Conner Wenzel is a transgender activist who’s helping organize Chico’s first-ever Trans* Week. Wenzel, 43, who self-identifies as a “trans guy,” lived most of his life as a heterosexual woman and knows firsthand the challenge of coming out in a world where awareness of gender diversity is often limited to “he” or “she.” Organized around International Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31), Trans* Week was created to “educate, celebrate, honor and bring more awareness to trans[gender] people, and proactively include and make them welcome in our community.” The week-plus of events started with a proclamation by Mayor Scott Gruendl at City Council chambers on March 25 and runs through April 5. Visit www.stonewallchico.org for more information and a schedule of events.
What do think Trans* Week will bring to Chico?
It will be a wonderful chance for the public, families and professionals to learn about the trans community. The more awareness you have, the better people feel about coming out, versus having fear of rejection or violence.
What was it like for you to come out?
I came out as a lesbian six years ago when I was married to a man. It was just a life realization. Neither of us did anything wrong. A year after we separated I attended a Stonewall talk by Aydin Kennedy on transgender life. That inspired me to come to Stonewall’s transgender support groups, which I eventually began leading two and a half years ago. My friends all knew I was lesbian before my family. Butte County has been lovely to me—they are my family. They’ve watched me “go through puberty,” so to speak. My real family hardly talks to me, though they recognize my name and gender.
What’s a problem you’d like Trans* Week to address?
Well, intersexuals, who are born with parts of both male and female genitalia. In the past, doctors decided which gender the baby was, without considering their feelings. The person would be raised as that gender but might not identify with it or like it. With education, some kids are being allowed to develop to see which gender they want.
What are some of the highlights of the week?
Sunday, March 30, will be a Day of Celebration for the trans community [11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., at Chico Women’s Club], to express ourselves through spoken word, photos, art and more. We’ll have a fun trivia night April 2 at The Maltese Bar & Tap Room. The final day, Saturday, April 5 [10:30 a.m.-noon, at Catylist], is important because we’ll have two speakers from L.A. to answer parents’ questions about gender issues.