By Mu Chapter Sisters of Delta Phi Lambda at the University at Albany
I am…who I say I am?
This question was posed by Melody Tien and Molly Naaktgeboren at Mu Chapter’s “I Am Jazz” program on Oct. 17 that looked into gender and sex by highlighting the teenage transgendered star, Jazz Jennings.
Jennings is a 14-year-old transgendered female (male to female). She was born with male characteristics, so she presents male, but her nature and personality are distantly female. This plays into the role of biology, hormones, as well as the old “Nature vs. Nurture” test. Indeed, the study is hard to conduct in a lab setting because you cannot manipulate hormones in humans, and often, resistance exists to the idea (i.e. we are above our biology).
The LGBTQ Umbrella is large and hence the term “umbrella” as a lot falls under it. The generic “umbrella” term to refer to individuals who challenge gender definitions: a broad term for those outside the male-XY/female-XX split. We decided to focus on transgendered as that is the one with the most caution around it. Transgendered is characterized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as “gender dysphoria” and, as such, is considered a mental disorder. To go through gender reassignment and transition to the gender you are inside, it is classified as a mental disorder. And with this title, it is unconsciously considered that something is wrong with who you are, and so workplaces can discriminate against you.
Cisgender describes those whose born sex aligns with their mental gender. Cisgendered individuals do not always think of their privilege. In the discussion, we asked if anyone has any anxiety when thinking which bathroom they should use – men’s or women’s? Transgendered individuals deal with this every day, including their pronouns. That is a daily reminder that they are not who they are inside. For instance, if a transgendered individual presents male (individual looks like a guy) but identifies as a female, instead of using he, his, him, the individual prefers she, her, hers. A tip: ask individuals what their preferred pronouns are. Sometimes it is them, ze and etc..
We also went over how to be an effective ally. After all, not everyone is on the LGBTQ spectrum; it is roughly about 10 percent. After the program, we made sheets that said #Iam….. and individuals filled in the blank. It was a safe environment and people opened up about themselves. Individuals saw the words demisexual, bisexual, adopted, beautiful, and each one held a precious meaning behind it. After the program, a student came up to Melody and told her that they had a cousin who was transgendered and they never thought about the importance of correct pronouns. They had simply been using the gender associated with their birth name and gender, not who they were now. They thanked Melody and said they would try to consciously stop and use the correct pronoun and watch for any microagressions they might use. It really was a touching moment, Melody said. That moment when what you know can help someone else.
So be conscious, and never assume the gender an individual presents is the gender the individual identifies as. And let me drop one last piece of knowledge about LGBTQ issues. Your sexual orientation is not tied to your gender.
If you want to learn more about Jennings, watch the following video.
Featured Image: Special to The Jade Times
Article Images: Melody Tien