Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce


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As part of its Guest Lecture Series, Westfield State University will host artist Jess T. Dugan and licensed social worker Vanessa Fabre for their presentation “To Survive on This Shore,” on Thursday, April 6 at 4 p.m. in Scanlon Banquet Hall. The event is a combination of photographs and interviews with transgender and gender-variant individuals who are over the age of 50.  

Jess T. Dugan’s art explores the issues of gender, sexuality, identity, and community by photographing individuals within the LGBTQ community.

Vanessa Fabbre’s work, as a social worker, focuses on whether or not people of the LGBTQ community age well and what this means when it comes to heteronormativity, heterosexism, and transphobia.

Aging transgender people tend to be overlooked in society and the two speakers have brought awareness to this issue by interviewing and photographing more than 70 people since 2013. The photographs and interviews express and explore the experiences these individuals have had throughout their lives as they deal with the challenges of aging as transgender people.

Currently, transgender rights are being challenged in Massachusetts. The government in Massachusetts signed a transgender rights law which took effect on October 1, 2016. The law gives transgender people the right to use public restrooms and locker rooms that are consistent with their gender identity, regardless of their gender assigned at birth. There have been petitions to have this law challenged and in 2018, residents will vote on whether or not to repeal the transgender rights law.

Tamara Smith, associate professor of Sociology and event organizer, said this event will help to raise awareness of the challenges, assumptions, and stereotypes related to aging people in society—a concept analyzed as part of the gerontology minor offered at Westfield State.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit

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