Before he took the class Transnational Sexualities at George Mason University with Associate Professor Rachel Lewis, Casey Klemmer had not heard anything about transgender people outside of Virginia.
So when Klemmer, then a sophomore from Fairfax, Virginia, learned the extent of that population, “It was amazing to me,” he recalled. “It wasn’t just a Fairfax thing. It wasn’t just a U.S. thing. It was all over the world.”
Klemmer, who is transgender and queer, carries that sensibility into his work as lead center mentor at Mason’s Women and Gender Studies Center and as a graduate student coordinator at Mason’s LGBTQ+ Resources Center.
“Community can be found anywhere,” said Klemmer, BA Integrative Studies ’21, who is pursuing a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in social justice and human rights. “You don’t need to be limited to the people in your immediate space.”
With his bachelor’s concentration in Women and Gender Studies and his master’s focused on transgender refugees and asylum seekers, Klemmer said he hopes to work overseas, and is traveling to Spain in the summer.
“I really want to go somewhere where I can get immersed in the culture and help trans people to have better places to live and have better lives,” he said.
“He’s developed into one of our strongest student leaders,” said David Corwin, associate director of Women and Gender Studies. “He’s the epitome of someone who takes what he does very seriously. He’s constantly works for ways to develop himself, and he’s a shining example of feminist values and our values at Mason.”
Klemmer was also the first students to sign up for Mason’s minor in LGBTQ Studies.
It was that program, he said, and his work in Women and Gender Studies that helped set his educational path and was personally affirming.
A paper he researched in his Transnational Sexualities class on Hijras, a community of transgender and intersex people who are considered India’s third gender, was particularly enlightening.
“It was a great experience for me to see people who have similar experiences to myself all over the world,” Klemmer said. “It was sort of a way of talking about myself in academia and having it matter.”
It also was part of the process of forming the message he delivers to LGBTQ+ students at Mason.
“For me, it was helpful to widen my view of what community could look like,” Klemmer said. “We have lots of students, first years and people who have been here for a while, who feel like they don’t have communities. And so that class changed my perspective on what community could look like. Your immediate people near you are not the limit.”