Transgender awareness combats society’s preconceptions
An infant born in a United States hospital is immediately given a pink or blue beanie. Pink is for girls, blue is for boys.right?
Jessica Pettitt disagrees.
Pettitt is a social justice and diversity consultant and facilitator from Eureka, Calif. On her six-week tour around the country, Pettitt stopped in Boulder to facilitate an educational workshop entitled “Facing Trans: Inclusion, Advocacy, and Empowerment” Tuesday night at the UMC.
Sponsored by the Gay-Straight Alliance, the humor-packed dialogue focused on increasing awareness of mainstream perspectives that have marginalized “trans” (transsexual or transgender) individuals, even within the queer community.
Lacee Jauregui, a junior English, psychology and women and gender studies major, is the chair of the GSA. She said it is important to raise awareness about the trans community because it often does not have enough resources and networks designed specifically for it.
“Queer equality is something our nation is sorely lacking,” Jauregui said. “Often times, the queer community is so stratified that groups are marginalized within it.”
Pettitt said the culprit of the trans community marginalization is the current binary system in which everyone participates and frames individual perspectives.
“The binary system is how we learned to categorize the things we understand,” Pettitt said. “There is a yin and a yang, what goes up must come down. We anticipate a binary, and the meanings are dependent on each other. ‘If you are a woman, then you are not a man.’ But it is limiting, it doesn’t work.”
Pettitt explained that in a society permeated by messages of heterosexuality, the polarization of sex and gender marginalizes and oppresses individuals that do not fit the designated social roles.
Pettitt said this dualistic way of looking at the world transcends into how mainstream society views sex and gender. The two are lumped together, meaning a person with female reproductive organs is also socially expected to fulfill the roles of a female in the public sphere in terms of physical appearance, behavior, sexual identity, and other categorizations.
Similarly, there is no place in the binary system for a person biologically male to identify as a female in terms of gender.
Pettitt disconnects the homogenization of gender and sex into two separate concepts. Both impact an individual’s overall sexual identity, creating instead a triangle structure of different but interconnected labels: sex, gender, and sexual identity.
“Sex is what is in your pants,” Pettitt said. “Gender is what your pants are made of: pink velour or tweed. Sexual identity is what you do when you take off your pants…What makes it complicated is our friend oppression.”
Pettitt attributes maintaining the sex and gender structure to dominant sexist and heterosexist values.
Sophomore communication major Jake Golding, the vice chair of GSA, said he empathizes with the struggle of transgendered individuals. He explained that many people he knows on campus who identify as trans do not feel able to express their gender identity openly out of fear.
“The GLB population is more comfortable with being out and open than the trans community,” Golding said.
Jauregui said she hopes to eradicate oppressive barriers and unite the queer community.
“There are definitely lines in the GLBTQ community,” Jauregui said. “That’s what we are trying to break down here. The first place we have to break down walls is within ourselves, before the world can embrace us for who we are.”
Julie Combest, sophomore women’s studies major, said she enjoyed the discussion.
“The talk was very engaging, very funny, and very informative,” Combest said. “It gave me tools to be able to teach and inform other people.”
Combest said she did not think the CU campus climate was welcoming to trans individuals.
“It is not necessarily a hostile environment, but it is not a comfortable one,” Combest said.
Grant Scovel, a senior theater and marketing major, said he appreciated the dialogue because it introduced new concepts to him.
“It is fascinating seeing the triangle method of it,” Scovel said. “Specifically the segmentation of sex, gender and sexual identity-very cool.”
Information about the trans community can be found on Pettitt’s Web site.
The Gay-Straight Alliance meets every Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the GLBT Resource Center in Willard. All GLBTQ students and allies to those students are encouraged to attend. The alliance aims to unite the efforts of those fighting to end oppression.
“Ethnic minorities reach for racial equality, women want gender equality, the queer community seeks sexual equality,” Jauregui said. “They are all working for the same purpose. If we all just work together, we would reach that dream much faster.”
Golding supports Jauregui’s vision.
“That means building each other up, rather than tearing each other down,” he said.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Monica Stone at email@example.com.