Transgender activist speaks about Gender Identity Awareness

By Sabrina Meriano

Contributing Writer

Ryan Cassata, keynote speaker, singer and songwriter, actor, filmmaker, poet, and transgender activist  performed in the MUB on Wednesday, Nov. 18 as part of the sixth annual Gender Identity Awareness Week. The event was a collaboration between Trans UNH and MUSO.

Cassata’s hour and a half performance included a series of personal, educational stories told both in person and through videos. He touched on topics such as his coming out story and his gender confirmation procedures and he performed some songs his journey has inspired such as “Going West” which is about his transition.  He also presented his anti-bullying and LGBTQA+ suicide awareness music video “Hands of Hate” that he had made in 2012.

He is the first activist to be given the Harvey Milk Memorial award. At 13 he became the youngest keynote speaker chosen for the largest transgender conference to date. He tours high schools and colleges regularly to speak on behalf of trans visibility and acceptance.

“I think the best way to destroy ignorance is to educate. This is why I do this,” Cassata told the crowd during his lecture. “This is what makes me happy.”

And he made the audience just as happy.

“It was really great,” junior Audrey Johnson said. Johnson was “pleasantly surprised” by the mixed media that Cassata used during his performance.

“I thought it was a good way to keep people engaged,” she said.

“It was awesome,” junior Casey O’Dea, president of Trans UNH said.

“I’m glad that we finally got someone to talk about trans visibility in such an enlightening way,” he said. “It was an experience.”

Trans UNH was founded in the spring semester of 2015, making the 2015-2016 academic year its first full and official run.  O’Dea said that even though UNH has always had a transgender community, he feels that this year there is much more visibility than the years prior.

One of the most important steps is to call someone by the name and pronouns they request, according to Cassata. Not sure about which pronouns to use? Ask.

“Asking someone’s pronouns is important,” Cassata said. Being an open ear is also helpful because everyone needs another person to vent to every now and then.

Cassata will be continuing his tour for the season and plans to start another in the spring. He is also releasing another album in the undetermined future. In February UNH Alliance will be hosting its annual Drag Ball and April will be Campus Pride Month.