Straight Alliance.
“We noticed that there was not an LGBT club currently active,” said Middleton, a nursing major.
“There was a former one but it kind of just fell apart.
“We’re trying to focus really on trans and gender nonconforming people because we feel that we really need that representation here,” he said.
The two are currently recruiting students and faculty advisers so that SAGA can be an official OCCC club in the fall semester.
“We’re just really excited to be actually going through with this and starting this club,” Meneses said.
Both Meneses and Middleton said that they have felt like they are the only transgender people on campus.
Middleton, a transman, said that he and another trans friend went to speak to Student Services about this feeling.
“[The people at Student Services] were kind of laughing to themselves a little bit because there’s a whole bunch of trans people on campus apparently, and we just all walk around feeling like we’re the only ones here,” Middleton said.
He said that when he started at OCCC he had been taking hormone therapy for over a year.
“No one could really tell… that I was assigned female at birth,” he said. “There are a lot of people that I’ve made friends with here on campus that have no idea that I’m trans.”
Now that he is working to start SAGA, Middleton has to be more visible as a transman on campus.
“It’s kind of weird because I’m basically stealth. But, to do this, I know that I have to not be anymore so I’m kind of, like, trying to push myself that way,” Middleton said.
Meneses has had a different experience, as she identifies as a transwoman of color.
“It’s a little bit different because I’m still transitioning right now,” Meneses said.
She said that she started transitioning a little over a year ago, and being a high school student, she wants to reach out to other young transgender people.
“I’m 17, so I feel like that is important too, because youth is important in these kinds of conversations,” Meneses said.
Meneses said that SAGA could educate OCCC students, faculty and staff by raising awareness of the LGBTQ community at OCCC. She said that it is important to offer a place for LGBTQ students to be welcome at.
“Just to provide a safe space for them, for their voices to be heard and for their stories to be heard too,” she said.
Meneses said that her experience as a transwoman on campus has been tolerable.
“Kind of so far, it’s been a somewhat positive experience.” she said.
She said that she still faces issues on campus.
“It’s just like little things like I haven’t legally changed my name so that’s kind of an issue sometimes as well as like my gender marker,” Meneses said.
Gender markers can be found on legal documents that follow the gender listed on a person’s birth certificate. According to nonprofit LGBTQ advocate group Lambda Legal, transgender students wishing to change their name and gender marker on their educational records can legally do so under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Middleton said he changed his name the second week of school.
He said that for the most part, the campus is a safe place for trans students.
“I feel like if I told a professor or something that I was being harassed … they would take it seriously,” he said.
He said he looks forward to signing more students to join SAGA.
“When I just first got here I felt like, yeah, like I was the only one, and then I feel like having this space would be good for other people to kind of feel like there is someone here like them.”
For more information, or to join the club or be a club sponsor, call or text 405-437-3728.