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Spectrum ‘Transforms the Night’ with joyful protest

<p>The artwork was projected onto Laws Hall, where the lecture was taking place.</p>

The artwork was projected onto Laws Hall, where the lecture was taking place.

On Thursday, Nov. 2, Miami University’s Students for Life brought Chloe Cole, an activist and detransitioner who opposes gender-affirming care for minors, to speak in support of banning such care.

In response, Spectrum, an LGBTQ+ student organization at Miami, held an event called “Transform the Night,” a protest celebrating transgender joy, which took place in Shriver Center. 

Advertisements for the Students for Life event, titled “What Trans Activists Don’t Tell You,” state Cole was “pressured by her doctors” and that the procedure “worsened her mental health,” so she began detransitioning. She now advocates to “protect minors from allowing them to undergo the life-altering operations that robbed her of her childhood.”

Less than 1% of patients regret having gender-affirming surgery. Survey data from the National Institute of Health shows that respondents who detransitioned cite a number of reasons for doing so: 82.5% reported at least one external factor, such as “pressure from family members” and “trouble getting a job,” while 15.9% reported one or more internal factors, such as “fluctuations in identity or desire.”

Beyond hosting its own event, Spectrum also projected LGBTQ+ artwork onto the side of Laws Hall, and one student left fact sheets containing sourced information about gender transition inside.

River Kirby, a junior art and art education major and president of Spectrum, said the goal of the event was to provide a safe space that celebrated transgender people.

“We wanted a complete opposite kind of event just focused on joy and support,” Kirby said. “We wanted to make sure anyone could come to support and also come and be supported.”

Kirby said that although there’s nothing wrong with detransitioning, they believe Cole is spreading misinformation about the topic and “weaponizing her experiences to harm other people.”

Spectrum’s form of protest aimed to communicate a peaceful message by providing a safe space with free food, art and crafts, informational resources and “Love and Support for all our trans folks on campus,” a flier advertising the event read.

“Everyone’s getting worn down by constantly having to fight for the right to just live and exist,” Kirby said. “It’s fair to be upset and angry. But that’s why we wanted to make it more about like, ‘We’re here to support you. You’re not alone.’”

Meanwhile in Laws Hall, Sam Dearie, president of Students for Life, set up for his organization’s event. He said he wanted to bring Cole onto campus when he first heard her story, and hopes students and community members who attended the event will take what they learned to the ballot next week. 

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Issue 1, which Ohioans will vote on Tuesday, Nov. 7, permits minors to obtain gender-affirming care without the consent of their parents. Dearie said he thinks parents have a right to know what their children are doing.

Dearie said he thinks transitioning is being used to avoid a larger mental health discussion.

“There is a problem with mental health, with kids feeling lost in their bodies, feeling out of place,” Dearie said. “That’s not what I want to do with this event, but this [medical transitioning] is not the solution.”

Dearie said young people experiencing gender dysphoria can “always reach out to Students for Life or to the Newman Center on campus, and we can help guide them. We’ll be there to help and to support them.”

Kenna Neitch, visiting assistant professor of women, gender and sexuality studies, attended “Transform the Night” to support the LGBTQ+ students at Miami. She said it’s important to embrace the positivity within the queer community.

“There’s so much that is important to help about that is really heavy,” Neitch said. “But holding space for what helps us have joy and what helps us continue and thrive was just as important.”

Venus Harvey, a junior political science and women, gender and sexuality studies major and a senator on Miami’s Associated Student Government (ASG), attended Cole’s event. 

Harvey said she attended the event because, as a trans person herself, she was interested in hearing Cole’s perspective. Harvey also said it’s important that student leaders like her be open to hearing other viewpoints.

“No matter how much I disagree with somebody, they should be allowed to speak and have their opinion and have their experience,” Harvey said. “It’s important for me to hear perspectives of other people, even those I fundamentally disagree with.”

However, she left after 20 minutes because she said she found the talk to be regurgitating and harmful to the transgender community.

“It was nothing really special,” Harvey said. “Even though [Cole] is trying and supporting efforts to hurt people like me, I realize I don’t need to let it affect me, and so I’m not going to.”