FORUM MARCH 28, 2017 | VOLUME 2, ISSUE 5
Issue on Gender and Identity
YOUR VOICE. YOUR CONCERNS. YOUR CONTRIBUTION.
Inside Table of Contents 2
Cover Story:⠀Gender Is a Construct, but It Can Feel Like Home Article:⠀An Interview with Dr. Misha Klein
Article:⠀Science Speaks Poem:⠀The First
Art:⠀Hyper-Masculine/-Feminine Article:⠀Interview With a Professor: Dr. Meta G. Carstarphen
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Article:⠀Once Man, Now Irrelevant Art:⠀Laverne Cox Article:⠀Gender Identity & Gender Expression: Professor's Perspective with Dr. Worthen Poem:⠀Fireproof Sunflower Art:⠀Unto the Pure Article:⠀Interview with Dr. Susan Stryker
Art:⠀Gender-Neutral Restrooms at OU
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Our Team Editors-in-Chief
Lucy Mahaffey Eddy Mee Managing Editors Alexandra Goodman Moriah Hayes Student Section Editors Kelsey Morris Nayifa Nihad Alumni Section Editors Ashley Jeffalone Olan Field Professors Section Miranda Koutahi Editor Arts Section Editors Danielle Wierenga Shulie Son Cassie Watson
Director of Media Director of Marketing Advisory Board
Amanda Awad Erin Tabberer Rachel Whitfield Dr. Brian Johnson Dr. Joy Pendley Dr. Meg Sibbett Professor Mel Odom Professor Mary Anna Evans Dr. Linda Kelly
Mission Statement: To serve as OU’s central sounding board, bringing together different voices and disciplines to inform, inspire, and encourage interaction on campus.
Disclaimer: FORUM is an independent student organization, and the views and opinions expressed in it are the personal views of the contributors and FORUM Team and do not represent views of the University of Oklahoma. Quotes and contributions have been edited for grammar, typos, and length.
Upcoming Events Audrie and Daisy Documentary Screening When: Tuesday, March 28th, 7-10pm Where: Community Room of the Helmerich Collaborative Learning Center in the Bizzell Memorial Library, LL118 Audrie & Daisy "follows the stories of two high schools girls after they experience sexual assault and examines the larger effects of rape culture on their community." This event will be hosted by the Gender + Equality Center. There will be a discussion-based panel following the documentary with Kathy Fahl from OU Advocates, Courtney Foster from the Women's Resource Center, and Samantha Marchand from the OU Sexual Misconduct Office.
#MyStoryOUTLoud This is a campaign for LGBTQ+ students of color to share their experiences in education. As intersectional students who have to navigate race, gender, identity, and orientation, sometimes our needs get segmented. If you would like to contribute a quote of your own, illustrating your experiences with intersectionality, complete the OrgSync form (linked at ouforum.com)
Swipe to Share
When: Swipe to Share gives students the opportunity to donate extra meal points to the OU Food Pantry, and benefit a local shelter. Where: Xcetera (at the bottom of Walker Tower) 2
Cover Story: Gender Is a Construct, but It Can Feel Like Home by Emily "Eddy" Mee and Kelsey Morris
We at FORUM set some important goals for this issue: to provide a space for non-binary, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, agender, genderfluid, intersex, femme, two-spirit, and other individuals who are marginalized due to their genders to share their stories and perspectives. Our desire was to embrace marginalized gender identities and to facilitate the breaking down and deconstruction of binary gender roles and patriarchal notions of gender and sex. When critiquing various perspectives on trans* identity, we found social constructionist perspective, which views gender as a social construct, a good place to start. While this theory is important in its affirmation that
traditional gender roles are baseless and damaging, it is sometimes used to dismiss and/or invalidate the lived experiences of trans individuals. We must acknowledge that factors such as social conditioning have made gender feel like home for many, and that a person’s gender identity can indeed differ from the roles they were socialized in. Moreover, gender expression and identity are influential to the mental and physical health of some. Transphobia and the invalidation of trans identity are severely detrimental to the physical and mental health of trans individuals. 3
This issue is so important when considering the political and social rhetoric surrounding the trans community. Trans people in the United States are at a critically dangerous moment of unprecedented visibility, and their bodies are considered publicly available for evaluation and critique (something about bathroom bills and crazy white cis people who bring guns into target bathrooms). Moreover, trans women of color are subjected to vastly higher rates of hate violence homicides, police violence, and sexual violence. This issue also comes as a reminder of the violent reality that not all of us will “survive these next four years,” an empty, comforting statement that so many of us have undoubtedly heard from our peers. Not every queer person survived the Reagan years, and many more will not live to see the end of the Trump era. Such sentiments come from a place of immense privilege. Seven transgender women of color have been murdered in 2017 alone. We must do better. Cisgender people must do better. *We use the word trans in some contexts (as opposed to transgender) to be inclusive of the wide variety of identities within the transgender umbrella. Emily Mee and Kelsey Morris Editor-in-Chief and Student Section Editor 4
