On Nov. 9, the Gender Resource Center will present two transgender speakers: Aydian Dowling, a transgender activist and motivational speaker and Jodi Dunn, a former ISU student who also served in the U.S. army. This is the second time that Dowling, who gained national attention in 2015 for competing in the Men’s Health magazine’s “Ultimate Guy” contest, will have spoken at ISU.
In 2015, Stephanie Richardson, Assistant Director of Programming for the Gender Resource Center, said she was searching for a speaker to discuss transgender issues in light of the media storm surrounding Bruce Jenner’s transition.
“I try to do programming that’s current and relevant and educational to our students,” Richardson said, adding that a former student informed her of Aydian Dowling. Dowling presented a speech on the Pocatello campus that was also broadcast to Twin Falls and Meridian, and, according to Richardson, had a much larger audience than expected
“It was really motivational about how to get to know yourself,” Richardson said of Dowling’s initial speech, which she added was part of the reason she wanted him to come back. Dowling is also friends with Jodi Dunn, a trans male who graduated from ISU with a master’s degree in 2017 and a former serviceman.
Richardson said she wanted to bring the two in to speak together as transgenderism in the military is also a current and controversial topic.
The title of Dowling’s speech “My Journey to Authenticity,” while Dunn’s talk is titled “Trans in the U.S. Military; the Experience of a Trans Man in the U.S. Army,” and they will be presented from four to six p.m. in the Rendezvous Complex Suites A,B and C.
“It’s a good way to get students to realize that we have a diverse campus,” Richardson said. “There’s people of all different kinds on campus, and it’s good to come even if you don’t agree or know about what’s going on. We like to encourage people to come and at least become educated.”
Cassady Lord, the president of ISU’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance club, more commonly known as SAGA, added that speeches such as this are of great importance to LGBTQ+ students.
“I think it’s really important for students who are transgender to be able to go to those events,” she said. “In SAGA, we do have some transgender students. They have each other, but it’s also cool to see someone who is accomplished and be able to look up to them.”
Earlier this year, Richardson applied for and was awarded a Pride Grant to help bring in more programming. She added that the Gender Resource Center also often partners with SAGA to bring in presentations and speakers relevant to students.
“It’s just a good way to come and find out from a person who’s been in that situation and get a better understanding of a person standing in those shoes,” Richardson said.
The Gender Resources Center has previously hosted speeches from prominent members of the LGBTQ+ community, including Debbie Glenn, mother of Neon Trees leading man Tyler Glenn and the founder of “Mama Dragons,” a group of LDS mothers who work toward destigmatizing homosexuality within the religion.
Richardson said that speech was especially important to some students who have grown up in heavily religious or rural environments where coming out can pose even more challenges.
“We try to provide as much as we can through the Diversity and Gender Resource Centers,” Richardson said. “And if people on campus have an idea, they’re totally welcome to come present it. We’ll see if we can do something to bring it to fruition.”