Keeping up with the times: Understanding gender identity

Julia Eilert

As our language and knowledge expands, Washburn aims to keep its students up to date with the progressing times.

Language and knowledge about gender is included in this.

Dave Provorse, associate professor of psychology, will be giving his talk, “Understanding Gender in the 21st Century” from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12 in the Cottonwood Room for the next installment of the Gender Brown Bag Series.

“As we move back historically, we had women’s rights, civil rights, and then more recognition and acceptance of sexual minorities, and this is kind of the next step,” said Provorse.

In a national study done by the National Center for Transgender Equality, it was reported that 40 percent of transgender adults have made a suicide attempt, and 92 percent of those individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.

“From a mental heath point, that’s an epidemic. We know these numbers, and we should be trying to correct that,” said Provorse. “A big emphasis on what I teach in the diversity class, the theme, is to gain a greater respect and understanding of the power and the influence of oppression.”

There are three main points that will be covered in the talk. The first will be exploring the range of the “gender continuum,” and how views on a binary understanding of gender are changing. This part will also go over valid terminology involving self-identification.

“I’ve been really happy to hear the interest in this topic here,” said Cole Herring, freshman philosophy major. “It’s something I feel like I should know more about, and it’s almost soothing knowing that we’re not shying away from these topics that used to be so controversial.”

Following his first topic, Provorse will go over some of the common misconceptions regarding the meeting of gender and sexual orientation.

“To quote Alfred Adler, psychological health comes from three sources: it comes from your relationship with yourself. It comes from having some stable, supportive interpersonal relationships, and it comes from the feeling that you are in the process of making some significant contribution to your community or to the world.”

As Provorse explained, education can be the first step in understanding and acceptance.

“If you go back and think of the experiences of transgender persons and gender non-conforming and gender fluid folks, even just five, ten years ago, we were restricting all three of those,” said Provorse.  “We were restricting the ability to be yourself, we were making it difficult to have those authentic, meaningful relationships and we were basically saying ‘you can’t contribute, you don’t have anything to contribute.’”

For his final point, Provorse will be going over the concept of gender dysphoria and how those who identify as transgender can achieve gender confirmation.

This talk is free and open for students and faculty to attend.

“As the veil of oppression is lifted, and more awareness around what many people might consider to be rare, unusual forms of gender self-identification arises, it just explodes,” said Provorse. “It’s the discomfort, ostracism, and other forms of oppression that keep people hidden. Once we create an environment where people feel free and comfortable, suddenly, it’s not rare at all.”