An Interview with Dr. Misha Klein by Miranda Koutahi Dr. Misha Klein is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma, and an Affiliate Professor in Women's and Gender Studies. For the 2016-17 academic year, she is a faculty-in-residence at OU's Study Center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She teaches Cross-Cultural Study of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality (ANTH 4843) every fall. What is the difference between sex, gender, and sexuality? I teach an entire course on this, so this is oversimplified, but generally speaking: sex refers to biological differences (usually female and male); gender refers to culturally learned differences that may or may not correspond to biological categories (i.e., masculine, feminine); and sexuality refers to expressions and experiences of attraction and desire. Although we frequently collapse these together and assume they are naturally connected, they are actually distinct phenomena. Although they may be connected, the way in which they are understood to relate to one another varies across cultures. We also tend to assume that the categories are rigid and that there are only two options in each category, rather than a continuum. Part of this is because our language organizes these as binaries (female/male, feminine/masculine, homo/hetero, etc.), so it becomes difficult to think and talk in other terms. When we look cross-culturally, it is a little easier to see all of this, and it helps us to disentangle these assumptions. How do we define identity? How can identity change or alter during college? “Identity” means different things in different scholarly disciplines (i.e., mathematics, psychology). Within anthropology, the concept of identity usually refers to our sense of belonging to a social group which contributes meaningfully to our sense of self. This can include many levels of experience, depending on the context: cultural identity, ethnic identity, sexual identity, regional identity, national identity, etc. In mainstream US society, the assumption is that identity is fixed, something we are either born with or acquire at a very young age, and it is given an almost biological weight, as if it were encoded in our genetics. However, our sense of self and our place in the world changes over the course of our lifetimes.
Therefore, our expressions of our identities (in the plural), also change. Although this can happen at any point in one’s life, it is common in college for one’s sense of self to change because it is a time of great learning, a time when students break from their past social world. As students meet new people and encounter new ideas, their worldview is altered, along with their place in it. How do members of the OU community with different nationalities, religious beliefs, and cultural backgrounds approach gender? How do they approach gender identity? There is no single answer to this question. Gender is made up of symbols, roles and behaviors that get expressed in different combinations (what I like to call “constellations”) depending on background and context. Some cultural groups have very rigid and limited expectations of gender expression, while others are much more plural or fluid in their understandings of gender. When people encounter others who are different from themselves, if they are not hostile (and even sometimes if they are), they inevitably learn something from the people they meet. The OU community is legitimately multicultural, with members from all over the world, with many different beliefs, and from a wide array of cultural backgrounds. All of us are transformed by our connections to people who are different from ourselves, and this applies to students from other countries as much as to students who have never left the state. By “transformed” I mean opening up of our minds to other ways of seeing and being in the world. Why is it important to have classes on gender and identity? Gender is one of those social experiences that many people take for granted. Gender is not some detail that we add on, but a set of social phenomena that infuses nearly every aspect of our lives. Taking classes about gender and identity helps students develop critical thinking, and often gives them the analytic skills that benefit them in their daily lives, and life after college. More than any other class, I hear back from students who have taken my gender class, sometimes years later, because they read or saw or experienced something that reminded them of the class. What do you think OU faculty members can do to support or assist students struggling with gender or gender identity issues? I think it is important to remember that as faculty we are not therapists. Our role is not to counsel, though it is important to listen when students need to talk, and if they need help 6
