A World in Transition: Transgender Research and Advocacy in Philadelphia
In May, New York State Medicare updated its services to include sex reassignment surgery for diagnosed cases of gender dysphoria, the medical term for individuals suffering from a discrepancy between their birth sex and mental gender. Although civil rights for the LGBT community are more permissive than they ever have been, much reform is still needed for this community to experience equality. Kate Cieplicki ‘16, a psychology and women’s studies double major, is working in Philadelphia this summer to advance support services for LGBT individuals.
Cieplicki found Dr. Robin Goldberg-Glen, a professor of human sexuality and aging at Widener University, through the HamNet database. She then visited Goldberg-Glen at the University over winter break and was introduced to the William Way LGBT Community Center.
Through the support of the Diversity & Social Justice Project, Cieplicki is currently working with adult transgender individuals at both facilities. “In learning about the progress that has been made and the long way we still have to go,” Cieplicki said, “I have become even more interested in advocating for the trans community.”
Cieplicki’s work varies from transgender research and advocacy, to informational workshops, to “traditional” intern tasks, like emailing, phone calling, and filing. “The first step to successful advocating is empathy,” she revealed, “which is why I am excited to gain technical research experience with Robin while, at the same time, hear the stories of transgender people who grew up in the Stonewall generation. With that knowledge,” she continued, “I hope to start a letter writing campaign advocating equal rights for trans prisoners.”
Through her work at William Way, Cieplicki is teaching trans adults over 50 basic computer skills and job search techniques, such as networking, resume writing, and formal interviewing. She is also helping revitalize SAGEWorks, a workshop program for trans adults that welcomes “people from professional organizations in the Philadelphia area to speak about what they look for in job applicants and what positions are available at their organization,” Cieplicki noted.
She has had the opportunity to sit in on this workshop series as well as other programming at the Center, “I feel like I benefit so much both from hearing community members’ stories and watching how discussion facilitators create a safe and productive space for sharing,” Cieplicki remarked. When asked about how to get involved with the transgender equality movement, she suggested: “Ask trans people about their experiences, ask them how they wish to identify and ask them how you can be an ally. This is a movement that needs educated allies and anyone, specifically people interested in issues of gender and sexuality, should reach out to them.”
Cieplicki still has two years at Hamilton, but is already making plans for after graduation. “I hope to be a sex therapist or relationship counselor someday,” she said, “and having a background in LGBT issues will make me a more competitive and informed graduate school applicant and, later, professional.” She would like to take a few years to work with a non-profit organization “like William Way, Action AIDS, or a domestic abuse center,” before pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology, women’s studies, social work or human sexuality.
Kate Cieplicki is a graduate of the Jamesville-DeWitt High School, NY.