Students and faculty raised questions about trans identity and advocacy at Kenyon during last Friday’s “Transphobia and Cis-Allyship Panel,” a collaboration between Unity House, Gender Group and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI).
The panel, called in response to an Oct. 21 New York Times report that the Trump administration is considering a restriction of the legal definition of gender, was well attended. People filled every seat and crowded into the aisles of Hayes 109, a lecture hall with an 80-person capacity.
Grace Harris ’20 and James Lituchy ’19, the co-managers of Unity House, moderated the discussion. The panel was composed of Chloe Hannah-Drullard ’20, Micah Fisher ’21, Cat March ’19, Visiting Instructor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Political Science Gilda Rodriguez and Assistant Director of ODEI Timothy Bussey. Prior to the event, organizers collected anonymous questions for the moderators to ask the panelists.
“We weren’t sure if people were actually gonna ask questions and I’m really glad that folks did,” March said. “All the questions were polite and respectful and not argumentative, which was really nice.”
Audience questions included clarifications about preferred pronouns, self-education and a lively discussion about descriptive language, including whether the word “femininity” reinforced a binary view of gender.
“I really love that there was space for tension and also misunderstanding on the panel. I feel like there was a lot of back and forth,” Hannah-Drullard said. “Having the space to admit when, as a collective, the trans community doesn’t know things, that felt really awesome.”
The panel also included conversations about how to politely ask trans people questions, handle instances of misgendering and advocate for the trans community as a cis person.
March said it was useful to have two cisgender people, Rodriguez and Bussey, on the panel.
“It was really good for them to be like, ‘As a cis person, this is how you can support trans people,’” they said.
Fisher noted that the panel catered to a primarily cis audience.
“I think the panel definitely leaned more towards helping cis people understand things than it did towards giving resources to trans people and having more trans spaces,” he said. “I’m hoping that there can be more trans and nonbinary spaces in the future that are just for us.”
Hannah-Drullard and March added that there need to be more discussions exploring the various identities with which gender can intersect.
“The intersection between race and gender is something that is not talked about enough, mostly because there’s not a lot of trans people of color [at Kenyon],” said Hannah-Drullard. “We did have two people of color on the panel, but as a panelist, you have to know your audience, and Kenyon oftentimes isn’t the kind of place where you have an audience where it’s the time for a discussion about race and gender.”
March agreed, saying that there needs to be a separate conversation.