then to direct them to the appropriate resources. It is also important not to pry, as students are entitled to their privacy, and may choose to confide in some faculty members but not others. Let the students take the lead in these conversations. I strongly encourage faculty to take the Faculty Ally training, coordinated through the Gender + Equality Center (email@example.com, 405-325-4929). Taking the training does not mean that one automatically becomes an LGBTQ+ Ally; it is an opportunity to learn more about the issues our students may be dealing with, what kind of resources are available for students (and others), and strategies for creating an inclusive classroom and curriculum. Seemingly small things, like being attentive to the students’ pronoun preferences and use of social (rather than legal) names, are important to supporting students who are transitioning or have already transitioned, so that students are not outed in class, but can choose when, where, and whether to share personal information. What resources on campus would you recommend for students who are seeking more information about gender and gender identity? The Gender + Equality Center in the OMU (room 247, www.ou.edu/gec, (405) 325-4929) is a clearinghouse for information and resources. Students who are struggling, feeling confused, or need support while they work through issues, including gender and gender identity, can find support at the University Counseling Center Goddard Health Center, Second Floor, (link here) (405) 325-2911, and at the OU Counseling Psychology Clinic, 3200 Marshall Ave., (405) 325-2914. How could OU improve on this aspect? While LGBTQ+ students have seen improvements in their experiences in recent years because of initiatives like the Ally program, there is no equivalent program or set of resources for LGBTQ+ faculty, which affects hiring, retention, productivity, and wellbeing. Additionally, we need more gender-neutral bathrooms (not just a commitment to include them in new buildings) so that transgender members of OU’s community can pee in peace and don’t have to plan their schedules around when they will have access to a safe restroom. In terms of gender equity, OU could improve in hiring and promoting more women to positions of leadership, especially in upper administration. Additionally, there needs to be greater effort to hire female faculty. Representation in faculty and leadership is important for students to see the campus and their chosen field as welcoming and encouraging. Another aspect in which OU could improve in its recognition and support of gender diversity includes deepening our commitment to students with jobs and families to support, which 7
means we need clearer policies related to taking leave to care for sick family members, birth, adoption, and care for infants and young children. We also need more (and better advertised) breastfeeding rooms dispersed across campus. At present, there is one “lactation” room, in Carnegie Hall, Room 306. OU only recently adopted a “family leave” policy for faculty, which is already out of date in relation to what is happening across the country and in the developed world. This is critical for gender equity and for supporting a healthy work/life balance. Of course, I cannot end without mentioning the continued problems of gender-based violence. We need both a more robust educational program and a greater commitment from the administration to address in substantive ways the gender-based violence that is endemic in our society at large and in some of our campus institutions. Do you have any additional anecdotes, information, or advice to share? We can all contribute to creating a safer, more inclusive campus, even those who do not feel comfortable with these issues. You do not need to understand other people’s experiences to support their rights to be safe and treated fairly. If we inform ourselves, we can help protect the most vulnerable members of our community and create an environment that supports everyone.
Science Speaks by Kayla Storrs
“It’s a boy!” Blue cake is served, blue confetti bursts from balloons and a sea of gifts filled with blue onesies, socks, and tiny baby hats begin to pour in. A nursery is painted blue and a crib is complemented with stuffed tigers and bears. It’s a boy. Before the child has a chance to identify as a person, parents have decided that the child will live their life as a male. Hence the “Gender Reveal Party” (I roll my eyes every time I hear that phrase). But let’s break this down a bit, from a scientific standpoint. Ready? Okay, let’s go! Sex and gender are two totally different things. Sex is determined by one’s genitalia. Plain and simple. Gender, on the other hand, is determined by how one identifies personally. Gender is then reinforced by gender norms–the blue onesies, the stuffed tigers, the Hot Wheels and monster trucks, and everything else that is considered “masculine." Gender is a social construct that is so engrained within our minds that we believe masculine things should be left to the males and feminine things should be left to the females. If a male dare to find himself keen to the color pink or shedding a tear at the end of a really awesome Disney movie, they’re automatically considered girly, less of a man, or gay, all due to social constructs and gender9
