Rivera directs attention to issues of transgender sexuality

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courtesy of Ignacio Rivera

“Negotiating consent is a phrase often left out of our conversations about sex,” says Ignacio Rivera in a description of a workshop they will host on campus next week. “When we think of love, romance, relationships, sex and fucking, other thoughts and frameworks come to mind.” How to Speak Your Language of Sex, Love and Play, Rivera’s workshop, will seek to uproot these frameworks and associations. Rivera will also give a lecture called All of Me, a compilation of poetry, performance and storytelling,

The events are sponsored by the Campus Life LGBTQ Center, with co-sponsorship from the Drama Department, the Campus Life ALANA Center, Native American Studies, TransMission and unFramed. Director of the LGBTQ Center and Women’s Center Judy Jarvis ’07 said, “The Campus Life LGBTQ Center puts on a perfor­mance every semester as part of our Queer and Trans Performance Series, and this fall we are lucky enough to bring Ignacio Rivera to campus. Ignacio came highly recommended by Professor Elias Krell, who helped co-found the series, as well as from my colleagues at NYU, who have brought them to perform and do workshops in the past. “

Jarvis noted that the timing of Rivera’s visit is crucial. She continued, “I’m glad we could have Ignacio come in November in particular, be­cause it’s often a month where students are very stressed about work and really need the breath­ing space and reflection space that experiencing a performance and/or workshop can provide.”

Rivera’s workshop will provide strategies to navigate consent, sex and identity. “We have to talk, discuss, negotiate and be held accountable for all of our desires–those spoken and unspo­ken,” says Rivera, on the workshop. “This of course is easier said than done in a world where love has many languages; where race, gender and class oppression abound and where many of us are recovering from trauma.”

While the workshop itself covers important content, Rivera’s presence on campus alone is equally significant. TransMission President Spencer Garcia ’18 explained, “Ignacio’s visit is essential to continuing the recognition of issues that trans people of color face. I also believe that it’s important to value and celebrate the trans people of color we bring to campus, and the work that they do.”

TransMission meets weekly and provides a space for trans and non-binary individuals to meet and support each other. The group sup­ports many trans causes both on and off-campus. “As President, my main goal is to focus on sup­porting trans people of color, especially through our programming,” explained Garcia.

They continued, “Last semester, TransMis­sion collaborated with unFramed to bring Zanele Muholi to campus to discuss her photography, which centers queer and trans South Africans.” In October, the group partnered with unFramed again to bring spoken word artist Kay Barrett to campus. “Kay’s visit to campus was part of an effort to bring issues faced by trans people of color, especially those who are disabled, to the forefront of campus consciousness,” said Garcia.

Rivera’s visit continues this effort. Their workshop and lecture will help increase aware­ness of trans issues and causes on campus in a more personal way. This kind of voice and presence isn’t regularly seen on campus. Garcia explained the significance, “Oftentimes we dis­cuss issues of race, gender, sexuality and class at Vassar, but the institution fails to bring in speak­ers or performers who have lived through these marginalized experiences. Even when we do, we forget to think beyond the entertainment value that these artists and speakers bring to campus. We have to learn to value them as people, and to translate this appreciation to trans people of color at Vassar.”

As an accomplished artist, activist, filmmak­er, lecturer and sex educator, Rivera brings a diverse resume to the cause. Their written work and short films have been featured in various magazines and film festivals. They have lectured all over the world. Moreover, they have consult­ed for multiple organizations and companies on racism, sexism, homo/transphobia and more.

“When TransMission was emailed about the LGBTQ+ Center about wanting to collaborate to bring Ignacio Rivera to campus, I know we were very excited to be able to have a part in this,” ex­plained TransMission Vice President Gates ’18. They echoed the importance of Rivera’s visit to campus. “Rivera has done talks all over the world, and we are extremely grateful for the op­portunity to experience firsthand one of Rivera’s workshops for ourselves as a trans affinity space, but also to allow others to learn about what they have to say! This is going to be an incredible ex­perience, and I hope that anyone and everyone who can is able to come to the workshop!”

Rivera’s visit contributes not only to the Queer and Trans Performance Series, but also to a cam­pus climate yearning for greater minority rep­resentation. Their workshop and performance seek to both engage and instruct on Vassar-rel­evant topics while also bringing an underrepre­sented presence to campus.

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