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Speaker Sheds Light on Nonbinary Myths

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Over 75 people gathered for a talk about spreading nonbinary awareness on Wednesday at the Campus Center.  

Kaleb Dornheim hosted the talk, Nonbinary Myths and Realities, as part of Sexuality Month at the University at Albany.

UAlbany students taking sociology classes and members of Alpha Phi Omega — a co-ed community service fraternity — attended the talk. The fraternity asked its members to go to one of the Sexuality Month talks.

Dornheim, a graduate student and president of Sexuality Intersectionality Gender Hangout, began the discussion with a brief overview of what being “nonbinary” means.

Individuals who are nonbinary do not identify as one of the binary genders: male or female. There are different gender identities that fall under the umbrella of “nonbinary,” such as genderqueer, which Dornheim explained as a person that identifies with having a gender that is queer and non-normative, or agender, which is when a person identifies not having a gender.

While nonbinary can be used as an umbrella term, and people who are agender or genderqueer can identify as nonbinary, not everyone that identifies as being nonbinary is genderqueer or agender.

Dornheim also introduced the idea of using different pronouns. While there are many different pronouns that are used for nonbinary people, the most common is “they.” However, some nonbinary people still use typically gendered pronouns such as “he” or “she” due to any number of personal reasons, while still being nonbinary and knowing that the gendered pronoun does not refer to their own gender.

As part of the talk, Dornheim had people get up and choose a color to represent their gender, and write it on a poster that was hanging in the front of the room. Many people, regardless of how they identified, chose colors besides blue and pink; and the purpose of the exercise was to show how personal a concept gender is, and that having to constrain people to two rigid boxes isn’t comprehensive enough for many people.

Dornheim also discussed the difficulties that nonbinary people face in the healthcare system. Since many doctors don’t recognize nonbinary genders as legitimate, people that are nonbinary have harder access to hormones and gender-reaffirming surgeries.

“Many have to invalidate themselves to be able to access validating healthcare,” Dornheim said.

 Dornheim explained that some nonbinary people tell their doctors that they are trans to be able to have access to hormone replacement therapy.

The speaker’s goal for this talk was to bring awareness to more students on the UAlbany campus about nonbinary people. The hope was to give more students a one-on-one conversation with nonbinary students.

They said that there were “definitely more nonbinary students on campus than many people realize,” and hoped that this talk would let more people realize this, as well as the specific difficulties that nonbinary students faced, such as the issue of using public bathrooms, and how to talk to them in a way that was accepting and more inclusive.

Dornheim also runs a program at the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center in Campus Center 329 called, INTERSECTIONS, that talks about the different issues that many students may face such as sexism, racism, and classism, and how these problems can relate to each other. INTERSECTIONS will begin soon, and does not have a confirmed schedule as of yet.

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