norms. These social constructs and gender norms have been enforced so strongly that individuals identifying with a gender that is different from their sex may struggle to come to terms with such identity, due to fear of rejection from those that they care most about, from peers, and from society as a whole. In the United States, a large number of people identify with the gender that matches their sex, but for some, that luxury is foreign due to a sex that doesn’t match the socially constructed gender forced upon them at an early age. And unfortunately, for those individuals, coming to terms with an identity that is different from what they’ve been brought up to own, while simultaneously trying to fit into a society that tells them they’re not real people, turns their head, or simply chooses not to acknowledge their presence at all, just adds to the burden that they’re already carrying. So I come to you as an Ally. Not because the trans community can’t speak for themselves, but because for reasons that are beyond me, when they speak for themselves, most of the rest of society doesn’t listen. So maybe, just maybe, you’ll listen to me. Maybe I can provide some insight that may change a few perspectives. I’ve got three very simple points that I’d like to make. And when I say simple, I mean REALLY simple, because sometimes simple is better. In this case, it’s best. Not everyone is going to take the time to educate themselves on issues faced in the trans community, and some just don’t care. So here are my points to make life on a college campus, and in the real world as a whole, a bit easier and more peaceful for everyone. 1. Get the science right. As stated above, sex and gender are not the same things. Know the difference in order to understand why and how those within the trans community identify as they do. Grasp that concept so that when educating others, you’re able to accurately explain the foundational basis of the science behind how individuals identify as trans. 2. If you consider yourself to be an Ally, do just that. BE an Ally. Speak up when those around you have something negative to say. Educate when those around you may be confused or lacking information. Be a voice when trans individuals can’t be a voice for themselves. Be an active Ally. 3. If for some odd reason you don’t agree with the identity that someone else chooses to embrace, remember one very tiny, yet important, piece of information. It’s THEIR identity. Which makes it their business. People love to form negative opinions about things that concern them in absolutely no way at all. If it has nothing to do with you, live and let live. And if you find yourself genuinely trying to understand and identify with those within the trans community, remember this: the world is full of beautiful people that bring different, amazing things to the table. Choose to see the beautiful.
The First by Rehema Sibuma She, is that girl She, has different faces and in different places She, is sometimes told no, because to survive in a man’s world...she had to be a boy She, is the first but won't be the last She, gets hurt and breaks down Because to do something that has never been done before, She’ll have to be what they have never seen before, Then she will fail, like she never did before, But then, before she knows, She perseveres, and other little girls appear, with no fear to be the next pioneers
Hyper-Masculine/-Feminine by Olivia Harris The piece is a self-portrait that reflects my struggle with gender identity and wantingÂ to be both hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine, while also reflecting how I feel as aÂ non-binary person in our current society, including the OU community.
Interview With a Professor: Dr. Meta G. Carstarphen by Miranda Koutahi Meta G. Carstarphen, Ph.D., APR, is an endowed professor in Strategic Communication for the Gaylord College of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oklahoma. What is the difference between sex, gender, and sexuality? How would you define identity? Sex is biological; gender is socially defined and reflects “roles” we undertake; sexuality is the expression of our erotic sensibilities. Identity is the fusion of biological, cultural, and social constructs through which we express our individuality and represent ourselves to others. Have you had positive and negative experiences with regard to gender expression and/or identity, transitioning, preferred pronouns at OU, etc.? I have had experiences that no doubt are shared within the community—some pleasant, some unpleasant, some mixed. I want to support consciousness-raising opportunities and teaching moments that allow us to support and build on those positive experiences and protect our vulnerabilities in those more negative moments. What research or publications have you done on this topic? Do you teach courses on Gender & Identity? Have you participated in events that promote awareness of these issues? My first major book, Sexual Rhetoric: Media Perspectives on Sexuality, Gender and Identity (1999, Greenwood), was the first major scholarly work to link the concepts of gender identity, media representation, and rhetoric. In 2015, I was invited to contribute to a new volume, Sexual Rhetorics: Methods, Identities, Publics (Routledge). The new volume reflected upon emergent themes on this topic: "Historicizing Sexual Rhetorics: Theorizing the Power to Read, the Power to Interpret, and the Power to Produce." I am currently working on the third edition of Race, Gender, Class and Media (Kendall-Hunt) for a 2018 copyright. Where can people go to learn about gender and identity? Where can they go for support? I’m a big fan of the site Miss Representation and The Women of Color Network as mediated sites which provide support for anyone wanting to become actively involved in supporting women’s issues, as well as great “thought” pieces for those who want to stay informed.
