About two years ago, senior Kory Masen wrote a piece for the Chico State blog that highlighted his unique Chico Experience. As a feminist, queer, transgender man, Masen has faced a lot of interpersonal and institutional barriers while attending Chico State. Despite these barriers, he has persevered and is looking forward to a bright future.
Masen’s campus involvement so far is nothing short of noteworthy. Because of this, Masen has accomplished remarkable feats for Chico State’s transgender community (people whose gender identity does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth). These feats range from helping create gender-inclusive restrooms in the Bell Memorial Union as Associated Students executive vice president for facilities and services, to being a crucial resource for incoming students as a Summer Orientation peer advisor.
And the list goes on.
Masen recalls a particularly vivid moment during his time as a Summer Orientation peer advisor, when his personal story had a profound impact on one of the incoming freshmen.
During Summer Orientation sessions, peer advisors give brief introductions of themselves to around 500 students and parents. One student in particular approached Masen after his introduction, in which Masen came out as trans, and thanked him for his courage. The student said that Masen’s story was inspirational for their friend who was also in the audience that day, who had come out as trans only a few days before.
“Hearing me was a really good thing for them coming to Chico State, knowing that there was somebody that was also trans and that they weren’t the only one,” Masen explained. “To me, that just made all the danger and risk of being out completely worth it.”
However, Masen’s work is not limited to Chico’s grassroots activist efforts. He also spent this past summer in Washington, D.C., as a congressional intern under Representative Alan Lowenthal of California’s 47th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
There, he learned a whole new perspective from seeing activism at the federal level.
“(It was) more than just having access to all these amazing, influential people,” Masen said. “Just learning the fact that I can do activism at any point of the spectrum, and I can still be doing the type of work that I want to be doing for my communities.”
Realizing that activism was also feasible on an institutional level was an important revelation for Masen, given his past experiences.
His internship reiterated the importance of activism at all points on the spectrum: the necessity of “small-time” activism in Chico as well as the prospect of national-level activism at the capital (including everything beyond and in between).
Unfortunately, being an activist for marginalized communities has not always been easy for Masen. Being out and visible as a feminist, queer, trans man—though it does invite support and representation for those in the community—has also invited hate and violence from the wrong people.
In spite of this hardship, Masen stays true to two of his strongest forms of activism: being a vocal self-advocate and living authentically. Masen believes that living authentically can be an act of defiance, and that modeling that type of behavior can create a ripple effect for other people to do the same.
When activists and people in marginalized communities face adversity, they often turn to people in their support system. For Masen, one of his greatest sources of support is also one of his mentors: Chico State sociology faculty Nandi Crosby.
Masen describes Crosby as also being committed to this “defiant” philosophy of living out-loud and being authentic about what you believe, value, and practice.
“She’s challenged me like no other faculty member has challenged me,” he said.
“The largest impact that Nandi has had on me is her sheer existence and the fact that she is here, representing a large population that isn’t represented on campus. I think that that’s a huge responsibility that falls on her and a lot of professors of color.”
This lack of representation can make Chico a difficult place for students of particular identities, like Masen, to find professors and professionals in which they can see themselves.
Be that as it may, Masen cherishes the support he has received and the impact it has made on his life when he reflects back on his experiences at Chico State.
“Chico is a space where you can find a community, find a family,” Masen said, “the few people that will champion you and give you access to those opportunities that you don’t think you have access to.”
Support the Local Trans Community Nov. 16–20
Please join Kory Masen and the AS Gender & Sexuality Equity Center, Chico State’s Transgender Task Force, and Stonewall Alliance for a series of trans-centered events in honor of Trans Day of Remembrance (TDOR) on Nov. 20, a day set aside to honor those who have been killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.