As they head back to school this week, 38 LGBT students do so with scholarships from the Point Foundation‚ÄĒthe nation‚Äôs largest publicly-supported organization providing financial support, leadership training and mentoring to students marginalized because of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. ¬†
Beginning a second year at Yale University, Point Foundation scholar Emily Williams (who prefers gender neutral pronouns), says s/he faces unique challenges in his/her chosen field - health care - because s/he‚Äôs genderqueer.
Studying to become a family nurse practitioner, Williams says, ‚ÄúIn health care, gaining trust and building relationships with patients is crucial.¬† If I don‚Äôt conform in some ways, I‚Äôll never get past the revulsion mainstream society has for people who aren‚Äôt easy to classify, and thus be unable to have a positive impact on those people I serve.‚ÄĚ ¬†
The Minneapolis native admits, ‚ÄúThe fact remains that any respected position in society is closed to androgynous and trans people.¬† It‚Äôs only because I‚Äôm comfortable to physically stay on the female side of things that I‚Äôm even able to begin my career.‚ÄĚ ¬†
Williams received her undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago.¬† After five years volunteering with rape victims and working full-time providing domestic violence services, Williams argues, ‚ÄúThe way we construct gender is harmful for everyone.‚ÄĚ ¬†
S/he says that both homophobia and violence against women result directly from a damaging binary gender system. ‚ÄúSexual violence of all stripes stems directly from our gender system.¬† Queer bashing and hate crimes are siblings of sexual assault and domestic violence.¬† They are all about putting a person in their place in terms of gender.‚ÄĚ
Williams‚Äô own genderqueer identity stems in part from a desire to challenge common beliefs about what is male and what is female, rather than ‚Äúlive up to them from another point of view. For me it makes the most sense to use a term that more or less means ‚Äėall of the above.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
Committed to changing constrictive attitudes toward gender, including within the LGBT community, Williams says, ‚ÄúIn same-sex, same-gender relationships [gender] can be insidious because it‚Äôs all but invisible to the outside world.¬† In an extreme version you get physical or sexual violence, but much of the time it‚Äôs simply about who has power and when.‚ÄĚ
Power dynamics, Williams argues, are also present in the labels and pronouns used to further communication. ‚ÄúThere are few examples‚Ä¶of ways in which we categorize people without simultaneously creating a hierarchy.¬† Our gender system is clearly built around dominance.¬† I think this is why those with gender privilege‚ÄĒnot just men, but people who do their gender best‚ÄĒare so threatened when those without it demand more power.¬† They assume it means they‚Äôll have to be lower on the totem pole.¬† I think the LGBT community has a responsibility to demonstrate to the rest of the world that equity is possible.‚ÄĚ
Williams believes trans and genderqueer individuals are changing society. ‚ÄúWe debunk the fears and misconceptions that fuel the violence against us. As patients, activists, and even friends and family members, the genderqueer and trans community has great power to influence the future of health care.‚ÄĚ
The Point Foundation scholar hopes to play a part in making those changes.¬† ‚ÄúI believe that the health of every person in this country is closely tied together.¬† We must make health care affordable and accessible to everyone.¬† It‚Äôs completely nuts that all of the incentives for the health care industry come from having a sick populace.¬† Health care workers don‚Äôt get paid to prevent disease, and pharmaceutical companies can only profit if more people become ill.‚ÄĚ
Trans writer, Jacob Anderson-Minshall, co-authored Blind Curves, the first in the Blind Eye Mystery series, available now. Contact email@example.com or visit Anderson-minshall.com for more information.