Stonewall Youth’s Speakers’ Bureau Peer Coordinators Sonny Nguyen and Lex (who did not give their full name) provided a presentation and workshop open to all staff and faculty on how to have an LGBTQ-inclusive campus.
Stonewall Youth’s mission statement said they are an “organization of youth, activists, and allies that empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQQIA) youth to speak for themselves, educate their communities, and support each other.”
Nguyen and Lex explained the differences between assigned sex, gender, sexual orientation, and presentation/expression. Each person at the presentation plotted points on a line graph showing where they personally feel they are on each spectrum. For example, someone might identify as very feminine, very masculine, or somewhere in between on the gender spectrum.
Assigned sex is the sex others assign to your body, most specifically at birth.
Gender is your identity, whether you identify more as a man or woman or anywhere in between.
Sexual orientation is who you’re physically attracted to.
Presentation/expression is how you dress and act. With a spectrum system, you can present yourself as more masculine, more feminine, or somewhere in between. One’s presentation does not necessarily correlate with one’s gender.
Nguyen and Lex said it’s important to know what pronouns someone likes to use. Not everyone uses “he/his/him” or “she/her/hers” pronouns. Nguyen and Lex said people shouldn’t assume that someone uses one or the other. Gender neutral pronouns include “they/them/their,” and “ze/hir/hirs.”
When introducing yourself, say your name and pronoun, and ask the person who you’re talking to their name and pronoun, said Nguyen.
Nguyen said it sounds more natural to ask everyone about their pronoun instead of just those that you are unsure of. They also said it’s important that if you make a mistake and call someone a pronoun they don’t prefer, to correct yourself. “Passing off the mistake is more disrespectful,” they said.
A guideline for talking with trans-identified people is known as “LARDA.” L stands for listen. A stands for ask. Ask if certain words are okay, or ask what words they would like you to use to reference them.
Nguyen said, “It’s also good to ask to ask. For example: ‘May I ask you something about your identity?’ would be more acceptable than just asking them before you know whether it makes them comfortable or not.”
R stands for research. Don’t rely on people’s personal stories to give you information on a particular identity. “Don’t let individuals be responsible for your learning,” said Lex.
The Diversity and Equity Center has several resources available to those who would like to learn more.
D and A stand for “Don’t Assume.” Don’t assume that a word is okay to use simply because you’ve heard it said elsewhere. “There is absolutely no correlation between your assigned sex and your gender and your sexual orientation,” Lex said.
You can call someone out in a positive way for using a disrespectful word or phrase, according to Nguyen and Lex. They suggested that people don’t make accusations about a person’s character. “Instead of calling someone a homophobe, let them know that the thing they said was homophobic. This is more specific and doesn’t allow for excuses,” Nguyen said.
Lex suggested to approach the situation with compassion. They said to help the person understand why what they said is inappropriate.
Nguyen and Lex also suggested following up with the situation. They said you can offer to check in with the person later and let them know that you are willing to help them learn to not say disrespectful things.
Their final suggestion was to recognize that another person’s actions aren’t your responsibility; it’s okay if the person isn’t willing to listen to you.
There are also ways to respond if someone calls you out on something.
Lex said, “Apologize and admit that you said what you said. Don’t make excuses.” They also said putting the fault on others hinders the learning experience that can come from the mistake.
They suggested you respond with compassion. They said that the person calling you out is trying to support you and help you recognize why the thing you said is wrong. “If you need space, ask for it,” Lex said.
Nguyen said to not be afraid to ask for help, and you can ask the person who called you out how you can change.
For staff and faculty, calling out a situation can be an important learning lesson. However, Nguyen suggested that it is wise to check on the victim and see how they want the situation to be handled as soon as possible.
At the workshop, English as a second language professor Julie Williamson, said she tells her classes that some people identify with a gender other than male or female. Usually, students would quietly snicker at this, but one time, a student said that her sibling was transgender. This time, no one laughed. Everyone was respectful.
According to Nguyen and Lex, by using these tips to stay aware of yourself and others, you help make a more inclusive community.
Director of Diversity and Equity Eileen Yoshina said she thinks SPSCC is an inclusive campus overall, but there’s always room for improvement.
Yoshina said it is hard to get faculty and staff to show up to events, but “if students take charge and let teachers know that these events are important to them, they’ll be more likely to go.”