When people find out that Gender and Women Studies is a minor or area of interest in many schools, they sometimes are confused as to what the subject actually is. Recently, there have been a lot of cases of athletes and well known public figures declaring their sexual orientation proudly to the general population. This has prompted several conversations about what gender is and how it differs from a person’s sex.
A Vietnamese artist, Kevin Truong, has made a compilation of pictures of gay men from all walks of life. As I was scrolling through these pictures I found that while some of them fell into the stereotype of the flamboyant and fabulous man, you couldn’t just ‘tell’ their sexual orientation by looking at most of them. Just men, with no ‘gay’ factor apparent in their appearance.
What I’ve learned is that a person’s sex corresponds to their biological makeup, and their gender relates to how they choose to express themselves. When explaining what Gender and Women Studies entails, it makes sense to say that it is learning about how society creates molds for all of us and how these molds have changed, overlapped, and interacted throughout history.
People are now more well educated about what it means to be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, or Queer/Questioning and there are now communities of support. As I go through my studies and travels, I continue to encounter people who identify as one of those letters. Usually they are open to explaining what their ‘letter’ or category of expression means, since the acronym is tricky, and the concepts can sometimes be even more confusing.
Written by Michaela Lies, writing intern at Three Rivers Community Foundation and student at Washington & Jefferson College.