Early last month, I participated in a panel discussion on gender and sexuality with four of my fellow Torch Alliance members. The discussion was sponsored by Torch, Philosophy Club, and the Gender and Cultural Studies Minor from the College of Arts and Letters. The panel featured speakers covering a good spectrum: two gay males, one transwoman, one transman, and one asexual female.
The discussion was led by Professor Schept, who teaches Psychology of Gender. She started off by discussing different terms regarding gender, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Then the panel speakers went on to talk about themselves, how they fit or do not fit into any sort of category in the LGBTQ spectrum.
As one of the speakers, I talked about my gender identity and what I've had to deal with, regarding other people accepting me for who I am. When I was in high school, I came out as transgender and began presenting myself as male since I felt more comfortable that way. Coming from a large and very diverse high school, most people accepted my identity. There was a definite support from other students and friends. I was very open about my gender identity during high school. When I came here to Stevens, I was actually hesitant to come out to anyone because I had no idea what the mindset of the campus was, so I just let people assume what they wanted about me. Nearly everybody saw me as male, and I was happy about that, but at the same time, it was stressful having to hide who I was. That was, until I met fellow Torch member, Manny, who was extremely open about his sexuality. When I met him, I figured that it wouldn't hurt to come out again because I knew that more people needed to be aware about these issues. Then when I learned about the Torch Alliance, I was positive in knowing that there is a group of people who will be there to support me and my fellow students who fall into the LGBTQ spectrum or those who don't quite fall into any category.
The whole point of the panel was for students and faculty to get a different perspective on gender and sexuality, which at first seem either one way or the other, when in fact, the two have a huge variance within themselves. Some people don't just identify as gay or straight, male or female. There are some people who fall in a "grey area" between the two sides, and that is totally fine. It's a matter of educating people about falling "beyond the binary" and getting people to see things in a more open view.
For a first panel discussion of this kind being led by fellow Castle Pointers, I found it to be a very engaging and personal discussion for both those up front speaking and those in the audience. It is always good to be learning firsthand from the people around us and close to home. After participating in this panel, even I have began to see more openly than I did before. I hope that Stevens will continue to have more discussions like these because we should be able to openly talk about these issues, especially in a university setting.