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Brandeis GSC to present at ‘First Event’

From Jan. 25 through Jan. 29 at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, the Trans Community of New England (TCNE) is hosting its annual First Event. First Event is one of the “longest running conferences in the U.S. for transgender and gender expansive people and those who love and support them” and serves the Greater Boston LGBT community with information, resources and affirming support. TCNE has been supporting and uplifting the transgender community in Massachusetts since the 1970s, as stated on their Instagram page, but this year marks the first year there will be a young adult-focused track at the conference sponsored by the Brandeis University Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC).  

First Event hosts a variety of speakers who present on topics from transgender healthcare, relationships, arts and culture, spirituality, sexual health, legal rights of LGBT individuals, recovery, beauty and much more. This year’s keynote speaker is writer and artist Alok who is known for challenging the gender binary in fashion, authoring numerous books on their queer identity and is a powerful voice on the topics of trauma and belonging, according to the First Event website. Another speaker of note who will be participating in the conference is content creator Samantha Lux who is known online for challenging anti-transgender rhetoric and amassing hundreds of thousands of subscribers to her YouTube channel. 

The Young Adult 18+ track being presented this year at First Event in partnership with the Brandeis GSC specifically is focusing on topics that LGBT young adults could learn from and about. The Brandeis GSC will be hosting discussions and presenting on Brown queerness in their “Re-envisioning Brown Queerness” program. Brandeis students Brandie Garcia ’25, Liz Sandoval ’25 and Annitah Nakandi ’24 will be hosting the presentation to “highlight and and re-evaluate the role in which Brown queerness functions in its contributions to queer culture” with “a focus on how to ensure these queer cultural fusions continue to flourish as time goes by,” reads the event description. Another event coordinated by the GSC Pride Reps is “Race, Place, Gender, and Role Models Throughout History,” presented by Madison Williams-Casey ’25, Sam Brower ’25, Tasha Epstein ’25 and Tanner Eustace ’24. This presentation will “highlight BIPOC and transgender role models within the queer community and provide an overview of queer history locally and within the wider Boston area.” The two other programs being put on by the Brandeis GSC are titled “Is the Sex Positivity Movement Positive for All?” and “Transition-ING as an Active Verb”. The presentation on the sex positivity movement will discuss the topics of stigma in sex, body types and the misrepresentation of what is considered normal in sex and sexuality. Students Esha Rakesh ’25, Keren Bobilev ’24 and Kristianna Lapierre ’24 are facilitating this presentation and discussion. Finally, the presentation on transitioning is focused on how the process of transitioning for young people can “feel like an endless stream of new discoveries, both good and bad,” and what it means to actively be transitioning. Bintou Baysmore ’25, Viridia Weiss ’25 and Emily Braun ’24 are the Brandeis students who will be presenting on “Transition-ING.” 

The Brandeis GSC is also bringing a presentation on how to craft a peer mentorship program for young people on gender and sexuality which is being put on by long-term Pride Reps Alexander Wicken ’23 and Charlotte Li ’24, the GSC’s new Program Administrator Anthony Del Real and GSC Director Julián Cancino. While slightly different in programming, this presentation will aalso focus on how to facilitate an affirming LGBT community for young people and college students specifically. GSC Department Coordinator Megan Burns is also helping mentor student leaders behind the scenes for the upcoming event. 

Alongside current Brandeis students and staff participating in the event, Brandeis alumnus Ben Greene ’20 is presenting a talk on the weight of being a designated educator. The presentation’s description explains that “even for those of us who have made this educator role into our careers,”—as Greene has made a career for himself in public speaking on transgender issues—“there is a strong weight that comes along with being an educator, and it can be challenging to figure out how to unpack that weight and find healing and peace under that pressure.”

Director of the Brandeis GSC, Julián Cancino, explained to The Brandeis Hoot that “TCNE is one of the first organizations in the world with the mission to connect transgender people and those who love us with community and resources to help us live authentic and full lives.” Because of this uplifting history and more, Cancino and the entire GSC staff is “proud of [their] students for taking the lead and creating such a wonderful opportunity to learn for youth in the Greater Boston area.” 

Cancino explained to The Hoot that the new Young Adult track is made possible by the generous support from the Vic and Bobbi Samuels ’63 Center for Community Partnerships and Civic Transformation (COMPACT). COMPACT is used at Brandeis University to aid community partners of the university.  

Brandeis Pride Reps will be presenting at First Event throughout the day on Jan. 28. More information on specific locations and times of programming can be found on the TCNE website.

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