Galhousie

Rhiannon Makohoniuk

The DSU exec aims to make everyone feel comfortable in their own bodies

Rhiannon Makohoniukphoto by : Cameron Edwards
written by Leah MacDonald
October 31, 2016 8:39 am

Hometown: Moncton, NB

Major:  B.A. Psychology & Gender and Women’s Studies, B.SW and currently a special undergraduate student

Proudest achievement to date: Getting academically dismissed from school, coming back and getting two degrees and frequenting the Dean’s List.

Next big thing she wants to achieve: I want to inspire others to be comfortable with themselves and in their own bodies. I want people to feel that that are worthy and enough based on themselves and who they are.

Favourite pizza flavour: BBQ Chicken Pizza!!!

From a friend: “Rhiannon does everything she can to help on campus, she is incredibly supportive, brave and courageous. She is killing it so far on one of the most diverse executives the DSU has ever had and she went to bat for the Sexual Assault Help Line, which Dalhousie so desperately needs.” -Lauren Amyotte

 As the first openly transgender member of the Dalhousie Student Union’s executive, Rhiannon Makohoniuk has set the stage for inclusiveness and acceptance at the university. A proud feminist and activist, Makohoniuk first became involved in queer, trans and feminist organizing when she joined DalOUT and began to plan and take part in LGBTQ-focused events.

“I’ve been marching to my own drum ever since I was younger,” says Makohoniuk. “I think it’s just been a lifetime of making conscious decisions to do things for myself, and to let my own happiness and comfort trump the negative feelings of others.”

She recognizes that she works towards this every day.

“I don’t want to talk about my transness as something that I hate about my body,” said Makohoniuk in an interview with The Signal last March. “I want to talk about my place in the world as someone who defies gender norms.”

In addition to her work with DalOUT and South House, Makohoniuk works with a group called Rad Pride, an organization that hosts an alternative series of non-corporate pride events in the summer.

Makohoniuk is proud of the work and activism that she has taken part in, making a point of organizing events that appeal to a diverse range of people.

“I want to plan events that are meaningful to people,” she says. “If I plan an event and it’s just something that my friends would like, that’s not doing a service to the community. One thing that I’ve really tried to work on is building events for the people who really need them.”

On feminism, Makohoniuk stands firm in her belief that liberation is not achieved until those who are the most marginalized are liberated.

“You see double standards existing for women, for racialized women, for disabled women, for queer and trans women,” she says. “We all come from different experiences and vantage points. It’s important that when you’re talking about issues of equity, to think from the perspectives of those who are most marginalized.”

In May, Makohoniuk had the opportunity to go to a conference with representatives from student unions across the country.

“There was a women’s constituency where all the women got together in a space to be free of the patriarchy,” she says. “That was a really powerful experience, to just be in this room of 100-150 women creating change.”

Makohoniuk has had an overall positive experience so far as the DSU’s Vice President Internal, describing the SUB as a supportive and comfortable place to work.

“There’s no easy way to say it, but it was a little daunting thinking about September with a lot of students coming back to campus, and having to be a very public, open voice and face on campus knowing that not everyone is cool with trans people,” she says. “But things have been going well so far, which is great.”

For those struggling with accepting and loving themselves, Makohoniuk emphasizes the importance of getting to know yourself on a deeper level.

“I sit and think about myself a lot,” she says. “What actually makes me happy? What do I want to do with my life? What would make me feel fulfilled? It is about having those hard conversations with yourself where you do a lot of soul searching and try to figure out what is right for you—what makes you comfortable, and what makes you happy.”

“You are worth it, and you are enough.”

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