Opinion | My first transphobic experience happened in an unexpected setting


Gianna Gravalese, sophomore news and documentary major

Guest column by Gianna Gravalese, sophomore news and documentary major

On the first day of my introduction to visual storytelling class this semester in the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, I was placed in an assigned group of three.

Our first project assignment was to pick someone interesting to interview, so I suggested my friend who also goes to Chapman and is a makeup artist. I explained that, along with her beauty talents, she has an interesting story about being transgender.

One classmate seemed uneasy and asked to choose someone else. I asked why, and he explained that he didn’t like, “the whole transgender thing.” I didn’t know what to say. I felt a sense of anger and rage coming over me, so deep down that I wanted to scream and yell at him. Instead, I quickly closed my laptop and told him that he could figure the project out on his own.

“Your ability to be accepting, open-minded, and willing to work with anyone is what will lead you to success.”

I’ve always read about situations like this on social media, but never experienced them myself. I couldn’t believe that this happened at Chapman, which is known for being a place that welcomes anyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or belief. When I first toured the university, one of the things that stood out to me was the, “I am Chapman” campaign, in which students embrace what makes them unique.

As a film school, Dodge should be filled with students who aim to work toward eliminating all types of discrimination from the film industry, because it’s a prominent issue in Hollywood that needs to be resolved. This man is the only person I’ve met in my year and a half on campus that didn’t match these qualities of a Chapman student. Most students on campus have done a great job of embracing their differences and coming together, by joining clubs or participating in movements that emphasize that it’s OK to be who you are.
In reality, he’s not the only person in the Chapman community like this. It’s not Chapman itself that creates an exclusive environment – it’s certain students who fail to realize and accept the differences that make us unique. There are more values and beliefs than just the ones we learn growing up. We aren’t obligated to change other people’s ways of thinking, but we must be willing to accept and understand them to our best ability.

In class, before my classmate made that comment, we had just finished watching a documentary called “Last Men in Aleppo,” in which filmmakers follow a rescue group in Aleppo amid the Syrian civil war. The filmmakers put their lives at risk and created an emotional, captivating, informative film. In the film industry, you may be thrown into an uncomfortable situation, but your job is to take that situation, whatever it may be, and turn it into something great.

My point here isn’t to speak badly about my classmate, because I understand that everyone has their own opinions. We all believe certain things, we were all raised differently, we’re all different – and that’s OK. A word of advice to my peer: Your ability to be accepting, open-minded and willing to work with anyone under any circumstance is what will lead you to success in the film industry. Good luck.


  • I’ve met many Chapman students who believe that transgenderism is a form of mental illness. Many of the donors believe the same thing but are too afraid to say it!

    • There’s what you and certain donors believe (archaic, disproven notions of gender essentialism, fear-mongering garbage) and then there’s science, reality, and human experience that supports the existence of trans people as not a disease but a function of the species. Your transphobia continues to have no place here, no matter how much money you bring to the table.

      • If you actually read the comment, you would find that they were stating a perceived observation of some students and donors. Their personal views on trans is never mentioned. Why make it a personal attack? You are directing it at the wrong person and not helping the cause

    • I don’t doubt that many of the donors don’t like transgender people, but I highly doubt that many of them think it is a mental illness. I’ve spoken several times to the advisor for Chapman Republicans and he does not believe that (and he thinks we should have more gender-inclusive restrooms at Chapman) so excuse me for not believing you about this. This goes double for regular students at Chapman, especially considering the social climate about learning about people and doing research/educating yourself.

      At least that’s how it is in my bubble so maybe yours is similar?

      • Firstly, why would you propose for commenters to be “stopped?”

        Secondly, there is a distinct and obvious difference between hating transgender people and disagreeing that it is a mental illness and instead a refusal to accept biological realities.

        Please stop the strawman arguments. You are deliberately misrepresenting and then demonizing reputable people.
        There are legitimate reasons to disagree with transgenderism, but to dismiss people’s legitimate concerns and critiques as transphobia is intellectually lazy.

  • It’s good to practice that one should respect opinions and lifestyles of others. While this student may have not been accommodating of the lifestyle that your friend chose, it’s not exactly his fault for thinking this way. You should understand how he came to this view, and respect his choice in feeling that way. He shouldn’t have to submit to the other approach just because thats the popular opinion. Like you said, “We aren’t obligated to change other people’s ways of thinking, but we must be willing to accept and understand them to our best ability.”

  • Sometimes people are uncomfortable because that is what they have been taught or they just haven’t had to opportunity to experience diversity. Face it, many Chapman students grew up somewhat sheltered. Perhaps taking the time to educate and offer this student the opportunity to learn more about your beautiful friend would start him on a path of acceptance and respect for everyone.

Leave a Comment