In my past blogs, I have been constantly mentioning my Action Plan. But, I didn't get an opportunity to share my Action Plan in detail. The following is a gist of what I plan to do.
Since a very young age, my parents, friends, and community have attuned me to believe that there are exactly two gender identities: man and woman. As I grew up, I became familiar with the few more identities, such as gay and lesbian. In my community, other gender identities such as bigender, transgender, queer, questioning, and others on the gender spectrum have been kept on a low and are rarely ever discussed. When gender identities exclusive of the social norm enter everyday conversations, they are regarded in a disrespectful manner. This could be seen when many of my peers use words such as “faggot” and negatively apply words such as “gay.”
The unawareness of the rights of persons of other genders can be seen in a few violent incidents which took place on my school campus. On November 15, 2013, a transgender girl, Jewlyes Gutierrez, was dragged into a fight with three others. She informed the School District that she was being “bullied by three girls at school and [...] she felt she was left with no choice but to fight back.” (Tere) Charles Ramsey, District Board Member, stated that the District’s “sexual harassment policy is not only outdated, but was never actually implemented throughout the schools.” (Tere) In March 2014, a male transgender student reported a sexual assault in a bathroom by three boys. (DeBolt) Although the student “recanted his report to police, admitting that he fabricated an incident that fit a troubling pattern of violence on the campus and raised concerns about a groundbreaking state transgender rights law,” (DeBolt) this exposed the disrespect of various gender identities at my school. Although the school’s new Principal reestablished peace on campus, several of my peers still don't understand how important it is to recognize and respect all genders.
Before I can attempt to raise awareness about gender identities, it is important to analyze the concept of gender. Gender is a construction of society and its culture, belief systems, and practices. These factors are the basis of the societal notions of gender identity, roles, and expectations. The construction of gender begins at birth when children are assigned a gender based on their genitalia. As a child grows, “parenting is gendered, with different expectations for mothers and for fathers, and people of different genders work at different kinds of jobs.” (Lorber) Social media, media’s exploitation of gender roles, and cultural values contribute to this construction. Parents, family members, and the community instructs how everyone should behave according to their gender prescribed at birth. These experiences lead to the creation of different feelings, attitudes, and skills, what society separates into categories of femininity and masculinity. (Lorber) Science, law, and religion further legitimize gender construction. (Lorber)
Society unjustly equates gender with sex. Gender does not form with genitalia and reproductive organs. According to Judith Lorber’s "Night to His Day: The Social Construction of Gender,” genes, hormones, and biological features contribute to human institutions, but these institutions are transformed by human practices of teaching, learning, enforcing, and imitating. (Lorber)
With this construction, society demands that gender statuses must be kept different. Society establishes gender bias even if a man, a woman, or a person of any gender are doing the same exact thing. Society highlights what is perceived different to maintain gender separation.
It is very important to break this cycle of assigning gender roles. We must inform people about the difference between sex and gender. It is crucial to make people aware of how media reinforces society’s construct of gender.
To help make a difference in the way my peers view gender and gender roles, I want to do workshops in my nearby middle school. The goal of these workshops would be to educate young teens about the differences between sex and gender, how gender roles are deeply rooted in society, which reflects the dreadful inequality, and how media exploits genders.
Along with these workshops, I want to construct a gender-neutral bathroom in my school. The gender-neutral bathroom would be available to anyone of any gender. It would be welcoming and inclusive. It would encourage gender equality on campus and in the community. I hope the gender neutral bathroom will help people of all identities feel a sense of belonging on campus and can be comfortable accepting and embracing their gender identity. (Gender Neutral Bathrooms)
I will begin my Action Plan in August 2016. The first step would be to email my principal, informing him about my Action Plan. During the school registration, I will have a meeting with my principle to recapitulate my goals and plans and convince him for the construction of a gender-neutral bathroom. During this time, I will also discuss my Action Plan with the principle of my neighboring middle school and persuade her to allow me to hold quarterly workshops on the middle school campus.
After obtaining the consent for the gender-neutral bathroom and workshops, I will introduce my Action Plan to the Women and Equity and Gay Straight Alliance clubs of my school. Once I have both clubs on board with the Action Plan, I will work with everyone to introduce my Action Plan and ideas to lower-classmen. I will do this through club fairs and one-on-one meetings with friends and peers interested in in the issues my Action Plan focuses on. After the advertising campaign, I will write a constitution to inform my team about the goals and plans of the club. This constitution, being a guiding, nonbinding document, would be accessible to everyone and anyone can change it with a majority vote.
After this, my team and I will work to create a PowerPoint for the first quarter’s workshop focusing on the difference between sex and gender and gender identities. Being a rising senior, I will work closely with juniors, sophomores, and freshmen so they can continue with and improve upon these workshops in the future. For the workshops, we will also create icebreakers and discussion topics. At the end of each quarter, my team and I will go to the middle school side and perform the workshop for eighth graders. In the workshop, the whole eighth grade class will be divided into small groups and each group will be assigned to one or two facilitators from my team. The same schedule will follow each quarter. The only difference among the workshops will be that during the second quarter, the workshop will focus on how gender roles are deeply rooted in society and are contributing to gender inequality. The third quarter workshop will focus on how media exploits gender. Finally, the fourth quarter workshop will guide students in using their privileges to improve society and bring a change.
For the gender-neutral bathroom, I will work with the school administration and faculty to either construct a new gender-neutral bathroom or convert an existing bathroom on campus to a gender-neutral bathroom.
Challenges and Expectations
This plan is based many assumptions and I know I will face a lot of challenges. Working in a team will be challenging as everyone has different ideas. Scheduling meetings will definitely be stressful as people have various extracurriculars and varying times. Those that are part of the action play may not show up to the meetings or even worse to the workshops. In the workshops, the young audience may be uninterested, disruptive, and/or uncollaborative. Because of low funds, the idea of a gender-neutral bathroom may be denied.
All these challenges do seem intimidating and tiring, but I believe I can work around them by adjusting to everyone’s schedules and interests. If I can make everyone in my team realize the importance of the issues discussed in my Action Plan, they will be dedicated to come to all the meetings and workshops. For the young audience, there can be fun icebreakers, snacks, and discussions to make the workshop interesting. I will work with the school and the district to make the gender-neutral bathroom possible. Petitioning and fundraising are other methods which I can use to tackle the problem.
I will consider rising out of all the obstacles in fulfilling my actions plan as success. If I am able to raise awareness about gender, gender roles, and media’s exploitation of gender in the younger generations, I will feel successful. Even if I am able to create a small impact, my efforts will be worthwhile and a success.