C/O Julia Ford
Transforming Mac: a week aimed at enabling trans students to network and heal.
To commemorate Trans Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20, McMaster Women and Gender Equity Network dedicated itself to organizing Transforming Mac, an annual weeklong series of events dedicated to giving trans Marauders a space just for them. Intended to provide opportunities for trans students to create community and connections on campus, there are a variety of Zoom events and ways to engage. Given that emotionally supporting gender marginalized folks by providing them with closed spaces and further resources is one of WGEN’s primary mandates, WGEN views Transforming Mac to be an event where trans folks feel normal connecting with others who share similar intersections of identity.
Running for over five years at McMaster University, Transforming Mac is more pertinent than ever in 2021, a year which proved to be one of the deadliest on record for violence and hate crimes committed against trans individuals across North America prior to December.
The events for Transforming Mac include a vigil, a community group discussion on Nov. 20 which marks Trans Day of Remembrance in Canada and closed spaces for trans folks to watch movies, make art and engage in self-care together.
Centering normalcy is greatly emphasized in Transforming Mac’s events, where existence of oneself without constant explanation and advocacy is framed to be an empowering choice in and of itself.
Julia Ford, the assistant director of WGEN, attests to the importance of WGEN maintaining its tradition of hosting Transforming Mac despite the restrictions placed on gathering capacities.
“It’s really important to provide spaces where trans people can feel safe because the broader world unfortunately does not offer trans folks that chance to exist normally,” explained Ford.
Transforming Mac is characterized by its offering of a multitude of safe and closed spaces, referring to events where only individuals of a specific identity can attend. Alongside closed spaces for only trans folks, there are also spaces specifically for racialized trans folks.
Namely, the purpose of closed spaces is such that individuals who attend these spaces do not feel the need to explain their identities. It is important to note that Transforming Mac is not a week only for education or remembrance, but a week of moving forward and acknowledgement for trans students on campus. Transforming Mac serves to help trans folks feel safer. Trans activism, while certainly crucial in its own right, is allowed to coexist with Transforming Mac’s main priority of providing trans folks with the opportunity to build community without becoming the center focus.
“We have received really positive feedback from the broader McMaster community about Transforming Mac. [In] our more educational oriented events in the past, many folks were intimidated by the proper terminology to use and our events really helped to break some of this hesitation to learn more about trans issues,” explained Ford.
WGEN attempts to ensure it does not speak over trans voices when organizing events or closed functions and welcomes collaboration with trans organizers in an effort to center trans voices with planning respectful and inclusive events.
Attendees are not required to participate in any specific way and the events are designed to allow folks to engage in such a way that is safe and comfortable for them. Encouraging organic conversations and having an actively monitored chat and texting functions for attendees who may not be able to speak freely are ways the organizers of Transforming Mac ensured comfort and safety.
“We as organizers have no set expectations for an event and it is of [the] utmost importance that attendees are able to come to the event and enjoy it on their own terms [and] not by any requirements we put in place,” explained Ford.
Transforming Mac did not measure its success by the quantity of attendees, but rather the quality of the conversations fostered over the week. Additionally, the organizers of Transforming Mac wanted to ensure students do not feel pressured to publicly engage with the week and to freely use the resources offered.
“Being situated online in accordance with COVID restrictions has its advantages and disadvantages. It is good for individuals who wish to remain anonymous and is more accessible for folks who are still not ready to identify themselves. Unfortunately, not everybody may not be able to speak freely online,” explained Ford.
Rija Khan, the WGEN resources coordinator helped organize Transforming Mac alongside the Queer and Trans Club of Color by overseeing the distribution of resources for each event. As a representative of WGEN, Khan is also trained to provide peer support for individuals who may require it.
“Alongside support resources, we provide gender affirming resources such as binders, packers and sanitary items at certain events. We also have a library I oversee and catalog,” explained Khan.
It was significant to have WGEN representatives at Transforming Mac as it encapsulated WGEN’s belief in catering its services to all genders and oppressed individuals and that is not only limited to cisgender women. The involvement of trans individuals of colour at Transforming Mac served to prevent conversations about gender, identity and the trans experience only centering around white trans folks, whose experiences often greatly differ.
Racialized queer folks must feel safe to speak about their lives without being judged or feeling pressured to revisit and reexplain their life experiences which may often be traumatic. Addressing shared experiences was a way to foster self-healing and increased self-awareness for Transforming Mac attendees.
“Growing up without queer friends, I find that Transforming Mac is to an extent educational because I was able to learn lots from the anecdotal and lived experiences of others. It allowed me to get to know myself better too,” explained Khan.
Transforming Mac has undergone an evolution since its existence. From education to remembrance to a space for community, it will continue to occupy a place at McMaster where it will keep transitioning to accommodate the changing needs for trans McMaster students.