Once Man, Now Irrelevant by Anonymous Student When I enrolled at OU, I identified as a heterosexual man. Or rather I would have, had I ever thought about it. Gender identity had never been a concern for me, as since childhood I had been raised in a conservative society by conservative parents who expected me to be a typical male, and I followed those expectations unquestioningly and unthinkingly. I have also suffered from major depression since elementary school, which greatly hindered my ability to communicate and connect with people (and thereby learn of other identities). After coming to OU, I encountered a few people who did not fit neatly into the categories I had been raised to believe in, people I could not immediately identify as male or female. This bothered me, and I avoided them. Only by happenstance did I have a class with such a person and was forced into interaction. In an effort to counteract my depression we conversed, and for the first time I thought seriously about my gender. Am I a “man”? What is a “man”? Such questions led me to realize I don’t care about gender. Even before coming to OU I had been uncomfortable with stereotypical masculinity, but I had not been able to identify that. I became increasingly aware of and uncomfortable with the norms demanded of people, and now I try to think carefully about my actions and whether I am blindly following arbitrary gender norms. I cannot recall any of my professors ever mentioning gender identity in any positive or negative way, and outside of OU mass mail I never encountered or learned of any relevant student groups. However, my depression begot social and mental isolation, so I cannot usefully represent the prevalence of student groups or the effectiveness of OU’s support thereof. I think at best I can say that before I came to OU I identified as a heterosexual man and followed such norms, and now I do not. I am still biologically male, but I no longer see that as central to my identity or how I should treat or behave around people.
Laverne Cox byÂ Quan Phan I started this series because I recognized my own ignorance in [not] recognizing the accomplishment of women of colors in our society after watching Hidden Figures (2016), despite the fact that I would proudly call myself a feminist. At that point, I realized there needs to be more self-education regarding intersectionality of feminism. I picked Laverne Cox and why that piece is so special to me because of the intersection of her identities: black, trans, female feminist, andÂ usingÂ her art as a platform to advocates for the trans community.
Gender Identity & Gender Expression: Professor's Perspective with Dr. Worthen by Miranda Koutahi Meredith Gwynne Fair Worthen is an Associate Professor of Sociology, an elected faculty member of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, and affiliate faculty member of the Center for Social Justice at the University of Oklahoma. She is interested in the sociological constructions of deviance and stigma, LGBTQ+ identities, and feminist criminology. She is also the creator of The Welcoming Project, a non-profit organization that promotes LGBTQ+ friendly businesses, organizations, congregations, and health care providers by providing FREE “All Are Welcome” rainbow signs to post in their windows and on their websites, www.thewelcomingproject.org. Students at the University of Oklahoma are increasingly diverse. They are embracing their individualism and adopting identities, names, and pronouns that most closely align with their personal experiences. This is amidst a cultural climate that is more reflexive, introspective, and supportive of gender diversity than ever before. For example, Facebook now has 71 gender options as well as a “fill in” option to allow its US English-platform users to identify themselves in ways other than the male/female dichotomy. Some people are moving away from “he” or “she” pronouns and opting for “they” as a reflection of their gender identities. Transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, pangender, and gender fluid are just a few identities that represent the diverse gender spectrum of the OU student body. "The University of Oklahoma, in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, gender expression, age, religion, disability, political beliefs, or status as a veteran in any of its policies, practices, or procedures. This includes, but is not limited to: admissions, employment, financial aid, and educational services." –OU's Equal Opportunity Statement At OU, there is increasing interest in supporting gender diversity. For example, in June 2015, OU's Equal Opportunity Statement was updated to be inclusive with respect to gender identity and expression. OU supports the right for individuals to use restrooms where they
feel the safest, and there are 13 gender-neutral restrooms on campus. To better reflect their gender identities, students who have transitioned away from their birth names can now choose a “preferred name” to be listed on their Sooner Card, Canvas, OrgSync and Ozone profiles. The LGBTQ+ Ally Program offers resources and training for any interested students, staff, and faculty to learn more about these issues. My own research indicates that OU is generally supportive of LGBTQ+ individuals, but amongst these groups, transgender people experience the most stigma. At OU, students are assigned to living spaces based on their birth sex unless sex reassignment surgery is complete and their legal sex marker has been changed. Although some “gender sensitive housing options” are available on a case-by-case basis, some students feel burdened by OU’s seemingly strict reliance on the male/female dichotomy. OU also requires students to identify only as “male” or “female” on compulsory forms and does not currently have a system in place to allow students to select preferred gender pronouns. Even so, OU hosts numerous events across campus that are supportive of gender diversity, most of which include sponsors such as the Gender and Equality Center, the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, and the Center for Social Justice. The Queer Student Alliance offers a social space for LGBTQ+ people, and student counseling services are dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ students as well.
