E.L. Hunter, '08
It was Seattle University’s emphasis on social justice and small class sizes that drew E.L. Hunter, ’08, to the Emerald City from California.
Because of Seattle University’s small class sizes, Hunter was able to develop personal relationships with his professors, some continuing to this day. “The faculty really encouraged social justice work. It was a common thread throughout my time at Seattle University. It was something everyone took very seriously and that social justice focus strengthened my interest in it.”
During his time at Seattle U, Hunter was a member of the Triangle Club, was employed by the Lifelong AIDS Alliance as part of their MPowerment Project. As part of MPowerment Project, Hunter worked closely with the LGBTQ community to provide trainings around safe sex and wrote articles and comic strips on health and LGBTQ communities for the Seattle Gay Newspaper.
After graduating from Seattle University, Hunter went to work at the Downtown Emergency Services Center for two years before deciding to continue his education and get his masters at the nation’s largest Catholic university, DePaul University in Chicago.
While getting a masters in Women and Gender Studies, Hunter maintained his passion for social justice and volunteerism as a youth justice organizer for the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance and through involvement with the Transformative Justice Law Project. As a youth justice organizer, Hunter helped schools form Gay Straight Alliance clubs and conducted education training for faculty and staff around LGBTQ youth specific issues.
Hunter’s volunteer work with the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois is especially meaningful to him. The Transformative Justice Law Project is a small grassroots organization that provides free legal aid to low income LGBTQ people, specifically members of the trans community. Hunter has been a volunteer there for the last five years focusing his efforts on their Name Change Mobilization Project. The project assists gender nonconforming individuals and trans people changing their names legally in Illinois. Volunteers help navigate the paperwork and legal system, while providing a support network for trans people facing intolerance and trans phobia.
According to Hunter, “Most of the volunteers are also trans people. That makes a huge difference when you walk into a courtroom, a scary space, and you see people who look like you. It eases the tension and builds a sense of trust when you have people who have the same shared lived experience as you. It takes away that anxiety and stress.”
Hunter is now preparing to make a career change, incorporating social justice and care for the whole person into his professional life. For five years Hunter worked at DePaul University in Service Learning and Student Development. A year ago, Hunter decided to pursue a career as a Physicians Assistant so that he can better serve the medical needs of the LGBTQ community. “For me as a white trans person, I have privilege around race, class and education. I am interested in using those privileges to affect the needs of my community, specifically by providing primary care to trans people. Medical care is one area that many trans people face a lot of discrimination, lack of sensitivity and lack of knowledge, which can result in negative health outcomes.”
Changing careers and entering the medical field will be a lot of hard work, but the impact Hunter will have for the LGBTQ community makes all of that worth it for Hunter.
For those alumni looking to volunteer their time to help the LGBTQ community, Hunter says, “Transgender issues are a hot topic right now. If folks who are not trans want to provide their support, they can do so by joining those organizations that already exist and are doing impactful work.” Many cities have small organizations making a difference and are looking for interested volunteers who want to get involved. One local organization is the Gender Justice League.