Pioneer for women forges frontier for equality

By GABRIELLE MARTIN, Staff Reporter. 

It is often said that a lot can change in a single year. For transgender woman Charin Davenport, that couldn’t be more true. A year ago, Davenport appeared to most observers to be an ordinary man. On April 14, Davenport will be honored as an extraordinary woman.

Davenport, an adjunct English professor, will be recognized as a Pioneer for Women by Delta College on April 14 at the “Diversity Breakfast” ceremony. This award is given to someone who has gone above and beyond in their contributions toward promoting equality for women.

The Diversity Breakfast will not be the only time Davenport’s found herself in the spotlight since coming out as a woman about a year ago.

Davenport has had the honor of introducing a high-profile transgender actress, Laverne Cox, who visited Saginaw Valley State University earlier this year. Davenport is also the point person speaking about the local controversy over locker room usage by a transgender woman at Planet Fitness in Midland, Mich.

Davenport, who was nominated for the award by Denise Hill, English Division Chair, says she had no idea she was in the running.

“I was in total shock,” says Davenport. She says that she had just come back from a weekend at Trans 100, an event that tries to showcase work being done in the trans community and honor 100 people who are active in the community. The event took place in Chicago and Davenport says when she came into work that week, Susann Deford, administrative professional for the English Division, told her the news.

“I thought she was joking,” says Davenport. “I was speechless.”

Denise Hill explains why she chose to nominate Davenport. “Her activism is what inspired me; she has always stood up for what is right.”

Davenport’s activism in the community over the past year has included being on the Transgender Michigan Board of Directors, which has a national helpline for transgender people. Davenport says she gets at least three calls a day from Michigan to North Carolina to Alabama.

She is an advisor for Perceptions, a local Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual Transgender (LGBT) organization. In 2014, Davenport also ran for the Board of Trustees at Delta College. In addition to all of this, Davenport speaks at public forums, such as local city council meetings, for trans equality.

“She has done things that literally – in our society – put her in danger. People know who and what she is. Sometimes you have to give your address to speak at forums,” says Hill. “It takes a lot of courage and passion.”

Davenport says that being welcomed into a group of influential and respected women at Delta College is something that she had never dreamed of.

“I was welcomed into a space by others that is something I’d never ask to be included in.” With a small laugh, she continues, “I’m one of them and they said so.”

Grandpa Char

Delta College isn’t the only group of people to accept Davenport for who she is. During the past year, her father also accepted her transition – something that meant a lot to Davenport.

“I knew I was a girl from my earliest memories,” Davenport explains. “But the doctors didn’t think so and my parents didn’t either.”

Davenport recalls being eight years old, back in 1964, and sitting on the front porch with her father as he told her that she had to play baseball that summer. She says she didn’t want to play baseball because none of the other little girls did.

“I remember crying and being really upset and scared because I thought my father had lost his mind,” she says.

Davenport says that up until last year, her father had never wanted her to visit if she was going to be a she.

“He always wanted me to visit as a guy – at least I felt that way.” As a Deacon in the Episcopalian Church, her father had said that he couldn’t accept her. He just didn’t understand how Charin could think that God had made a mistake with her.

Last spring, things began to change. Her father was diagnosed with cancer and called Davenport up, wanting to see her. Davenport says she was nervous but went and spent two hours in his hospital room just talking to him.

“He said ‘It just came to me,’” says Davenport. “He said that ‘God didn’t make a mistake; He doesn’t make mistakes. He made you.’ He said as soon as he realized that, it wasn’t a question of God accepting her; it was a question of him accepting her.”

During that visit, Davenport got a photo with her dad who passed away last August. While her father may have had a change of heart, her mother and sisters still struggle with Davenport’s identity.

“I don’t think they see me,” she says. “They see Chuck. And I don’t blame them for that. I just wish they would try a little harder. But I love them.”

Davenport says that her children are very accepting. She says her son, Thomas, 34, told her “You look different but you’re still the same.” Her three grandchildren have different names for her. One calls her “Grandpa Char” and uses female pronouns and another will say “grandpa, grandma, grandpa, grandma… well, whatever. You know what I mean.”

Davenport’s two daughters Esther, 22, and Emily, 25, still call her “dad” but use female pronouns.

“They never misgender me. Ever,” says Davenport.

Going Off Script

Accepting who she was and taking the leap to express what she always felt has been a liberating experience for Davenport.

“It’s not that I’m trying to be a woman,” she says. “It’s that I quit trying to be a man.”

Davenport says that she can hardly remember anything else. Now, she says she is guided more by her wants and desires than by the expectations that were placed on her from birth. She explains how she is has been released from certain habits such as parking near the men’s department entrance at Younkers. She now parks by the women’s department entrance.

“All gender is a performance,” says Davenport. She explains that she doesn’t mean this in a bad way; it’s just that we all wear different masks in different situations in order to abide by what is expected of us.

“Before, I was almost constantly trying to remember what my lines were,” she says. “Now I don’t have to try to remember what my script is. Now I just am who I am.”

 

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Emily Davenport
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Emily Davenport

Great article! This is Char’s daughter Emily. I’m actually the young one, and Esther is the older sister at 25. Not a big deal just thought it was funny.

confused
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I am confused about the quote in the paragraph about her dad. “He said ‘It just came to me,’” says Davenport. “He said that ‘God didn’t make a mistake; He doesn’t make mistakes. He made you.’ He said as soon as he realized that, it wasn’t a question of God accepting her; it was a question of him accepting her.”

Who said this and in what context.

Also for a school with so many shortcomings I am happy to see that equality is a priority.

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