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Exploring Fluidity and Identity

Sunday, October 28, 2012

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Written by Peter Miller

Queer Identities Week this year fell on October 22 to 26. The week provided a variety of events to students and community members. Many of the events focused on raising awareness, and solidarity with queer and trans people.

The Fluidity and Identities workshop was held on Tuesday October 23rd. Allisa Scott, the former Guelph Queer Equality summer coordinator was the facilitator for the workshop.

Fluid identity is defined as “having a sense of self, but a sense of self that may be flexing or changing over time.” Identity is something that is contextual and sometimes situational; it is rooted in experience and stories of self. Many factors can influence identity, including personal agency, cultural, political and economic factors. One’s gender identity and sexual orientation have a profound influence over identity as well.

During the workshop, Scott showed participants the Genderbread Person. The Genderbread person is a diagram that exhibits how a person’s biological sex, gender identity, and gender expression are all independent of one another. For example, one person might have the biological characteristics of a male, identify himself as a man, and his gender expression may be feminine. Or a person may have biological characteristics of a female, and identify as a man. These are just a few examples.

The workshop also discussed how people can identify as being gender fluid, or gender queer. Genderqueer people can identify to have a gender identity that fits outside of and is different from being a man or a women. Gender fluid people identify as having a gender identity that can change over time and depending on different factors. People can also identify as having sexual fluidity: Their sexual orientation can change over time depending on the situation, or context or other factors. As well, someone might describe themself as being pansexual: This means the person can be attracted to people of all gender identities and biological sex. These identities challenge western assumptions about the binary system, which polices people to fit inside different boxes. The binary system tells us that one can only be straight or gay, and man, or woman, but the reality is a lot more complex. People can identify themselves as fitting outside the gender binary, and these people need to be accepted and appreciated.

Because of the policing undertaken by our society to force people to fit into the gender binary, many people in the Queer and Trans community can feel like they are not in a safe space during much of their lives.

Scott also discussed the transgender umbrella during the workshop. The transgender umbrella has a large group of gender identities that are gender variant. Genderqueers fit under this umbrella. As well, transexuals: people whose sex at birth is “opposite” their gender identity fit under the transgender umbrella. There are other trans identities that are not mentioned here.

The workshop also included  a segment where participants could discuss their experiences with their identities. The facilitator asked: “what are your experiences of understanding your identity/ identities? Is there anything that is confusing or unclear for you? Have you felt supported in your identity/identities? And how do you manage your intersectionality of identities?”

The workshop and discussion was very informative and enlightening on the topics of the fluidity of identity, as well as trans and queer identities. Participants walked away from the workshop with knowledge, and experience that can help them be an ally for the queer and trans community.

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