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Central Coast News

Transgender Day of Visibility aims to build inclusion and awareness

Courtesy of SBTAN
Board members of the Santa Barbara Trangender Advocacy Network

Phillippa Bisou is the board president of the Santa Barbara Transgender Advocacy Network, or SBTAN. Friday on the UC Santa Barbara campus, SBTAN is hosting a Transgender Day of Visibility celebration. 

KCBX News spoke with Bisou via phone this week to find out more. We started with the basics, like the term itself. The word transgender is an adjective, not a verb, so you don’t add the suffix “ed” on the end like you would with a verb. People are transgender, not transgendered.

A key part of SBTAN’s mission is providing education and training for individuals and organizations like schools, hospitals and government agencies on best practices.

MART: Ms. Bisou, when you do these trainings, what are your main points?

BISOU: We start out with what is transgender, and what is non-binary or gender conformity? It’s basically the concept that gender is a binary paradigm. And people have a hard time grasping that, so to make it easier, we start out, well, if someone identifies as transgender, you ask the first, the very first thing...what is your pronouns? If you’re not sure. Now, what is your pronouns is an entry into social engagement, in the professional and even the medical world, it’s very important to ask people what their pronouns are. My pronouns are she, hers and hers. That’s how I identify as a transgender person. There are trans men, who identify as he. There’s also non-binary and others in the spectrum who identify as they and their. So, starting with pronouns and training and offering for people to practice - and we’re going to fail, I fail sometimes too - that’s the first start. Once you’ve established that people prefer a pronoun, you’ve created a connection with them. You’ve created a respectful notion with them, and then it’s easier to be in dialog with other issues.

MART: What do you feel are the challenges for transgender people on the Central Coast...what do you find in your daily life?

BISOU: Well, for me in Santa Barbara, I find my daily life fairly comfortable, I don’t feel like I have a huge issue of safety, but it is always on my mind. I will say for the adult transgender community, it’s quite hidden, in the Santa Barbara area, and we have a goal of making that more available for safety, and empowering people in employment and social interaction.

MART: Is it a different situation for the generation coming of age now?

BISOU: I will say what’s thriving right now is the transgender youth community, it’s exploded on the Central Coast. For Santa Barbara, only two and a half years ago, SB transgender and SB trans youth organization started out of one family with a trans-identified child. And that family eventually formed some support groups and then they formed the group here and then a board...and now we have over 40 families of trans identified youth and their parents. So this is a thriving organization that is honoring the trans youth and helping them identify, and in the meantime we’re training people in the community how to be inclusive. We actually go out and do trainings at schools and hospitals and fire departments on these things, so we are a proactive organization.

MART: What will people find Friday evening at the Transgender Day of Visibility celebration?

BISOU: We’ll be having performers, speakers, art, silent auction...a really great time. We’ll be raising a little money but it’s really about raising awareness.

The Transgender Day of Visibility event happens on March 24 from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Multicultural Center on the UCSB campus. It is open to the general public; find out more at