Gaining a greater sense of understanding and acceptance of others is something the Gender and Sexual Identity Discussion Group strives for.

Program Support Assistant for LGBTQ Students here at Keene State College Hunter Kirschner facilitates these weekly discussions.

Kirschner said, “Gender is made up and it’s just language and words we use to help better understand our world, but it’s kind of put upon us.”

Kirschner said gender isn’t something we sign up for, and not everyone wants to be categorized as either a man or a woman. Strictly being one or the other doesn’t even apply to some people.

Kirschner said, “That’s hard because that’s also the only language we have to talk about this aspect of our identity is gender and masculine, feminine and things of that nature.”

Kirschner also said that sex refers to biology and this idea that males have penises and females have vaginas is a construct. Kirschner said, “Just because you have a vagina doesn’t mean you’re a woman, just because you have a penis doesn’t mean you’re a man, and that’s really challenging to a lot of people because that seems to be the base of what men and women are.”

George Amaru / Art Director

George Amaru / Art Director

KSC first-year student and chemistry major John Valengavich came to this discussion group for the first time Wednesday, Feb. 10.  Valengavich said, “If you don’t know who someone is, it’s good to try and use words that are gender neutral like, ‘they’ so that you don’t exclude anything.” Those who identify with a different gender depending on the day or one’s mood would be referred to as gender fluid. Kirschner said, “Genderfluid is this idea that you’re not one fixed gender, so your gender could change. It’s not something that you are every day. Genderfluid kind of opens things up more. You’re not really feeling adherent to either masculine or feminine or the idea of gender at all possibly.”

Valengavich said, “I like talking with people about things that are more than small talk.” Valengavich said it’s just fun to hear other people’s insight.

Coordinator of the Office of Multicultural Student Support Annie Clark was present at this discussion group. Clark said, “I think it’s a great way to start understanding people who have very different experiences from your own, and learning about others around you.”

Clark continued, “A lot of times when you are part of a dominant group in a sense you can’t see what’s around you because you’re so used to functioning in that way of looking at the world that there are a lot of blind spots.”

Clark said we can definitely grow and learn from these discussions. She said, “I believe the peaceful path will lead us to healing and understanding.” The group meets on Wednesdays from 3 to 4 p.m. in the Office of Multicultural Student Support on the second floor of the Young Student Center.

Kirschner began this discussion group at the beginning of the semester on Jan. 27, and will run until April 27.

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