Comedian Alison Grillo discussed the challenges and reality of being a transgender woman to UCA students on March 13.
UCA’s Pride, Raising awareness, Involvement, Support, and Mentoring (PRISM) Alliance, Student Government Association and Office of Diversity joined together to bring Grillo to campus in Ida Waldran Auditorium.
Grillo worked as an educator, but turned to stand-up comedy six years ago.
“The Advocate” named Grillo one of the “Five Hottest Transgender Comics” in 2013.
She travels across the country to candidly talk to college students about gender, sexuality and the life of a transgender woman.
PRISM Alliance President sophomore Taylor Brady said, “[Grillo] has come all the way from New York City to share with us anecdotes about life and engage us in the transgender community.”
Grillo brought the audience to laughter with her comic approach to educating students about transgender women and men.
“I try to be a stand-up comedian for people who don’t like stand-up comedians,” Grillo said.
During her performance, Grillo joked with the crowd about her experiences coming out as a transgender woman, as well as challenges she has faced.
“I used to work as a waitress – before that, I was a waiter,” Grillo joked.
Throughout the performance, Grillo engaged the audience, asking them questions about their interests and what the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) community is like in Conway.
Sophomore Chloe Zedlitz said the performance was great.
“I think this opened people’s mind to a different lifestyle and the struggles associated with that lifestyle, while also showed that those who are transgendered are just like us,” she said.
Grillo emphasized the importance of reaching out to a group or community.
“In the late 70s and 80s, there was not a LGBTQ community,” Grillo said, “If you are experiencing some kind of problem, find a support group through counseling or other means.”
Grillo also added a question and answer portion to her performance, allowing the audience to ask questions about her life as a transgender individual.
Some audience members did not find Grillo as entertaining. Freshman Michael Kersten said, “I think as a person she was nice, but as a comedian, she didn’t do as well.”
When asked about her sexuality, Grillo said she likes women and has always liked women, regardless of her own gender.
“I used to think of myself as a male lesbian,” she said.
Grillo stressed the reason she came to UCA.
“I come to college campuses to meet with students,” she said. “Not because an agent set me up, because I did it on my own.”
The two things Grillo stressed the most were loving oneself and realizing what being different means.
“Being an individual in our society comes at a cost,” she said.
Zedlitz said she hopes more performers representing diversity visit UCA, such as Grillo.
“It opens people’s minds and gets them to think,” she said.