OPINION: Gender equality must include all genders

Students of varying gender identities discuss expression on campus


Max Ciot

While we are still fighting to maintain equality between men and women, we must consider individuals who identify as other genders.

JUSTIN WASHINGTON, Evergreen research editor

Nail polish, rainbow earrings, pastel necklaces and pink sweaters with cutesy designs on them – these are a few of the things I indulge in when it comes to fashion.

When I think about my gender identity, I refer to myself as a man. I am more than OK with people referring to me as a man and calling me male-oriented terms like dude, bro and guy.

However, when it comes to how I dress and act, I often present myself as feminine. This does not mean I want to be a woman, nor does it mean I reject masculinity as a whole. I can be society’s definition of masculine part of the time, but it is not my primary lifestyle. 

So, perhaps it would be more accurate for me to refer to myself as a gender-nonconforming male or a gender creative male. I am a male who happens to reject masculine ideals and embrace feminine ones.

That is the beauty of the disconnection between gender and sex. Gender does not have to align with sex or society’s expectations of that identity. This is true for clothing, behaviors and overall physical appearance.

Sprout Hutchinson (they/them), sophomore psychology major, said they believe clothes should not be traditionally gendered.

“Anyone should be allowed to wear what they want, regardless of their gender,” Hutchinson said. “And that shouldn’t invalidate what they identify as, whether they’re cisgender, transgender or non-binary.”

I am comfortable with expressing myself around campus. There are times when I worry if someone is staring at me and judging me, but ultimately I remind myself that it is not my job to worry about what someone thinks of me. Being feminine is not offensive or a crime.

This is true for a lot of people on campus. However, WSU is home to hundreds — if not thousandsof students who are transgender, gender-nonconforming, genderfluid and non-binary.

It is vital to make sure students who identify with these labels are comfortable with themselves on campus. It is our responsibility as Cougs to provide an inclusive home to all.

“I feel that it’s [definitely] not the worst campus when it comes to accepting gender identities, but I kind of feel that it is a sort of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ sort of campus for the most part,” said Alivia Warn, junior mechanical engineering major.

Warn said she sees herself as a trans woman but is still new to knowing how to express herself. She said now that she is on hormone replacement therapy, it is only a matter of time until she feels comfortable fully embracing her identity in public.

“For now, I spend a lot of time presenting my identity online or in virtual reality where I can be myself in a body that I designed and feel comfortable within my own control,” she said.

Warn said she has not had an issue with faculty or employees on campus, including at her job at the Beasley Coliseum.

“While sure I do get the occasional second glance my way, for the most part, Pullman as a whole has seemed like a very open-minded place to present as an openly trans individual,” she said. 

Hutchinson, who is a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority, said they were scared about how people around them would act because of Greek life’s traditional views on gender and gender expression. 

However, after coming out to people in their sorority, Hutchinson said they were really supportive.

“Since I’ve come out, two more of my sorority siblings have come out as non-binary, and we’ve talked to the recruitment team about having gender-neutral clothing options for every day of recruitment week,” they said.

Hutchinson said they believe WSU is trying to be welcoming to different gender identities, but there is also room for improvement. So far, they said they have only seen the option of expressing different gender identities through campus job applications.

They said they think campus could increase comfort for students with different gender identities by having professors offer students an “about me” discussion post or encouraging students to email them.

“This could also really help students that don’t have the resources or the ability to safely present as the gender that they are,” Hutchinson said.

While I find it important to talk to students with differing gender identities about their experiences, I think cisgender people should be a part of the conversation as well because they face gender expectations and norms like everyone else.

Sophomore sociology major Emily Nate said she identifies as a cisgender female. 

Considering gender norms for women, Nate said she does not conform too closely. She dresses neutrally, and she does not wear makeup.

“I think it’s a reflection of my personality and family that I don’t present myself very femininely,” Nate said. “I don’t feel pressured by campus to change that.”

She said she supports the varying gender identities on campus and appreciates the diversity as it allows her to explore and accept her own identity. 

“From what I’ve seen, campus seems to be overall supportive,” Nate said. “I know at least there’s classes in gender studies and a good LGBT student organization.” 

David Hofsetz, freshman computer science major, said he identifies as a cisgender male. When considering gender norms for males, Hofsetz said he thinks he follows the “boy” dress code of t-shirts and shorts, but he does not play sports as is expected for most males.

“I think the campus definitely makes me feel out of place for not conforming more than I do, but it’s not enough to irritate me,” he said.

Hofsetz said he is not sure how supportive colleges are about other gender identities because he thinks the topic is not brought up enough.

“I do feel that there aren’t enough gender-neutral bathrooms throughout campus, and I generally think that the structure of frats and sororities is a bit dated,” he said.

Despite their opinions, Hofsetz and Nate said that they cannot speak for others who have different gender identities.

The burden to conform to gender ideals falls on everyone, but it is also up to individuals to decide whether they will feel pressured by that burden. Sure, I think some of the males on campus might judge me for not acting more like a male, but I do not allow that perception to force me to change who I am.

Hopefully, everyone on campus feels the same way, but I recognize there are people on campus who probably do not feel comfortable embracing their gender identity. It is why this campus must continue to strive for inclusivity and let everyone know that all genders — not just men and women — are equal on campus.

For the remainder of human history, there will always be men who fit society’s definition of masculine and women who fit society’s definition of feminine. That is entirely valid. Their identities deserve to be respected.

However, my hope for WSU is that we continue to provide a safe space for those who divert from the male-female binary or reject it entirely. We already do this by respecting pronouns and having anti-discrimination policies in place. 

We can take this a step further by reminding everyone from time to time that they are welcome and valid. WSU is our home at the moment, and for many, it will always be home. Everyone deserves to feel comfortable in their own home.