Gender: No longer just another physical attribute

Category:  News
Wednesday, December 7th, 2016 at 5:02 PM
Gender: No longer just another physical attribute by Hannah McDonald
Contributed Photo

In recent years, it has become more public that people are not only identifying themselves by their anatomical birth gender, but by a full spectrum of gender choices. This can range from identifying as the sex of your genitalia at birth, to being non-binary or gender neutral.

As gender becomes a less taboo and more vocalized topic, society is realizing that it is not necessarily a physical trait, but more so who one feels they are.

As explained by Matt Muschick, a freshman psychology major at Edinboro University, when one is gender neutral they are in the middle of the spectrum, equally feminine and masculine.

“Gender neutral I see more as a center point between masculine and feminine, kind of androgynous,” Muschick said.

In Muschick’s case, gender is entirely thrown out the window with identification as non- binary. This means it only adheres to how they feel as a person and not as a man or woman, but simply, Matt.

“When I think of non-binary as looking at masculinity and femininity [it’s] not even like being on the [gender] spectrum. Non-binary really sticks to what I feel,” Muschick said.

When gender is brought up, many wonder what pronouns to use for individuals. Words such as “he,” “she,” “his” or “her” are gendered and some are cautious not to misrepresent a person. To avoid this, it is common practice to use pronouns such as “they” or “them” in place of gender specific words, thought this can be grammatically incorrect at times.

Everyone is different in what identification they prefer and pronouns they use, but Muschick likes to keep it simple, saying, “I’m okay with any pronoun, ever, under the sun.”

Muschick also shared when going to a store, nearly every time, there is a kid who leans into their mother and asks if the person standing in front of them with a full face of make-up, a skirt, pants and a jacket is a girl or a boy.

“And I’m like, yeah, I mean it’s whatever kid, I don’t care,” Muschick said. When this happens Muschick reacts in an understanding manner.

“If that child is questioning something, it’s a good start.”

It’s obvious when looking at Muschick, a person who does not look specifically male or female, that gender is no longer only about physical attributes.

Not including Muschick’s platform sneakers, they are six foot and two inches tall, wearing an embroidered and acid-wash denim jacket (shoulder pads included), long hair held up by two, thin eyeshadow brushes, and sporting painted fingernails.

They stand as a symbol of societal change and as someone who is not afraid to fully express who they are.

For Muschick, a person who looks neither male nor female, restrooms can also be a tricky thing.

At Edinboro University, there are three gender neutral bathrooms on campus. One is located in the Frank G. Pogue Student Center, one in Hendricks Hall, and the third in Earp Hall.

For many students though, the locations of these bathrooms are unknown. Hollie Kaufman, an Edinboro University freshman, had only a vague idea of their existence.

“There’s one in Pogue. Is that right?” Kaufman asked.

Students like Hollie do not need the gender neutral resources, but they are evidence that there is little to no knowledge of what is out there.

“I think people kind of beat around the bush with it. It’s not something people are adamant to raise awareness to,” she said.

Edinboro University’s Director of Communications Jeffrey Hileman commented on the gender neutral housing options offered at Edinboro.

“There is a page on the website for the gender flexible housing. The other facilities are. . . I guess we probably should or could talk about them a little more, it’s just we don’t really talk about restrooms. It is relatively new,” Hileman said.

Dr. Kahan Sablo, Edinboro’s past vice president of student affairs, previously brought the need for these restrooms to the administration’s attention before his resignation. Gender neutral restrooms found on campus were formerly single occupancy restrooms, but the university felt that it would be a good idea to make them non gendered.

“It’s a good sign that people are accepting and open to doing things to make sure that we back up our commitment to inclusion and diversity. When you make that sort of commitment, it implies that you are going to take the kind of action that is going to make individuals with a diverse gender identity, or perspective, comfortable and feel safe. I think that converting these facilities was a really good option,” Hileman said.

This year, there were more than 20 students who completed applications for gender-flexible housing. The university is looking to be as inclusive as possible for students who do not live with a specific gender. As it is becoming more accepted to publicly identify as a gender that does not match one’s biological sex assignment, residence life has seen an increase in not only the number of trans-identified students using gender-flexible housing, but also in the number of cisgender ones who are more comfortable with this living arrangement, explained Edinboro University Director of Residence Life Amy Franklin-Craft.

“I really would hope that any students who feel in any way threatened or endangered, or have any concerns related to diversity or inclusion on our campus, would step forward. I would really hate to hear that there are people out there suffering silently, or decide that Edinboro is not the place for them, without giving the university an opportunity to respond,” Hileman continued.

For students like Muschick, who do not conform to a male or female identity; for those who have, or are, in the process of transitioning; or for those simply who do not feel they need to be held back by gender constraints, all those interviewed relayed that there is a place for these individuals on campus.

Though the resources may seem sparse or hidden, the university looks to continue having an inclusive campus to fit the needs of all students, and with upcoming renovations to the library, more gender neutral bathrooms are set to come. 

Hannah McDonald is the copy editor for The Spectator. 

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