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April 20, 2018

Gender VIA William (1)

Dr. Kand McQueen presented the VIA focused on gender identity on April 12.

Photo by William Southern 



Speaker Explores the Topic of Gender Identity at VIA


Teresa Masteller 


Dr. Kand McQueen presented “Gender Identity: Two Are Definitely Not Enough” as part of Manchester University’s Values, Ideas and the Arts (VIA) series at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 12 in the upper level of the Jo Young Switzer Center.

McQueen, a senior lecturer at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, discussed western society’s view on gender—gender is either male or female, and everyone can easily be put into these two categories. But, as McQueen said, “It just isn’t quite that simple.”

McQueen explained transgenderism as “a blanket term that refers to people who either permanently or periodically do not identify with the sex they are assigned at birth.” He further explained many terms that fall under this blanket term, such as crossdressers, drag kings/queens, genderqueer, transsexual and intersex individuals.

In order to convey how the world has been unkind to intersex people, he used the “micropenis” as an example. “This is a condition characterized as 2.5 standard deviations below the average phallus when stretched at birth,” McQueen said. Up until the early 2000s, he said, the standard medical corrective procedure was to “amputate the penis and raise the child as a girl.” Alternately, McQueen remarked that 2.5 standard deviations above the average would likely be no problem, a fact that critiques the dichotomous and unequal areas of gender.

McQueen noted the discrimination toward transgender individuals Tyra Hunter and Robert Eads, whose deaths were caused after they were refused medical attention because they did not fit the gender binary. “Historically the world has not been kind to transgender people,” McQueen said. “Quite literally, Tyra was the casualty of our dichotomous ways of looking at gender and sexuality.”

After explaining the historical look at gender in western society, McQueen told of his own story of his struggle with gender identity. When at age 3 he told his mother that he wanted to be a boy, her response—to dress him in frilly clothes and throw away his “boy” toys—sent him into denial. McQueen was 40 years old when his denial finally came crashing down, and he recovered that childhood memory. He shared vulnerable pictures from his past, including one of him looking uncomfortable in a prom dress, in order to tell his true story, and how he was made to be somebody that he isn’t.

McQueen ended the presentation by telling the audience to focus on the good.  His final PowerPoint slide read “This is your world, don’t be afraid to change it. This world is big enough for all of us.”