Fireproof Sunflower by Leslie Hankins and Jordannia Hayes When I was born, my father and the doctor had a bet My father said I was going to be girl The doctor said I was a boy As his gloved hands grasped my blue legs and pulled me from her I shat on his shoe On my birth certificate, they wrote the word “FEMALE” But that was only the half of it Little did I realize that for 17 years, I was going to be a boy The weight of the parts I wasn’t born with was heavier than I realized The weight of General’s stars was heavier than I realized He poured his molten pain into my star-shaped scars That he burned into me with his white-hot iron of expectation and guilt The weight of my C cup breasts that grew as I did Were heavier than my mother’s A cups She was jealous She hated them JC Penny’s is what she wore Thrift clothes was what I wore Because I was “too fat” Too fat for “girl clothes” Too fat to be loved Too fat to be allowed what my bodiment was Too fat to be allowed femininity Baptized in the waters of masculinity The weight of being stronger than the boys was heavier than I realized Because I had forgotten that I wasn’t a boy I never knew That I wouldn’t ever be a father When I looked at girl and she looked back I tasted butterscotch The butterflies in my stomach ate it up Nothing had ever felt more natural Children love fearlessly, with open hands I was taught fear But I refused to live in it The butterflies were crushed under the weight of the word FEMALE The dreams of soft hands gripping my face as she whispered the word “husband” dissolved by the word FEMALE My body was crushed by the weight of the word FEMALE I have been a survivor since day one I was one out of ten possible children There were four before me and four after My sister and I, forged in the body of a Volcano Two Pompeii survivors living and breathing in the ash of our dead siblings Living in the cracks left by the eruption of trauma and molten miscarriages Expected to be a Jake But I am Jordann I was expected to carry bullets But I carry paintbrushes sharpened by the edge of my healing I was a girl And this choice, like so many others, was made for me But even that isn’t enough Even “girl” isn’t enough To describe the Gut-wrenching, Heartbreaking Bone-twisting Reality that I wasn’t what my parents had wanted I wasn’t the son that was taken away from the General
He made me his boy Sometimes when he looked at me Eyes dilated Jaw stiffened Hands around my throat Shouting a name that wasn’t mine “Darren” I was haunted by a brother I would never know And beaten for his failures Beaten because I wasn’t him Corrected for not being him With his palm to the back of my head And his hand below my other ear And my head turned completely to either side With every vertebra twisted and ready to snap I couldn’t breathe And in that second of almost snapping He would say “God put me on this earth to know more than you, boy, and I know more than you” And I would say “You made a girl” His reply with doe-stunned eyes “I made you and I can take you out and make one just like you” “Is that what you said to Darren?” With the eminent fear of hearing one soft “click” The last sound I would ever hear His hands loosened Though they were never too far from giving me a blackness On my ribs My shoulder My chest Because he was too smart to hit my face But his fists where open-palmed So that somehow made it okay The insult was not that I was female bodied The insult was being seen as something that I was never going to be My parents poured the concrete that my sunflowers broke through But something didn’t break in me A warrior heart I will always be Everything they took from me Fan the flames of what I shouldn’t be Gave me what they can’t take from me Lion with a sunflower mane warrior queen dragon breathing a flame that burns with rage and pain To be the Natural joy you never let me be My sun was more intense than you could ever see They didn’t give me that flame They just showed me that I was fireproof How could I be scared of what was done to me When I was the gold left at the end of the day All that slag was burned away My sunflower roots are still pushing through the concrete Stronger, faster, queerer than before And in all the ways you tried to break me I created a sunflower fire that you couldn’t take from me More than Female
Unto the Pure by Rachel Whitfield I work mostly with digital media, so “Unto the Pure” is one of only a couple of magazine collages I’ve done. The piece is laid out as a sort of visual map of the early struggle for identity that most gender non-conforming people face. For me, it’s a celebratory work, a tribute to those extra obstacles—in an already difficult journey—presented by a conservative community. I’m not sure one can really figure out the concept of gender, but the person in this piece has at least come to terms with their own experience of it, in spite of societal pressure.
