(Colorado Daily) BOULDER, Colo. — An insecure man in his early 30s had been lost in the discomfort of his own body since puberty.
But in 1996, a glimpse of contentment surfaced when he — dressed as Patsy Cline — and attended a transvestite ball with his wife in Durango.
“When I got home from the ball, I just couldn’t get out of those women’s clothes for about two hours. I was just so excited and keyed up. It was the most amazing feeling of my life.”
Seven years later, thanks to sex reassignment surgery, that man became Angela Palermo.
“It’s been great. It’s been the best decision of my life and I have no regrets at all,” said Palermo, who works at the University of Colorado’s Norlin Library. “I was ostensibly a heterosexual male, but not very happy and not very well-adjusted.”
CU health officials hope to spread that kind of hopeful message to the campus and Boulder communities at 11 a.m. Tuesday with a Transgender 101 workshop in Willard Hall.
The event will include a 90-minute screening of the Sundance Channel’s “TransGeneration,” an eight-episode documentary series that depicts the lives of four transgender college students in the 2004-2005 school year, including CU student Gabbie Gibson, who transitioned from male to female.
Jan Johnson, a CU psychologist and organizer of the workshop, said after that after the documentary is shown, there will be a facilitated discussion and information about resources.
“I felt like there is interest here on campus because ‘TransGeneration’ follows one of our students,” Johnson said. “You can get a glimpse at the different kind of issues Gabbie faces while being a student at CU and also being transgender.”
Steph Wilencheck, CU’s Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Resource Center director, said it is important to educate the public on transgender issues.
“I think trans folks are extremely discriminated against and marginalized in our society,” Wilencheck said.
Wilencheck said that, just like any minority on a college campus, the added pressure of being repressed can make school difficult.
“Our campus needs to become more trans-inclusive and a safer environment so more folks can come out as trans or express their gender identity in ways that match who they are,” Wilenchek said.
Palermo, the transgender CU employee, said it is important to educate people because trans individuals are part of the human population.
“We’re not scary people. We’re just human beings. We deserve equal treatment and full civil rights like every other American citizen,” Palermo said.
“There are still huge issues,” she said. “We don’t have the same rights as everyone else. The religious right talks about, ‘They want special rights.’ No, we want the rights that everybody else has. It’s not special — you guys have the special rights, we don’t have anything.”