The Invisible Voice: He, She, or Neither?

By Brittany Barnes
SC Staff Writer

A student that I have been sitting next to all semester dresses in masculine clothing, speaks in a masculine tone, and goes by initials only.

I believed the student was male until a few days ago when the student was referred to as “she” by a student assistant.

The student looked uncomfortable and displeased with this label. It is clear that this student identifies with being male regardless of the sex they were born.

The article “Facebook’s Gender Labeling Revoluion” in TIME Magazine tells the story of Eli Erlick.

At 8-years-old, Erlick wanted to be treated like a girl despite being born male.

Teachers refused to let Erlick participate in girls’ gymnastics.

TIME reports, “Eli persisted in wearing lip gloss and skirts.”

I went to high school with a number of males that wore lipstick, wigs, and female clothing who chose to be referred to with feminine pronouns. Most teachers ignored their wishes.

A boy who identified as female was accepted on the cheerleading team by students, but was later kicked off by the staff supervisor.

There are individuals who identify with a gender they were not born into.

There are also some individuals who chose not to identify with neither male nor female.

These people are called “neutral.” Being gender-neutral is not wanting to be called “he,” “she,” “man,” or “woman.”

New York Times reported on February 4, 2015 that the University of Vermont now accepts a third gender: neutral.

“The university allows students to select their own identity — a new first name, regardless of whether they’ve legally changed it, as well as a chosen pronoun.”

A wide range of universities and other institutions are implementing gender-neutral terms, bathrooms, and pronouns.

“They” or “them” is a popular pronoun in gender-neutral community.

Facebook now has a “custom” option when identifying a gender.

When you start typing your preferred gendered there are plenty of options to choose from. “Trans person,” “trans male,” “neither,” “nonconforming,” and “questioning” are just a few.

Boston University, Clark University, New York University, Harvard University, and approximately 30 to 40 other universities have gender-neutral housing.

Northeastern University defines gender-neutral housing as “a housing option in which two or more students share a multiple-occupancy apartment or suite regardless of the students’ sex, gender, gender identity, or gender expression.”

The Huffington Post reports that Northwestern University will be including “all-gender” bathrooms in the upcoming fall.

Michelle Margulis, president of the Northwestern’s LGBT student group says, “These are gender-open bathrooms where students of any gender can go in, and use the restroom, and feel safe, regardless of gender expression or gender identity.”

On April 8, 2015, the first “all-gender” restroom was opened in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building within the White House.

CNN states that this new addition is “A symbolic step for the President in order to protect the rights of members of the LGBT community in the workplace.”

When I asked a few students on campus about ESU including gender-neutral terms and bathrooms, I received a lot of “yeahs” but I also received a lot of “nos.”

Student Stephon Seawright states, “In an ideal world, ESU would include gender-neutral bathrooms for students to feel more comfortable. But it’s not an ideal world.”

We should be able to be the person we choose to be and others should respect it, that’s the ideal world.

If I wake up tomorrow and decide I want to cut all my hair off and be called Brian, others should respect me.

Email Brittany at:
bbarnes1@live.esu.edu

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