Responding to anti-transgender legislation, the #I’llGoWithYou button campaign offers solidarity and assistance to people within the Oregon State University community who are transgender or gender non-conforming, and serves to provide security in gendered spaces.
The handmade #I’llGoWithYou buttons, located in all seven cultural centers, are available for students to wear. The buttons indicate that students wearing them are able and willing to accompany transgender or gender non-conforming students into gendered spaces, according to Student Success Peer Facilitator PJ Harris.
“The #I'llGoWithYou campaign is essentially like a buddy system for strangers,” Harris said. “If someone is walking around with the button displayed on their backpack, a person who does not feel safe in gendered spaces, such as bathrooms, locker rooms or even talking with a professor, can walk up to someone with a button and ask them to come with them.”
The campaign is working towards allowing transgender and gender-nonconforming people to feel safe in gendered spaces, according to Pride Center Leadership Liaison Malik Ensley.
“The fact that bathrooms are super gendered into men and women makes it very hard for transgender people to feel comfortable,” Ensley said. “The #I'llGoWithYou buttons are a way for people to wear something that lets people know that they could be a safe person to help them out with something.”
Along with providing transgender and gender non-conforming people with the security to go into gendered spaces, the campaign is working towards minimizing altercations and discrimination in gendered bathrooms, according to Pride Center Leadership Liaison Tara Crockett.
“Restrooms are now and have always been a huge source of insecurity and violence for trans people, particularly for non-binary folks,” Crockett said. “Trans women can often, but not always, go into women's restrooms and trans men can sometimes go into men's restrooms, but non-binary folks don’t have any restrooms where they feel they can be accepted and comfortable and affirmed in their gender identity.”
The campaign stemmed from the #I’llRideWithYou campaign in Australia, providing people in religious clothing who did not feel safe riding public transportation a sense of security. The organizers of #I’llGoWithYou applied the same concept for transgender and gender non-conforming people, and the idea to implement the campaign reached OSU early this year, according to Harris.
“I got the idea to bring this here in fall term, but I wasn't very confident about it because we still had some problems that needed to be worked out,” Harris aid. “Winter term, we gained one of our very valuable employees, Sierra Lantz. When (Lantz) came here, I brought the campaign up again, and they were on board, and they gave me the kick in the pants I needed to get it started.”
Along with the buttons, students who choose to join the campaign are given a detailed informational sheet outlining the responsibilities wearing the button entails. The creators of the OSU #I’llGoWithYou campaign made intentional changes to the national informational sheet attached with the button in order to best suit OSU campus.
One of the guidelines includes not speaking unless spoken to, which can help make #I’llGoWithYou buddies feel more comfortable, according to Harris.
“Being quiet and unnoticeable in places like restrooms has often been a survival method for transgender and gender non-conforming people,” Harris said. “Also, a lot of people just don't like to be talked to when they are in the restroom. The idea is that you only discuss what needs to be said, and you let your buddy take the lead.”
One element of the campaign stressed by the informational sheet is the #I’llGoWithYou campaign does not condone threats, harassment or assaults.
“Your button does not put you above the law,” Harris said. “The goal is not for you to stand up and fight for your buddy, the goal is to get in and get out safely without an altercation.”
The campaign also encourages participating students who are not able to accompany someone at a certain time to remove the button, according to Harris.
“If you really have to get to a midterm or you don't have the emotional capacity that day to deal with that, you take the button away,” Harris said. “That serves both to avoid people getting let down, and it also maintains integrity and reliability with the campaign.”
Even if the campaign itself is not utilized, the display of the buttons around campus will work towards dismantling trans-phobic ideas, according to Crockett.
“Just seeing that button around campus and around the community adds a lot of support and reassurance for the trans community here, just so they know that they have that resource,” Crockett said.
Along with providing transgender and gender nonconforming students a sense of security, the campaign is also aimed towards people who are uncomfortable with the campaign, according to Harris.
“We want them to see it, we want them to know what it means and feel uncomfortable, and recognize that this community is trying to change to no longer support those trans-phobic ideas,” Harris said.
Students are able to find more information about the OSU #I’llGoWithYou campaign inside the Pride Center, or the national campaign on its website.
“Right now is a really great time to get your voice out there and be heard,” Harris said. “Because the Pride Center can only reach so far, having something that walks around campus is a great way to get trans-representation out there.”