Cara Mitrano Organizes LGBTQ Outreach, Student Activism
Wayne State University student Cara Mitrano is itching to create new opportunities for LGBTQ activism at her university, and she’s not about to sit around and wait for someone to give her the green light.
This past academic school year has seen Mitrano organizing several large-scale outreach events, both educational and charitable, involving a host of off-campus LGBTQ organizations. Mitrano said organizing such events goes beyond her duties as co-president of JIGSAW, WSU’s LGBTQ student organization, which are more focused on providing a social support network for students.
“I’ve been trying to do more activism and organize larger events that are more than the social meetings for JIGSAW members,” Mitrano told BTL. “This has been my year of big projects.”
During the 2017 fall semester, Mitrano took it upon herself to organize a charity drive for at-risk LGBTQ youth with the Ruth Ellis Center. Donations amounted to $180 in cash, more than 50 coats, as well as multiple boxes of school supplies, Mitrano said.
The Ruth Ellis Center also received more than $100 worth of makeup, items that Mitrano said aren’t typically associated with charity drives.
“Something they want but rarely get is makeup and hair products,” Mitrano told BTL. “People think of basic survival things like hats, coats and gloves, but they don’t think of the power of gender-affirming items like makeup.”
She continued: “For trans youth, makeup and such products are particularly gender-affirming and give them some of that dignity or humanity they may not have living on the street.”
Mitrano has also worked to educate the community on trans issues by organizing the LGBTQ+ Health Disparity Seminar at WSU, which brought together representatives from six organizations to address barriers LGBTQ+ patients face in healthcare.
As a third-year undergraduate majoring in biological studies, Mitrano believes the future generation of physicians must be competent enough to treat patients of varying sexual orientations and gender identities. She said events like her seminar are necessary for all physicians, and not just the ones who are prescribing hormones.
Mitrano uses the “Trans Broken Arm Syndrome” as an example of physician incompetence, which is the idea that trans patients are turned away even for the simplest conditions.
“Trans people will go to the doctor for something unrelated to their identity, like a broken arm, and the doc will say I’m not qualified to treat people like you,” Mitrano said. “But it’s a normal medical condition, and they won’t be treated because they don’t think they understand trans people.”
In addition to her work serving and educating alongside LGBTQ-affirming organizations, Mitrano is also in the early stages of creating her own group at WSU: the LGBT Student Advisory Board (SAB). Unlike JIGSAW, which is better suited for students interested in finding community, Mitrano said board members will serve as a visible voice for LGBTQ students and help shape future policy decision at WSU.
She added that starting a second group devoted entirely to activism would put less of a burden on other LGBTQ students who aren’t ready to be visible.
“A lot of people in JIGSAW aren’t out or are questioning gender identity and testing new pronouns – some people are still unsure, they won’t want to be out in the public,” Mitrano said. “They won’t want to speak to a classroom of 150 students to talk about particular issues in their community.”
One of board’s biggest priorities will involve inclusivity training for WSU staff, Mitrano said.
“What I think this group should be a part of is how inclusivity trainings are carried out – who’s being trained and why. Looking at what recommendations are given, if they are actually useful and suited to the student population, and asking if that’s what students really want.”
WSU just recently designated the SAB as an official student group, which allows the organization to start operations in the Fall 2018 semester. Mitrano is now in the recruitment stage for board members.
Membership requirements for the SAB include, but are not limited to: an ability to imagine and execute large projects; public speaking and networking abilities; understanding of university departments; and an interest and knowledge of LGBTQ issues.
To apply for a position on the WSU SAB, please contact Cara Mitrano at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 313-451-2905.
Tools of Engagement
Wayne State University
Ruth Ellis Center
Ferndale Cat Shelter
This article originally appeared in Pride Source Magazine. Between The Lines interviewed seven young LGBTQ people and allies who have grabbed ahold of their “Tools of Engagement,” and with their confidence have become role models and leaders building positive networks and influencing others.