Heard at Abington: Transgender 101

ABINGTON, Pa. — Penn State Abington closed out events related to its 2015 Common Read, "Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do," with a jarring visit by a Penn State alumna.

Students quietly listened as Sophie Kandler, who earned a bachelor of science in secondary education from Penn State in 1989 and a master of education degree in 2007, passionately shared the devastating personal impact of stereotypes during "Transgender 101: A Conversation about Life as a Transperson."

"What does this unceasing barrage of hate do to people?" Kandler asked. "Statistics show 41 percent of transgender and gender nonconforming people attempt suicide. But that number is low because they only surveyed the living."

"Do you think I would throw away my marriage and my relationship with my daughter to walk around in pantyhose? Transgender is not a choice," said Kandler. "I had to do this. I was born this way."

"Whistling Vivaldi" lays out the threats stereotypes pose and lays out a plan for reshaping American identities. About 600 students are enrolled in courses that adopted the book, but events are open to the entire campus community. A donor generously supplied books to the campus.