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Former LGBTQ+ Club president emphasizes the importance of transgender representation in media

International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31 celebrates transgender people and highlights the issues they continue to face.

By Jack Kelly, Staff Writer

Bowie Starr, former Valley LGBTQ+ president, actor and writer, photographed as part of Outfest's Giving Tuesday Campaign. (Photo courtesy of Bowie Starr.)

International Transgender Day of Visibility, or TDOV, is an annual event occurring on March 31 that celebrates the accomplishments and victories of transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex people while also raising awareness of the challenges they still face. For filmmaker and former Valley College student Bowie Starr, increasing trans visibility is a year-round pursuit.

“[Creating queer-driven narratives] is so important to me, not only because I recognize the importance of media, but also how impactful it’s been on my life to see other people share their stories,” said Starr, who identifies as queer and nonbinary.

GLAAD, an LGBTQ media watchdog organization, explains in their annual film report that LGBTQ storytelling is essential for the community, and better representation has led to greater acceptance. Their overall research indicates that transgender representation in television has generally increased, while in 2019, they reported that major studio films had zero transgender characters for the third straight year.

“There is incredible opportunity for storytellers to lead change and to accelerate acceptance by sharing and uplifting the experiences of trans people, and we’d like to see film catch up to TV in this respect,” GLAAD wrote.

Starr is one of those storytellers. Their desire for greater visibility drove them to create several short films exploring gender and sexuality. They also performed in the 2021 Sundance Film Festival’s Be Scene: An LGBTQIA+ Actors Showcase (directed by Emmy-nominated actress Rain Valdez).

Currently, Starr creates virtual events and media for Trans Can Work, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that increases workplace acceptance and recruitment of transgender people. Trans Can Work is currently developing transgender workforce development materials with Valley College, bringing Starr’s journey “full circle.”

Starr first considered their queer identity at Valley’s Broadcasting Club while working on an interview series about LGBTQ athletes. In 2017, they served one semester as president for the Gay-Straight Alliance (now LGBTQ+ Club) before leaving Valley for full-time employment at OutFest, Los Angeles’ annual LGBTQ film festival.

Though their time at Valley was brief, Starr says, “[Valley], its faculty and community engagement have continued to have a rippling & lasting effect on my life as I’ve further explored my gender identity.” They still regularly talk to LGBTQ+ Club advisors Kimberly Robeson and Hasmik Arakelyan, whom Starr said are “the MOST AMAZING individuals, teachers, mentors, etc.”

LGBTQ+ Club’s mission is “to increase LGBTQ+ visibility on campus and provide students with a safe space to not only to be who they are, but to be proud and thrive.” The club is the first in the Los Angeles Community College District to create a dedicated resource page for LGBTQ students.

Due to COVID-19, the club is currently inactive and has no plans to observe TDOV but the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Trans Lounge will host a virtual mixer for transgender individuals on March 31. Students can find more information on their website. (Free account creation required.)

For cisgender allies looking to support the transgender community on TDOV, Starr recommends using the day to learn, be mindful of privilege and “actually see the people in front of you.”

“My experience transcends my body. Transgender: it transcends gender,” Starr explained. “How radical is that?”


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