Mitch Rayner: Transgender Advocate

Posted on December 4, 2010 by

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BULLYING    [by Gene Campbell]

For 22-year-old Saint Thomas University student, Mitch (Michelle) Rayner, bullying has been a  way of life.  For the better part, it has passed with little, or no, attention. However, an incident back on September 13 has changed things dramatically.

Now in the early stages of becoming a man, Rayner has always ‘known’. “I was in Grade two or three the first time it happened. I don’t know if they knew, or if it was just because I was different. I always had short hair.  I’ve always been different.” He said it “just happened countless times. Whenever I come to a public washroom, it is just now a question of ‘when will it happen?’ I’ve taken a lot of flack all my life.”

The latest bullying incident for the first-year STU student, has captured national media attention – even receiving a letter of support from as far away as Ireland. Rayner said he was struck in the face in a woman’s washroom on Campus. He said a female student became irate when he entered the washroom. “She asked me to leave”, and went on to explain that he was in fact, biologically a woman. “She got irate and took a swing at me, called me several names that were derogatory, and she just caught me in the lip.  So, I staggered out.”

Rayner didn’t make the bullying incident public for several weeks. “I didn’t want it to be about me, just this one student.  This is a far bigger deal than people actually realize.” When he did go public with it, “it wasn’t about my own vendetta, but rather, a matter of information. When it comes down to it all, it is all about education.  We haven’t actually got down to the social issues. We want people to  stand up, get them more involved. It’s all about education – it’s all about privacy”, and that is where the Prince Edward Island native is taking the matter – to the public, so they will become more informed on the matter of transgendered persons.

There are several things Mitch would like to see done. “First, at the very least, I would like to see at least one wheel-chair access, gender-neutral washroom in every building on Campus. It will be labelled ‘gender-neutral’, and have the sineage as to where they are in the building.” “STU seems to be really  receptive of that.”  STU has about 15 gender-neutral washrooms across Campus, though there are none in Sir James Dunn Hall, where the incident took place.

Rayner said that currently, transgender persons have no support.  “That doesn’t surprise me,” but he added, “I would like to establish a larger LGBTQ Community on Campus.” He said also, “There is a committee on campus trying to see if they would provide information and support for people on the issue of gender variance.”

He said the media attention the matter has been given is important, because “a lot of people have no idea as to what is going on. I have been contacted by other transgendered students who are giving me their support.  They are also others on campus. I haven’t met them, but I’ve received their support.” He said STU itself, wants a statement on the matter. “They want a proposal as to what I would like to see on Campus – also, testimony from others in the  community as far as being transgendered goes. I’ve been looking for other like-minded people, so I can talk.”  Bullying is a common practice, says Rayner.  “It has happened in Halifax countless times – in theatres, stores, malls, cinemas. As far as it is happening on Campus, I just think enough is enough!  It has happened on a daily basis. It is everywhere.”

Rayner said that as far as Fredericton goes, “Even though the community is big, there is still a lot of ignorance.  Fredericton has one of the largest gay populations, per capita, in the country, but there is still a problem.”  He hopes the media attention the matter has been given, will make people more aware of the problem, and the issue. “It’s all about getting community support.”

For anyone interested in contacting Michelle (Mitch) Rayner, to learn more about the matter, or to offer their support, he can be reached at rayner_mr@live.ca

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