Last Thursday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. in the A. Paul Schaap Science Center, the Hope College student organization Growing Respect, Authentic Community and Education on Sexuality held a Transgender Panel, commonly known as GRACES, which opened dialogue for students to talk about creating a community more equipped to welcome transgender individuals.
The ads for the event exclaimed “come hear from the humans behind the headlines!” with support from other campus groups such as the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Title IX and the Pre- Health Professions groups.
The panelists included Adam Tru Jonkman (’08), a Dance Graduate who transitioned after their time at Hope; Sara Van Tongeren, a counselor in private practice in Holland; and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music, Julie Sooy, who is a mother of an a-gender child. Through questions and story-sharing, the three were able to express the struggles behind their experiences and reflect on the ways in which supportive people and institutions aided them and those they care for.
GRACES is an organization that aims to create “safe places for the Hope community to discuss issues of human sexuality as well as educational programming on a variety of human sexuality issues.” The group is headed by Anna Elzinga (’18) and the event was largely created due to the efforts of Joshua Chun Wah Kam (’18).
Kelly Ocock (’19) was The Anchor’s main representative at the event and explained that the panel opened dialogue to varying opinions on how to handle and embrace the differences that arise with transgender, a-gender and non-binary individuals.
She explained that Hope has a unique opportunity to take action in creating a more encompassing environment by beginning to fund the student group GLOBE which stands for Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual Experience and has not been officially recognized as a campus club. As the on campus support group for LGBTQIA individuals, GLOBE aims to recognize the struggle that arises from students within the community that may feel isolated or underrepresented due to their sexuality and improve campus awareness and resources for these students.
Hope currently stands by the “Hope College Position Statement On Human Sexuality” issued on Jan. 28 of 2011 by Public Relations. This explains that the values of the college as an institution lie in chastity prior to marriage and marriage consisting of a man and woman.
Due to this statement, the administration has neglected to fund groups like GLOBE. However, as the dialogue changes to include LGBTQIA students, community awareness grows and more events lead to an emphasis on diversity and inclusion, the future for this statement may be subject to change. To seek further involvement, contact the GRACES or GLOBE emails.