A Farewell from Taylor Michl, our Graduate Assistant

 

By: Taylor Michl

Boy am I ready to sip cold drinks in the summer sunshine. But, not before reflecting on a busy semester—and year—filled with growth and fun. I’ve been graduate assistant at UMKC Women’s Center since August and it’s bizarre to think that this is the end of the road.

At the Center, I’ve been surrounded by colleagues and visitors who deeply care about the liberation of women and others that experience gender marginalization. There’s something really special about going to work everyday knowing that the smiling faces I will see deeply care about justice in the same ways I do. This semester, I have witnessed Women’s Center staff persevere, create, educate, empower, and grow. I have learned so much from them about ecofeminism, using art to empower and heal, dismantling fatphobia, and using creativity to meet students where they’re at. I’ve also been lucky to work with a variety of students, faculty, and staff in other departments through our Women’s Center programming, which has made me feel a deeper sense of community at UMKC.

Although I don’t plan to work at a university women’s center in the long term, I know that planning events, supervising staff, and building connections here will make me a more thoughtful counselor, researcher, and faculty member in the future. So, I guess all that’s left to say is thank you. Thank you all for making my feminism more informed, nuanced, and caring. Thank you for engaging in our growing gender equity community at UMKC. To anyone reading this, thank you for continuing to show up for yourself and your community every day even though it can be painful to live in a world that is less kind to some than others.

I hope your summer is filled with loved ones, fun, and taking breaks. You deserve it!

My Thanks to All of You

By Taylor Michl

What a semester it has been! The Women’s Center hosted and co-sponsored many events in Fall 2021, set up Healing Arts corners in several locations across campus, and provided a cozy campus spot for students to host meetings, complete projects, and do self-care. I am proud of the work that we have done, and so glad that we had the opportunity to spread the message of gender equity on campus and beyond through our programs and blogs.  

I have felt so lucky to work with the amazing Women’s Center staff over the past several months. I’m not sure what miracle caused this to happen, but the staff here is filled with people who are incredibly fun, hardworking, creative, and dedicated to intersectional gender equity.  

I’ve worked many jobs in my life, in everything from food service to non-profit to marketing. Of course, every job has its benefits and drawbacks. That said, the Women’s Center has connected me to a community of smart, like-minded people who make me laugh and inspire me. Thanks to them, I am excited to come to work every day.  

Being the Graduate Assistant at UMKC Women’s Center has been special to me because we get to spend our time thinking, talking, and educating about gender equity. On top of that, though, the folks that I am lucky to call colleagues walk the walk: they check in with each other, they practice radical vulnerability, and they constantly challenge themselves to grow as intersectional feminists and human beings.  

To my wonderful coworkers, and to everyone who attended a Women’s Center event, did homework on our comfy couch, or read one of our blog posts, thank you for making this semester special. You rock. See you in 2022!  

Grandma Kay

By Taylor Michl

Before she retired, my Grandma Kay owned a travel agency. She and her late husband used to travel the world together. Her life revolved around collecting anecdotes, souvenirs, and friends from every corner of the world, and sharing the joy of travel with others.  

When Kay’s oldest grandchild graduated high school, she started a tradition. For the next several years, she would take each grandchild, individually, on a trip to the location of their dreams – almost anywhere in the world. As you can imagine, this is the most impactful gift that I have ever received.  

In 2017, Grandma Kay and I embarked on a week-long trip to Ireland. Learning together, watching the rich green hills unfold in front of us, drinking Guinness in a dark pub, and observing her futile attempts at charming a fellow tourist into going on a date with me, are memories that I will cherish forever.  

Grandma Kay is not my biological grandmother; she is the biological grandmother of my (half) sisters. However, she treated me as her own since the day I was born – so much so that it took me at least a decade to learn that we were not biologically related. When I came out, she immediately began researching queer and trans identities, initiating nuanced discussions with me about her learning. She is one of the kindest, most brilliant people I know.  

Grandma Kay is a model for what it means to be a true life-long learner, as she has a constant hunger for new experiences, new friendships, and new information. Her life is a reminder to us all to soak up every possible ounce of richness that the human experience has to offer.  

This story is part of Her Life as Art: Coming Together Through Grandmother Stories, a unique, multi-dimensional, week-long series of events celebrating the wisdom and legacy of the grandmother figures in our lives, taking place Nov. 6 – 12, 2021 at the Kansas City United Church of Christ, 205 W. 65th St. KCMO, 64113. We invite you to view the art exhibit and attend other related events. For details, please visit www.kcucc.org.

The Women’s Center Has a New Graduate Assistant

By Taylor Michl

Hello there! My name is Taylor Michl (they/them), and I am joining UMKC Women’s Center as the Graduate Assistant for the Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 semesters! I am so looking forward to working with this wonderful team.

I am a master’s student in UMKC’s Counseling program with an emphasis in Mental Health. I was recently awarded the Preparing Future Faculty fellowship, which will allow me to earn a graduate certificate in College Teaching and Career Preparation through the School of Graduate Studies. One of my greatest passions is qualitative research, specifically exploring the lived experiences and stories of transgender and gender expansive (TGE) communities. I currently lead a research team based at Webster University in St. Louis in a follow-up study exploring the study abroad experiences of TGE students. I also serve as a Research Assistant and Qualitative Interviewer for a project at MU exploring identity realization and transition across generations. Finally, I recently assisted with an experimental study exploring the impact of self-compassion on TGE body image and well-being through UMKC School of Education. Talking with folks about the joys, hardships, and complexities of gender-based marginalization, and identifying common themes among these stories, is one of the most sacred, beautiful things I get to do with my time. After graduating, I plan to pursue a PhD in Counseling Psychology in order to continue this research, become a faculty member, and see clients in private practice.

As someone who graduated with a degree in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, I was instantly drawn to the Women’s Center’s mission of advocating, educating, and providing support services for the advancement of gender equity on campus and within the community at large. One of the most powerful tools we have to fight against oppression is community. Having a place to come together, bear witness to each other’s experiences, educate one another about our similarities and differences, and commit to advocating for each other is invaluable. That powerful, transformative, community-building space I just described is the Women’s Center, and when I learned this, I knew this was where I needed to be.