New affinity group offers trans-centered space on campus

Rosa Woolsey, News Editor

Whitman has a new space for transgender students to gather together and foster community. Olin MacIntosh, a sophomore from Brooklyn, New York recognized the lack of a trans-centered organization on campus and decided to make one of his own. 

“This group really just emerged because I wanted to create a space for transgender people to connect and heal together. I think oftentimes because of the umbrella ‘LGBTQ’ we don’t see as many trans-specific groups as we should but they are crucial because queer spaces are often exclusive or unsafe for trans individuals,” MacIntosh said in an email to The Wire

He reflected on the significance of cultivating a community, especially for trans students at Whitman. 

“I think for anybody, being with others who you relate to and share an experience with is always comforting. Given how small the trans community is this can be hard to find which makes these spaces so important. Additionally, for a multitude of reasons, it is rare we get to have our own spaces,” MacIntosh said. “Although I don’t know how many I knew there were at least a handful of other trans students at Whitman so I figured why not create the space and see if there’s demand.”

The group has met both in person and through Zoom, where MacIntosh has been joined by a few transgender students each time. MacIntosh created the club independently, but was advised on the logistics of starting the group by the previous director of the Intercultural Center, Laura Sanchez. However, Sanchez’s departure from the College at the end of 2021 has slowed things down.

“Given this club is so new I am still working on outreach, getting the message out that this space exists,” MacIntosh said. 

MacIntosh emphasized his intention for the club to focus on advocacy and education on the history of the trans community, particularly in regards to the stories and voices that have been historically underrepresented. 

“As a transgender person in NYC I was able to find spaces that were trans-centered, so when I got here and noticed that this kind of space did not exist, it motivated me to create one,” MacIntosh said. “My priority is to make sure we are fostering a safe space for all trans individuals and in that continuing to advocate and center Black trans women who have really carried our community but do not receive the level of support, acknowledgment and appreciation they deserve. With respect to this, there will be an aspect of education within the affinity group as we are often not taught about the past and present of our community.”

MacIntosh is optimistic about the longevity of the group, recognizing potential challenges in sustaining leadership moving forward. 

“My hope is that this group can exist through time and that there will be people who want to keep it running and I hope it can be a safe, fun, supportive space for us to build community. The only challenge I foresee as of now is, given that I predict we will be a small group, maintaining leadership,” MacIntosh said. “For the transgender people at this school, I hope you come join us.”

Transgender students who are interested in joining the affinity group can reach out to MacIntosh directly to be added to the group’s listserv.