WDI Board Member and Trans Debater Rhian Williams Wins Second Consecutive Debate Tournament at Vanderbilt.

Rhian Williams and Jenny Anton displaying their First Place trophy from Vanderbilt.

Rhian Williams and Jenny Anton displaying their First Place trophy from Vanderbilt.

BY SARAH T. PARTLOW LEFEVRE

Rhian Williams and his partner Jenny Anton, who debate for Wayne State University, recently won the Junior Varsity division at Vanderbilt.  They were the first seed after winning five preliminary debates. Williams and Anton were also recognized for their outstanding speaking as the 2nd (Anton) and 3rd (Williams) speakers in their division. This win is the Wayne AW’s second victory in a row. At the University of Kentucky, Anton took 1st speaker and Williams took 2nd speaker in the JV division.  Also at UK, they won their division, did not drop a single ballot, and were the first seed out of prelims.

According to his bio on the WDI website, “Rhian Williams is a trans guy dedicated to making debate a safe and accessible activity for all of its members . . . Williams is committed to promoting ethical and inclusive politics in and out of the debate space.”

Williams and Anton defeated Tolbert and Wheat from Louisville in the final round on a 2-1 decision.  After the debate, Rhian said of the opposition, “These debaters were the nicest, coolest people I’ve ever had the privilege of debating. The whole Louisville team is inclusive and awesome and sets an example that everyone in debate should aspire to.”

Rhian and Jenny drawing attention to the gender neutral restrooms at Vanderbilt.

Rhian and Jenny drawing attention to the gender neutral restrooms at Vanderbilt.

In addition to the competition, Vanderbilt is making real strides toward accessibility by installing permanent gender neutral restrooms.  Rhian praised Mary Bobbitt, Assistant Debate Coach at Wayne State, who was responsible for encouraging the change saying, “So Vandy was a double win- questions of accessibility were raised so they have now put in permanent gender neutral bathrooms!!!”

The WDI would like to thank Rhian and Jenny, Mary, Lousiville TW, and Vanderbilt for making debate a more welcoming and inclusive space.  It is great to see that debate success and inclusivity can coexist.  Congratulations!

Partlow Lefevre is a Member of the WDI Board of Directors.  If you have alumni news, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you!