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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bucknell chapter.


Class: 2016Major: Women’s and Gender StudiesMinor: Public Policy and Social Justice Junior (class of 2016)

What do you do on campus?I’m a Women’s and Gender Studies major with minors in Public Policy and Social Justice. I’m an Assistant Director for Common Ground, a five day, student-led, diversity immersion retreat held of fall break. I’m the President of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance. I live in Fran’s House which is the LGBTQ affinity house. I also work at Uptown and Weis Center doing tech work.

You are the president of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), can you talk a little bit about that?GSA is Bucknell’s LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) student group. We aim to create a space for LGBTQ students to find community, support, and understanding. We try to do things to promote positive change on campus for the LGBTQ community. Being president has been an incredible experience so far, not only because I’ve enjoyed planning events and meetings, but getting to work with four other amazing people on the exec board has also been phenomenal. We’ve brought two speakers so far this year, Tristan Taormino, who is a sex positive speaker, and Kye Allums, a transgender athlete and activist. Both events were huge successes and I’m looking forward to everything we are planning for next semester.

How else are you involved in LGBT advocacy?I am the Convener for the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition, which is Pennsylvania’s statewide LGBTQ youth organization. We’re actually the first statewide, entirely youth-led LGBTQ organization in the country. We focus primarily on safe school policies and creating relationships between high school and colleges and LGBTQ student organizations across the state. Through this role I’ve gotten to present a numerous regional conferences and summits on trans youth policies, youth-led activism, and safe schools. I found out a few weeks ago I’ll be doing a workshop at Creating Change, which is the largest LGBTQ conference in the world, this coming February in Denver. I was Co-Chair of the 2014 Youth Action Conference, which focused on issues that face transgender youth. I meet with state legislators to advocate for the Pennsylvania Safe Schools Act, which is the leading anti-bullying bill currently in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. I’ve gotten to go to DC for a White House briefing on the Affordable Care Act and the LGBT community, and to meet with Senators and Representatives to advocate for the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and Student Nondiscrimination Act.

How do you think Bucknell can change to be more LGBT friendly?I believe one of the biggest things we could do is create affirming policies for transgender students. We have a nondiscrimination policy that includes gender identity, and though limited, there are options for housing for transgender students. Both are good first steps, but there is so much more that needs to be done. Having policies that allow for easy name change on non-legal documents and systems, like rosters, email, and myBucknell, is critical for the comfort and ultimately safety of transgender students. Faculty and staff should have trainings to understand the importance of asking students’ pronouns and chosen name so that they do not intentionally or not misgender students. There is a significant lack of gender inclusive bathrooms on campus and for many transgender people using gendered bathrooms not only is extremely uncomfortable but can put them in danger. While changing physical spaces to create gender inclusive restrooms is not always easy, especially given the limitations on how many gendered bathrooms there must be due to building codes, there are things we can do to start that process. For example, we could implement a policy that new or significantly renovated buildings have to have at least one gender inclusive, and ADA approved restroom.

How would you recommend one acts and becomes an ally?Allyship is a process and you never “become” an ally because that makes it sound like there is an ending point and there is always more to learn. Striving to be an ally is something anyone can do, for any group. I believe allies are people who are willing to actively listen to and support a community. Allies should recognize when they should speak up, and when it is necessary for a person in the community to be the one speaking. No one is ever going to be a perfect ally, everyone will mess up someone’s pronouns, or make assumptions about someone based on their sexuality, or say something insensitive, and that’s okay as long as that person realizes and acknowledges their mistake so they can learn from it, and so that others can learn from it, so it doesn’t happen again.

Could you please explain gender neutrality in a manner that would enlighten and both educate readers and the Bucknell student body alike?We live in a society where we are taught that there are men and women, that’s it. From the moment we are born, we are declared girl or boy and raised to fit into certain standards of what that means. We are told that gender is dictated by what body parts we are born with, but gender is so much more complex than that. Simply put, gender is about how one feels inside, and how they want to express themself. The only thing that makes a person a man or a woman is if that person says that’s who they are. But what about people who don’t feel like either of those labels really fit? That’s where the idea of gender as a spectrum comes in. There is agender, bi-gender, genderqueer, genderfluid, and so many more gender identities out there that people use to describe themselves because the options we are given don’t always work. I personally identify as agender, and to me that means that I don’t identify as a man or a woman, or anywhere in-between. I just identify as Turner. Labeling myself as a certain gender doesn’t feel right. I use gender-neutral pronouns, ze/zir/zirs, and this is my way of expressing my gender identity. I can spend hours talking about what gender is to me, and at the end of the day, gender means something unique to each person.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?I have a few different things I see myself doing. Part of me wants to get a PhD and become a professor, focusing on transgender studies. I’d love to help future students realize that they can make an impact on the world. Part of me wants to continue doing what I’m doing now, advocating for social change through grassroots activism. Part of me wants to go into politics so I can act from within on policy that will help disenfranchised groups. Regardless of what exactly I’m doing, I want to be doing something that can make a difference for the LGBTQ community, and other minority groups. 

Favorites:Spot on campus: Student spaceClass at Bucknell: Queer Studies or Martin Luther King and the Beloved CommunityFreeze Flavor: Mint chocolate chip with fudge in the hole

Three fun facts:1. I can drive a tractor.2. I’ve met Laverne Cox.3. I’ve done horseback riding since I was six years old.

Elizabeth is a senior at Bucknell University, majoring in English and Spanish. She was born and raised in Northern New Jersey, always with hopes of one day pursuing a career as a journalist. She worked for her high school paper and continues to work on Bucknell’s The Bucknellian as a senior writer. She has fervor for frosting, creamy delights, and all things baking, an affinity for classic rock music, is a collector of bumper stickers and postcards, and is addicted to Zoey Deschanel in New Girl. Elizabeth loves anything coffee flavored, the Spanish language, and the perfect snowfall. Her weakness? Brunch. See more of her work at www.elizabethbacharach.wordpress.com