Students presented a lot of interesting claims about their non-cis gender identity during the open-mic Gender Talk. One student claimed that being trapped in the wrong body causes you to not know how to live. This sense of confusion and distress about feeling female while born anatomically male was evidenced throughout her presentation. This confusion stops you from living normally, from not questioning everyone’s opinions and interactions with you, and can make you feel that you are, in fact, dead. She stated that being trapped in this foreign body allowed her to know what it was like to die. Mostly, she lacked any optimism in her words, and stated that she could not imagine living another eighteen years like this, because this “could not be what it means to live”.
A few other students discussed the fact that “man and woman categories” do not actually fit everyone. The first performer went through the list of every type of person he could come up with, including both gender and sexuality (this list was very long). Another girl talked specifically about what it means to be bigender, while yet another performer discussed 8.5 things about himself, including a story in which he discussed his confusion with his own gender identity.
The most provocative point to me was clear when the girl (anatomically) discussed being bigender. She was able to best define this as “wishing she had a detachable penis”. Now there is something you don’t think about every day! Some days she would wake up and feel like a woman and appreciate her breasts. Other days she would wake up and feel like a man, and wish she had a penis to attach to herself. Sometimes feeling like a young woman or man depended on who she was with. She discussed this inability to provide clear definitions for specific gender categories, and applied this to her own situation of being bigender.
In general, the performers all were connected by their identification as non-cis gender. Being in the LGBT center was a safe place for these performers to express how they felt about their gender and sexuality. However, from the stories they told to the poems that they wrote, it was clear that these individuals experienced some extremely deep interal struggles. While Penn has been ranked the number one most “gay friendly colleges”, what about non-cis gender friendly? It seems that the idea of transgender, transsexual, bigender, agender, asexual (the list goes on and on) is not even on anyone’s radar. What can we do specifically at Penn to cause greater awareness and acceptance of non-cis gender?