By Christina Cronin
I sat down with Jaylen Creonte-Baird, a Fitchburg native who is currently in her fourth year as a Public Health major at Worcester State University. Jaylen is the president of Worcester State’s Pride Alliance, which she defines as “a major organization on campus at Worcester State University that does events, socials, and educational opportunities for the Worcester State campus involving the LGBTQ community, providing a safe space and environment for them to flourish.”
Christina Cronin: How did you end up at Worcester State University?
Jaylen Creonte-Baird: It was either I go to Fitchburg State or Worcester State and I did not want to be close to home; I wanted to get away for a little while. So, my first two years here I was living on campus, but now I’m a commuter because it’s cheaper. But, I just wanted to get the real college experience when I came here.
Cronin: Why did you join the Pride Alliance?
Creonte-Baird: Freshman year I joined Pride. At the time, I was living as a gay male and freshman year was really tough for me because I was having trouble making friends, but Pride gave me that safe space to go to. There, I explored myself a little further and realized that I was a trans-woman, and I came out to my peers in Pride and to my family. Three and a half years later, here I am. I went through a medical transition — no surgeries, for the most part, but hormonal treatment. The first year or two were rough, but right now I’m in a happy place.
Cronin: How did you become president of the Pride Alliance?
Creonte-Baird: Last year, I was vice president, and for the two years before that I was just a member. Freshman and sophomore year I kind of came and went because I was handling personal issues. Junior year, I decided I wanted to be a student leader. Sophomore year I had gotten into the health program, and OSILD (Office of Student Involvement and Leadership Development) does a health training program for future leaders. I did it and really liked it. So I was gearing up to become a leader of this major organization here on campus. I ran for election against other members, and I got elected vice president last year. And because our previous president was outgoing this year, I took over as president.
Cronin: How has your perspective changed since becoming president?
Creonte-Baird: As president, I’m responsible for helping my members. We do a lot of events on campus, but we also make it a safe space for members of the LGBTQ community, a place where they can go with their fellow peers. They have a lot more in common with each other; they make good friends. I’ve had lasting friendships with these people since freshman year, and each year is different because you get incoming freshman as well as people that are graduating. The whole dynamic of it changes each year, but I think for the most part it stays almost the same in the sense that we all feel like we belong some place.
Cronin: Trump has taken numerous actions against the transgender community, including the military ban and the decision to prohibit the term “transgender” in official documents at the Center for Disease Control CDC. How do you view these issues?
Creonte-Baird: On a personal note, I try not to pay a lot of attention to the news. If it pops up sometimes on my phone I won’t read it. But, for the most part, because I want to be focused on my local community, it’s much better to be focused on your local community because you’re specifically engaged, which is a really good thing. Say, for instance, there was a trans bathroom bill promoted by a Massachusetts legislator. I think it was either last year or the year before that, and they turned it down, obviously. They also had a public accommodations law, which means the state legislator wanted to make sure that it was in their law that it was illegal to discriminate in any sort of public place against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. I try to stay up to date with politics in the Worcester area; for instance, a lot of transgender leaders and organizations here in the area, like the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, handle a lot of things like that. As far as national news, I think what’s going on is not good at all, but, it’s more important to stay connected with your community.
Cronin: Why is this club important right now? What issues do your members have to deal with?
Creonte-Baird: I did have a new member come up to me and say that they were looking for a place to stay because they needed help finding housing, and as president I offered them some resources. I know a place called Safe Home that caters to young individuals dealing with homelessness, especially amongst LGBTQ youth here in Worcester; and they actually are right down the street. So I recommended that place to him as a resource.
Sometimes there is, not necessarily harassment, but a general feeling of uncomfortableness with a lot of the LGBTQ students here at Worcester State, seeing that it is a predominantly heterosexual, white, cisgender university. So some of them do struggle with fitting in and dealing with professors. I’ve had a few trans students here tell me that their professors weren’t very well versed in correct pronoun usage and chosen names. But recently, I was asked to join a committee with the administration for their Campus Climate Committee, addressing gender identity here on campus. They want to make the campus more trans-inclusive. So, we’ve been talking and gathering different people in different areas of the university to come up with how we can do that.
One of the good things is recently, the file system they use, say you go to the Registrar’s office and they have your name and sex on file. They’re going to be changing the system so that we can have more options, so people can have a chosen name in the system instead of their legal name. It’s not as easy to get your legal name or gender changed in the state because you have to go through the court system for that. I did that, but it was a long process, and it may not be comfortable for a lot of people to do, or they may not have the resources, because it costs a lot of money. The administration wants to make it easily accessible for incoming trans students or students already on campus to feel included and respected with their chosen name and chosen gender. So when any administrator or faculty member here looks you up, it will represent who you are as a person, not necessarily legally but socially; I think it’s a really good thing that they’re going to do that.
We’re also looking at getting a consultant; more specifically, an LGBTQ consultant, someone who specializes and comes in to educational systems and changes them to make them more inclusive. I hope for the best that these work out, because they have tried to do this in the past but they fell through. This time, there’s a much stronger front with the administration and the president’s office supporting this.
The Pride Alliance meets every Thursday at 2:30 in Lancer Landing. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or follow them on Twitter (WSUPride).