By Tiffany McClain
When I first met Tonei Glavinic in 2008 he was a senior at Stellar Secondary High School in Anchorage. As the youth representative on the board of Identity, president of his high school GSA, an ACLU of Alaska Youth Activist Scholar, and member of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s National Advisory Council, Tonei had already made his mark on Anchorage’s LGBTQ community.
Now, four years and four Pride Foundation scholarships later, he is about to graduate from American University with a double major in Political Science and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality studies with his senior capstone project—developed as an intern for the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE)—poised to impact the lives of transgender students all over the country.
The TONI project —coined by the NCTE staff in honor of its creator—is an online resource that empowers transgender students to learn and share with other students the policies and practices that can affect their experience on college and university campuses. They will be able to find and share information about everything from existing nondiscrimination policies to gender neutral housing options, relevant courses and programs of study, and how to obtain a name change on school transcripts and IDs. The idea is that students will update information for accuracy much like Wikipedia.
Recently, Tonei took time out of his busy schedule to answer a couple of questions about his project.
How does the TONI project advance the movement for transgender equality and inclusion?
While there have been many successful efforts to address the concerns of transgender students through the implementation of non-discrimination laws and policies, we don’t typically know much about how they’re being implemented and enforced. This results in students’ experiences not actually matching up with the policies and rights that they are supposed to be guaranteed. TONI helps address this gap, providing a way to keep tabs on the real-world outcomes of these policy efforts and ensure that policies are being enforced.
Are there any lessons that you think Alaskan students can learn from your website?
Like schools anywhere, I hope the TONI project allows students in Alaska to share, explore, and discover the policies and practices that affect them. Using TONI will allow current and future trans students and staff at Alaskan schools to both have a greater understanding of the status quo, and to learn about new policy ideas at other institutions so they can continue to push for change at home.
What’s next for the TONI project?
We are currently in the process of building in a user forum and content moderation features…We’re also reaching out to more schools to increase the amount of content we have on the site, and at some point this year will be doing a big official launch with press releases and such.
As you well know, there are a lot of passionate, transgender and non-gender conforming students among our scholars. How can they help you get the TONI project off the ground?
The best thing that students can do to help support the TONI Project is to create an account and add information about their schools, and encourage their friends to do the same. The website is only as useful as the information that people put on it!