Weintraub and Schiff: A week to question non-conformity

In a recent runoff to elect a representative to the Mr. Yale competition, one of the residential colleges elected a female contestant. The Yale College Council, confused by this turn of events, initially disqualified the contestant from the competition. Upon further consideration, however, the group reinstated her. The YCC’s e-mail readmitting her into the Mr. Yale competition stated that, while Mr. Yale has previously been “a competition of all males because the idea of having a female pageant was received by many as objectifying the female body,” they were glad she had “expressed interest in competing and very much respect that [she is] against being defined by conventional standards of gender.”

The YCC and this contestant have all taken steps that the Yale campus, and society in general, are also beginning to take. Their conversation is symbolic of the larger dialogue around the nation about the importance and significance of one’s gender at a time when some are claiming we live in a “post-gender world.”

We disagree. Gender affects our ability to enter competitions, what pool of people from which we can select next year’s roommate and whether we have to walk 10 steps or 10 minutes to find a bathroom in the Mathematics Department building.

For most of us, these are simply inconveniences, obnoxious aspects of our lives that we shrug off instead of question. For many, however, gender is a daily struggle — from the female athlete who feels she has to be extra feminine to make up for being strong to the boyfriend who isn’t comfortable sharing feelings; from the girl with short hair who gets confronted about whether “she’s sure she’s in the right bathroom” to the boy people claim is “too flamboyant” because he wears tight jeans.

As co-coordinators of Trans Awareness Week, we are often asked what the point of the series is. Trans Week provides an opportunity for people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community, as well as in the general Yale community, to delve into issues of gender and identity. This year, there are more than 10 events that explore and celebrate transgender and gender nonconforming identities and experiences through lectures, performances, photography and discussions.

We believe that Trans Week is accessible for all Yale students and any member of the New Haven community — whether you’re a person of faith, a person of color, queer or straight. But we should not forget that one of the reasons it is necessary to have a program like this is because transgender people continue to be harassed, beaten and persecuted throughout the world.

The word “transgender” is an umbrella term that generally refers to people whose biological sex does not correspond to the gender they feel themselves to be, mentally and physically. We hope that the week will provide support and encouragement to gender nonconforming students on campus, especially since Yale continues to fall behind other Ivy League Universities with regards to trans-friendly policies (such as gender neutral housing and health care), but we also think Trans Week is important because everyone deals with gender.

Transgender people, on some level, epitomize the problem with the gender binary, but if you look closely, we all have a bit of gender transgression within us. By coming to terms with our own gender nonconformity and relishing that intricacy, we will be better able to understand the trans community. Similarly, by reaching out to the transgender community, which is continuously in need of allies and support, we will be able to learn more about ourselves and our own complexities.

Seth Weintraub is a junior in Timothy Dwight College. Rachel Schiff is a senior in Silliman College. They are co-coordinators of Trans Awareness Week.

Comments

  • ’10

    I think the real question here is why the authors aren’t decrying this contestant for identifying with an oppressive, patriachal gender.

  • Yale 2008

    To quote a true philsopher, Ron Burgundy, “I feel like I’m taking CRAZY pills.”

    This trans-garbage is bunk.

  • ROFLCOPTER

    “Seth” Weintraub plays Women’s Rugby.

    I have no problem with someone identifying with one gender over the other, but you can’t have it both ways. You’re either a guy or a gal. Take your time to decide, but don’t milk the benefits of both.

  • Seth Weintraub

    @ROFLCOPTER

    Just because my name sounds gender ambiguous doesn’t mean I am, but after a comment as sensitive as yours, I feel no compulsion to share anything about myself with you. Taking shots at someone because of your opinion of their name is pretty low. Next time you want to insult me, do it to my face. And attach YOUR name to your comment next time you want to insult mine.

  • eep…

    “The banner is now ours to pick up, ours to carry…Or we can look ahead. We can pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and throw ourselves back into the fray…Will it be easy? No. Does it make this loss for equality hurt any less? No…We have a struggle to continue.”

    I literally laughed out loud when I first read this….this is the stuff of satire. Seriously, YDN editors, help a freshman out next time. This is awful, embarrassing writing.

    I almost thought this was satire at first.

  • @ Seth Weintraub

    *Applause* It’s about time someone makes ROFLCOPTER takes responsibility for his/her actions and constant negativity on the YDN boards.

  • Y11

    You know, I’m so pleasantly surprised that the Women’s Center doesn’t go out guns blazing on Mr. Yale more often that I’m just going to overlook the typical militancy of Miss Weintraub and the general “ACCOMMODATE US” tone of this letter.

  • ROFLCOPTER

    This is not an insult – it is a point. Miss Weintraub’s name is “Sarah Beth” and she uses the fact that she is female to participate in Women’s Rugby.

    But when she pens a column (a fairly well-written column) in the YDN, she makes her name “Seth”.

    There is no insult attached to this point; I am simply noting that the author of this opinion piece wants to be accepted as either male and female whenever she so chooses.

    As a black male, I have experience with prejudice. As a proudly black male, I would not shift my identity for convenience’s sake.

    As to the hater (commenter #6) who gripes about my “constant negativity on the YDN boards.” – I am negative when I see words that merit the negativity. There is, nowadays, little to be positive about regarding the opinions and minds of my classmates here at Yale.

  • amazed

    People, your only at Yale for four years..why do you have to impose your gender issues on the rest of us?! If your born a man, be one, and if your born a woman, be one! Why does everthing and everyone need to conform to your way? Pick a side and stick with it!

  • HDT

    ROFLCOPTER, you yourself once claimed to be a woman, back when everyone was in an uproar about the preseason scouting report. Someone said that objectification predated casual sex, and you responded: “Were they? They certainly weren’t letting us vote and expected us to clean and cook for them, but I can’t say for certain that they were ‘objectifying’ women. Objectification consists of a perspective which views my entire gender as sex objects.”

    You can’t have it both ways, dear.

  • Egalitarian

    To #1: The fact that you find that certain men behave in an oppressive manner doesn’t mean that all or even most of us are like that. Some of us are sick of being seen as evil simply because we had the bad luck to be born into the same gender as certain people who do things that are wrong. Your attitude is just as hateful as that of those who would have kept you out of a voting booth if you had lived a hundred years ago.

    To #3: I was twice informed by my doctor that I could have surgery for gynecomastia and twice refused it. The shape of my body is not a disease, and I have no interest in curing it. In high school, I had the worst mile times in my school but could beat most of the girls on flexibility tests where girls do better than boys on average. As a child, I was ridiculed by my peers who found my behavior odd and thought that I was either gay or transgendered, although in reality I am neither. I am androgynous, I am proud of it, and, like you, I would not shift my identity for convenience’s sake. Bravo to the authors of this column for criticizing the “gender binary.” I only wish that it had been explicitly stated that one need not be LGBT in order to be substantially different from the typical person of either gender on the masculinity/femininity spectrum.

  • ROFLCOPTER

    It appears I have a female doppleganger… I unfortunately have no control over that.

  • Torborg

    That’s unlikely, ROFLCOPTER. You almost never let a thread pass without commenting on it, especially not ones involving liberal causes. What are the odds you didn’t happen to notice somebody posting under your name?

  • y10

    I like ROFLCOPTER. He makes good points.