On Thursday April 16, Gender Unity Day, an event billed as “supporting individuality and fluidity in gender and society”, took place on campus in Sykes Theater from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.Under the direction of Professor Melina McConatha Rosle, students of gender studies and women’s studies courses at West Chester University organized a series of speakers and presentations intended to shed light on the topic of gender and its impact on our society. Gender Unity Day featured poetry, music, speakers, and many open minds.
The event began with Dr. Eli DeHope’s lecture entitled “Sexual Orientation and Equality in America”. The content of Dr. Dehope’s presentation reviewed sexual orientation issues and focused on examining why our society struggles with lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.
Dr. Dehope offered insight from 25 years of work in the field of clinical social work including experience with LGBT individuals. Currently, Dr. DeHope is a professor in the Undergrad Department of Social Work at West Chester University.
Following Dr. DeHope’s presentation, Melanie Braley and two fellow poets dubbed “Uncle Moo” and “Egedeme”, recited a handful of sincere and thought provoking poems as members of Professor Rosle’s women’s studies class gathered materials for their segment of the program, “Sexpeditions for Sexual Freedom”.
Utilizing a suggestive clip from the movie “When Harry Met Sally” as an introductory segue, “Sexpeditions for Sexual Freedom,” through skits and statistics, covered an array of taboo topics including orgasm, “hooking up” and its many definitions and implications, as well as the emotions involved in a sexual relationship.
A constant throughout the “Sexpeditions” segment was the emphasis on practicing safe sex. Citing surveys and statistics revealing that a majority of students polled would continue to be sexually active, the group expressed the need to continue discussions of sexual activity so as to better equip with knowledge those who choose to be sexually active.
After a short musical performance by Sleepytime Bandaroo, Susan Collins, MA, took to the lectern as the final speaker featured at Gender Unity Day. Collins, who has over 20 years of experience working in the mental health field including a position as an LGBT specialist at a community health center in Philadelphia, is also a transgendered person.
Collins discussed, among other things, “Queer Theory” in her presentation entitled “Queer Theory, Transidentification, and Gender: Growing towards authentic identity and genuine relation.” “Queer Theory,” as explained by Collins, is essentially removing the concept of gender when considering and identifying aspects of life and society.
She contends that the theory seeks to view the world without the dichotomy of the gender binary and the immediate constraints.
One thing Collins asked the crowd in attendance to consider of themselves was the question “Who am I?” According to Collins, the introspective inquiry is important in that in order to feel comfortable in one’s own skin, and as a human in general, one has to search within oneself for what makes up one’s identity. From there, one is able to express their “authentic identity.”
In the end, Susan Collins proposed the notion that human beings are not above nature. The fluidity and diversity of nature is expressed in all species on the planet.
D.J. Baker is a West Chester University student. He can be reached at DB699965@wcupa.edu.