Transgender Advocacy and Activism in the Midwest: A Partnership

Following up on our previous post about building relationships between academic programs and community partners, this week’s post highlights an exciting new partnership between Saint Mary’s College faculty and students and TREES, Inc., a grassroots organization that promotes inclusion of transgender individuals in small towns and rural areas.

Transgender Advocacy and Activism in the Midwest: A Partnership

by Jamie Wagman, Meghan Buell, Jordan Lolmaugh and Alex Shambery


How can Gender Studies majors learn about transgender history, rights, and activism beyond the college classroom? How can students apply their knowledge of feminist theory and methods to practical problems? What does being an ally and an activist look like? These are the questions we are asking and answering in creating a Transgender Studies internship program at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, a program we will discuss at the May 2018 Rural Women’s Studies Association conference.

Jamie Wagman, Assistant Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies and History at Saint Mary’s College; Alexandria Shambery, rising senior and political science and Gender & Women’s Studies double major at Saint Mary’s; Jordan Lolmaugh, rising junior and Gender and Women’s Studies and Psychology double major at Saint Mary’s; and Meghan Buell, founder and president of TREES Inc., a Transgender Resource, Education and Enrichment Services non-for-profit established in 2015 to combat transgender suicide and murder rates, will be presenting a panel entitled, “Sowing the Seeds of Love”: Promoting Transgender Inclusivity and Visibility in Policy and Training Programs in the Heartland. Their presentation is slated for 2:15-3:45 on Friday, May 18.


We will be discussing our new Transgender Studies internship program within the Gender & Women’s Studies major at Saint Mary’s, a one to three credit internship program that assigns texts from leading historians and scholars Susan Stryker, Leslie Feinberg, Anne Balay and Transgender Studies Quarterly journal articles and then pairs a student major to come up with a project with the help of Wagman and Buell. This fall, for example, Shambery will be examining the language, practices, and policies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (DOA) and making recommendations by creating new sample materials. “Through my research I hope to gain a better understanding of how the DOA provides a welcoming workplace for Trans people,” Shambery explains. “I believe our government should lead the way in efforts toward a loving and inclusive environment for the LGBT community. I see my research as a way to hold the DOA and the U.S. Government accountable for how they train, educate, and treat their employees.”

Lolmaugh will be working on a transgender-inclusive sexual assault prevention and education brochure, which will be used by regional non-for-profits Buell works with when she travels throughout the year to small towns to educate corporations, higher education institutions, hospitals, and non-for-profits on transgender inclusivity. Lolmaugh said she is hoping to gain more knowledge about how to be an ally to transgender people. “I’m very passionate about working with survivors of violence, and through my studies I’ve noticed a lack of research regarding intimate partner violence and transgender people. The narrative regarding IPV is very heteronormative and cis-gender based. Hopefully with this internship, I can not only provide some much needed research, but also provide TREES with information to better assist and inform people,” Lolmaugh said.

Buell and Wagman began working together and designing student service learning assignments in the fall of 2016, and three students that semester worked with Buell to design a local memorial to honor transgender people who died from fatal violence, create content about transgender-friendly children’s books, and research the policies regarding the participation of transgender student athletes in high school sports throughout the Midwest. After the completion of these projects, Buell and Wagman agreed to keep collaborating on student-designed internships. Buell values the work of Saint Mary’s students. “As a nonprofit organization working in rural communities, TREES, Inc. is glad to have the Gender and Women’s Studies program at Saint Mary’s College as a local resource from which to gain a national perspective of transgender inclusion,” she explained. “Each student we have had the opportunity to work with has shown us that communities from all over the United States are as diverse as the individuals within them.  We are glad to have such a strong working relationship with the college.”

We’re excited to share our ongoing experiences in this project at the May conference.


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