University Of Victoria Elects The World’s First Transgender Studies Chair

University of Victoria Professor Aaron Devor, internationally recognized sex and gender expert, was named the world’s first chair of transgender studies. His goal will be to research ways to improve the lives of transgender people.

The Huffington Post reports that his research as transgender department chair will dispel common misconceptions, stereotypes, and myths about the transgender community, while pressing for equality.

Professor Devor — transgender himself — will cooperate with other researchers, community activists, and students to cover the broadness of the transgender community.

Besides being a sociology professor, he also has the credentials of being an elected member of the elite International Academy of Sex Research and a fellow of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality.

In addition, Devor has authored two editions of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s standards of care. His guide provides health-care professionals advice on taking care of transgender people.

Devor’s remarks on his new position as chair,

“Transgender people are among the most disadvantaged in society today. There’s a huge amount of stigma, poverty is rampant, health care is not what it should be. In order to improve the circumstances of transgender people, we need to have solid research that will give us good data and good foundation for changing policies, for changing practices and for changing hearts and minds.”

Devor also noted that although transgender people have gained more exposure in the media, most people are only observing the glamorous aspects of being transgender.

“We’re seeing a lot of glamorous celebrity transgender people in the media these days, but that is not the reality for most transgender people’s lives.”

And on social media, transgender people and the community have been making strides as well. Popular YouTubers like “Gigi Gorgeous” document their journey and transition.

Realistically speaking, most transgender people will not have the privilege of being a celebrity — or even just a YouTube sensation.

In fact, about one in 200 people are transgender. Devor says that “this is a higher number than many would imagine. We’re not talking about a minuscule part of the population.”

“This is an area that needs a lot more attention.”

So much so that the Transgender founder of the Tawani Foundation, Jennifer Pritzker, has donated $1 million (USD) to Professor Devor’s cause.

Some of the areas that Devors will tackle as chair include health care, poverty, discrimination, and suicide. Suicide, in particular, is a pressing issue within the transgender community.

The Williams institute at UCLA Law reports that the prevalence of suicide among transgender people is 41 percent, which exponentially exceeds the 4.6 percent of the overall U.S. population and about double that of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual population in America.

More staggering is the transgender rate of attempted suicide among Devor’s homeland of Canada. He reports that among transgender youth whose parents are unsupportive, the attempted suicide rate is 57 percent, overshadowing the 4 percent attempted suicide rate among transgender youth with supportive parents.

“The difference between having a supportive family environment and not — it makes a huge difference in actually saving lives of young transgender people.”

Pritzker, being the financial backer of the initiative, says that the chair in transgender studies will stimulate and set the bar for other institutions to invest in transgender studies. Ultimately she would like to create a global network of transgender researchers.

The Victoria University president, Jamie Cassels, shared her sentiments, saying that the chair will help to inspire others.

How do you think professor Devor will do as chair? How effectively can he make an impact on the world for transgender people as chair?

[Image via UVic News]