Students, faculty and staff discussed gender fluidity and the difference between romantic and sexual attractions during a Diversity Dialogue in the Center for Inclusive Excellence on Wednesday, March 9.
The presentation was run by sophomore Jace Williams, who uses they/them pronouns, and Center for Inclusive Excellence Director Chon’tel Washington.
Williams used the Gender Unicorn, an infographic created by Trans Student Educational Resources, to explain the differences between gender identity, gender expression, sex assigned at birth and physical and emotional attraction.
Williams said the “difference between romantic and sexual attraction is that romantic is who you want to date, and sexual is who you want to have sex with.”
They added, “One doesn’t necessarily need to want to have sex with someone in order to date them, and vice versa.”
Gender fluidity is a subset of the non-binary gender identity, according to Williams, and refers to an identity that varies over time. A gender fluid person could identify as male, female or agender at any time.
“The thing I’m noticing about the Gender Unicorn,” said Washington, “is the idea of putting gender, gender expression and gender identity into a spectrum, which is sometimes limiting because the spectrum doesn’t always represent certain identities.”
To go along with the presentation, Williams and Washington showed a short film by actor Ruby Rose titled “Break Free.” The film was a very powerful depiction of stereotypes and expectations in society today.
Rose’s film depicts a stereotypical “beautiful woman” choosing to shed the gender construct she’s been confined to. After the film, the group discussed the dangers of only showing female-to-male transition, and especially how dangerous it is to show only the stereotypes of each gender.
To many audience members, it seemed very binary; however, it was trying to show the person’s fluidity. One audience member said she had seen the film, and “it was still just as powerful as when I’d seen it before.”
Williams said the film “makes it seem like one needs to be masculine to be male or feminine to be female, but that it’s not really how gender works.”
Guest presenter Marie Caradona, the youth program coordinator from outer MetroWest, told the audience they should rethink what being transgender means, and a person does not need to get surgery in order to fit into the gender construct.
She said some of the boys she works with in the youth program will confide in her they would like to wear nail polish. She said she herself does not wear polish, and asked the group why nail polish has to be considered feminine.
“It has a very binary definition, and yet nowhere does it say that only women can wear nail polish,” said Caradona.
Williams said they felt the discussion was necessary to help people who fit into the binary to understand the lives of those who live outside of it.
Williams added, “The goal of having a Diversity Dialogue centered on gender fluidity was to bring light to the fact that some people, like myself, don’t fit into the binary that most others live by.”