Interview with Dr. Susan Stryker In the fall of 2015, Dr. Julia Ehrhardt, featured in last month’s issue of FORUM, moderated an Honors College reading group which came to be known affectionately by some of its members as “Gay Book Club.” It began with Redefining Realness, a memoir by Janet Mock, who told the story of her growing up, coming of age, coming out, and finding love as a black Hawaiian transgender woman. During that semester, we also read excerpts of other books about queer and trans life, including Transgender History by Susan Stryker.
by Kelsey Morris
When we learned that Dr. Stryker, who now teaches at the University of Arizona, was an alumna of the University of Oklahoma, we decided to reach out to her, asking if she would consider stopping by to give a talk the next time she came home for a visit. This spring, our wish was granted. On the 20th of March, Dr. Stryker visited OU to meet with students and faculty and give a number of lectures throughout the day, including one sponsored by the Sociology Department entitled “Breathe: Histories and Futures of Trans Life Now.” As Dr. Stryker, a historian of gender identity, pointed out, transgender people today are at a critical moment of unprecedented visibility. The recent controversy over “bathroom bills” has made trans bodies objects of public scrutiny whose very humanity, whose very presence, is up for open debate. “Every breath a trans person takes,” said Dr. Stryker, “is an act of rebellion.” This is a modified version of a quotation originally by Lourdes Ashley Hunter (National Director of the Trans Women of Color Collective and Black Lives Matter activist) here; Hunter’s original words were “Every breath a Black trans woman takes is an act of rebellion.” By pointing out common roots of transphobic and racist oppression, Stryker inspires the marginalized to conspire, to breathe with, and to oppose colonial and patriarchal violence through what she calls “micro-level radical resistance.” Revolution, she points out, exists not only on picket lines and battlefields, but also, and perhaps more importantly, within ourselves and our capacity to transform the world around us. From all of us at FORUM, thank you to Dr. Stryker for your wisdom and to Dr. Ehrhardt for making this visit possible. 20
Targets by Mattie Witman I always found it weird when people would ask my mother What she was doing with me in the boy’s section at 5 years old ask her if I was shopping for my cousin or brother but I don’t have a brother but society has Let my sister grow up thinking it would be a bad thing If she suddenly got one but even then, it wouldn’t matter But while fighting on the frontlines for our right to buy Whatever we feel, we still have to prove somehow That the way we love is authentic— proving my love is authentic is certainly A task—why do we have to prove our love to be true? Why do we have to prove to be authentic? I’m not ready for constant validity checks—type in the Captcha code you see—are you a robot? Maybe, maybe not The doctors always said we were but that’s not important Because she was—they tell us no and That the only thing that matters is our movement Complete docility in their eyes—those abstract lines on which They align their power and egos While we became ghosts and I still panic every time I go To the restroom in the union because there is no place for a “boy in the girls’ bathroom” – We’re no longer safe but even then, paint circles on our backs with the blood of Matthew or Leelah and we’ll tell you how art feels when it’s riding your every facet of existence just like the smell of them lingers on your skin when they dart their hand away in a store because someone is looking… We no longer hide in clothing racks and under tables in the store To escape the way you see me—We’re always there Hiding in the pages of your mind—in the dark depths of wonder And delusion you have about us…Our bodies are everywhere. But we are not. Just like we’ll never be—until they’re tagging us with our D.O.D.s and isolating our C.O.D.s Murder—they’ll say. Gunshot to the body and four stabs to the soul There is no spirit where there is no gold…but all that will glitter is the silver Table upon which our bodies rest not in peace but a piece of society That took it down with us—along with the rips and tears Along pages of our life that will never be bound again Burned at the edges…ripe at the heart of the words Ink smeared just like the blood of innocence – guilty until Proven guilty…for what though? Justice? Doubt that. Movements. Protests. Change. All becomes an illusion Militarized—shocked they don’t carry swords. Just like they carry daggers with their words And looks and postures so here’s a gesture from our brothers And sisters and everyone in between. From the graves we dug ourselves to the prisons we break out of On a daily basis to escape the wild wild western world Staking claims on land and staking claims on our skin To purge us of our sins
About the Contributors
Meta G. Carstarphen, Ph.D., APR, is an endowed professor in Strategic Communication for the Gaylord College of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oklahoma.
