Dr. Slesaransky-Poe, Chacon-Flores ’24, and Fall ’26 Present Research on the Experiences of Queer and Trans Arcadia Students of Color

By Emily Horowitz | April 6, 2023
Headshots of Graciela Slesaransky-Poe, Zyah Fall '26, and Ilija Chacon-Flores '24

Arcadia University’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Mentoring hosted “Creating a Queer- and Trans-Affirming and Inclusive Culture at Arcadia” on Monday, CTLM’s fifth and final Lunch & Learn of the academic year.

The presenters included Dr. Graciela Slesaransky-Poe (she/her/ella), professor of Education and Center for Antiracist Scholarship, Advocacy, and Action (CASAA) Scholar-Advocate, Ilija Chacon-Flores ’24 (they/them), and Zyah Fall ’26 (she/her). Upon receiving a scholar advocate award focused on queer and trans students of color experiences here at Arcadia, Dr. Slesaransky-Poe invited Chacon-Flores and Fall to join her as co-researchers, contributing as well their own experiences as queer and trans students of color.

As co-researchers, Chacon-Flores and Fall have been involved in all aspects of this study, ranging from IRB proposal completion to data collection instruments and research design. They were the primary source of participant recruitment for the study. Participating students completed a Demographic and Identity questionnaire and attended two 90-minute focus groups. 

The underlying theme of their research became the title of their study: Queer Spaces Are So White! Chacon-Flores and Fall both stressed the importance of creating and maintaining campus spaces where students with shared lived experiences do not have to choose between identities to find community, but can instead be their true, authentic, full selves, with students like them.

For Fall, invisibility versus hypervisibility summed up students’ experiences. “In discussion-based spaces, I feel not that I’ve been exploited but put on a pedestal,” she said. “All of a sudden, the teacher stops being the teacher and says, ‘Zyah, tell us.’ It’s very isolating and ostracizing.” 

“It’s dehumanizing,” Fall and Chacon-Flores said in unison. Chacon-Flores shared with attendees the anguish they feel when dressing for a professional presentation. “Which person do I bring forward? Do I bring forward my authentic self or do I bring forward what everyone else perceives to be professional?”

To conclude the Lunch & Learn, Slesaransky-Poe listed five actionable steps that members of the Arcadia community can and should take to help to create a more queer- and trans-affirming and inclusive culture:

  1. Honor and respect students’/faculty/staff’s names and pronouns.
  2. Address misgendering and misnaming; acknowledge your mistake and don’t make it about yourself.
  3. Educate yourself rather than making a trans person responsible for educating you.
  4. Avoid making assumptions about someone’s gender based on appearance.
  5. Do not ask questions about people’s body parts or medical procedures.

Stressed Chacon-Flores, “We want to be seen in our whole humanity. We are more than our identities and the speculations that people make by just looking at us.”