Leslie Hankins is a student at OU majoring in English Writing. She has a passion for the literary and performance arts and has been writing and performing poetry since high school.
Olivia Harris is a Fine Arts major at OU with an emphasis in ceramics and drawing. In her free time, she enjoys drawing characters, listening to music, and browsing the internet for a troublesome amount of time.
Jordannia Hayes is a 14-year professional studio artist. They specialize in mixed media, photography, costume and cosplay construction and design, pottery, and murals.
About the Contributors Dr. Misha Klein is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma, and an Affiliate Professor in Women's and Gender Studies. For the 2016-17 academic year, she is a faculty-in-residence at OU's Study Center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She teaches Cross-Cultural Study of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality (ANTH 4843) every fall.
Emily "Eddy" Mee is the Editor-in-Chief of FORUM. She is a sophomore Political Science major, and an aspiring politician and writer.
Kelsey Morris is a Student Section Editor of FORUM. She is a second-year Sociology student minoring in medical humanities and social justice. She is involved with OU Debate and various social justice organizations on campus.
Quan Phan is an international student from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He received a bachelor's degree in Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma and is pursuing his graduate degree in Adult and Higher Education, Student Affairs emphasis. Quan is passionate about multiple social justice issues such as sexism, homophobia, transphobia, racism, etc. He wants to raise awareness and generate dialougues surrounding these issues through his art. 24
About the Contributors
Rehema Sibuma is a junior double major in Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics. She reads and writes poems in her free time and loves to learn new skills such as languages or software.
Kayla Storrs is an Admissions Counselor with Diversity Enrichment Programs and an adjunct Professor in the African and African American Studies Department. She also holds a Master of Public Health with concentrations in Health Behavior and Sexual Health. In addition to her work with Admissions and Recruitment and AFAM, she serves as the faculty advisor for two student groups on campus. Kayla works to provide an atmosphere of inclusivity and acceptance for all students both on campus and within society as a whole. Dr. Susan Stryker is Associate Professor of Gender and Women's Studies, as well as Director of the Institute for LGBT Studies at the University of Arizona. She also holds a courtesy appointment as Associate Professor in the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences. She is the author of many articles and several books on transgender and queer topics, most recently Transgender History (Seal Press 2008). She won a Lambda Literary Award for the anthology The Transgender Studies Reader (Routledge 2006), and an Emmy Award for the documentary film Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria (Frameline/ITVS 2005). She currently teaches classes on LGBT history and on embodiment and technology. Research interests include transgender and queer studies, film and media, built environments, somatechnics, and critical theory. All pictures are the property of OU FORUM or used with permission of the accompanying article's author or are under the Creative Commons License.
About the Contributors
Rachel Whitfield is the OU FORUM Director of Marketing and a student graphic designer for OU Human Resources. She is a sophomore double majoring in Writing and Marketing with a Spanish minor.
Mattie Witman is an OU sophomore and Director of Marketing for TutorPUG. During free time, Mattie likes to write poetry, bake kale chips, and watch "Law and Order SVU."
Meredith Gwynne Fair Worthen is an Associate Professor of Sociology, an elected faculty member of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, and affiliate faculty member of the Center for Social Justice at the University of Oklahoma. She is interested in the sociological constructions of deviance and stigma, LGBTQ+ identities, and feminist criminology. She is also the creator of The Welcoming Project, a non-profit organization that promotes LGBTQ+ friendly businesses, organizations, congregations, and health care providers.
All pictures are the property of OU FORUM or used with permission of the accompanying article's author or are under the Creative Commons License.