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January 29, 2016

SUNY forum tackles gender identity

forumBob Ellis/staff photographer
A packed crowd in Sperry Hall listens Thursday night as Dr. Judith Ouellette, associate professor and psychology department chair at SUNY Cortland, speaks on gender identity and sexual orientation.

By LEANN HLEBICA
Staff Reporter
lhlebica@cortlandstandardnews.net

The term LGBTQAIP sounds confusing, but SUNY Cortland officials wanted to open the dialogue with students once again through a discussion that was part of the college’s Presidents Conversation Series.
LGBTQAIP stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer/questioning, asexual/allies, intersexual and pansexual, and Thursday’s topicaddressed identity and sexual orientation.
College President Erik J. Bitterbaum and his cabinet, along with members from the multicultural life and diversity office, open these discussions up to students, faculty, alumni and local residents.
The first installment of the series this fall was a two-part discussion focused on race issues, both worldwide and on campus.
Judith Ouellette, an associate professor and Psychology Department chairwoman, broke down the different labels in the term LGBTQAIP. Shediscussed the difference between sex — the biological factors in your DNA — and gender, or how people identify themselves.
Ouellette stressed listening to how a person self-identifies and encouraged the audience to really listen to how people address themselves.
“This is very similar to race,” she said. “We don’t necessarily know a person’s race just by looking at them.”
She also stressed the importance of bystanders takingaction when they see peoplebeing bullied or made fun of because of the way theyidentify.
Other panelists during the meeting told personal stories about the struggles they have faced with their own gender identity or sexual orientation.
“I think the college should make these talks mandatory to its students,” senior Neidin Loughran said afterward. She and her friend, Courtney Loeffler, said hearing personal moments on gender or sexual diversity on campus was a true learning experience.
“It is important that students should be aware that what they’re saying hurts another person,” Loeffler said.
Jerome Goodridge, a freshman, said he felt a little uncomfortable — he was assigned to write a paper about the presentation for his psychology class — but after listening, he became interested and then informed. He originally felt that the meeting was going to be primarily on sexual orientation, but learned it was actually primarily about human kindness and treating others with respect.
“Hearing the stories really made me identify with the issues the LGBTQAIP face, both on campus and in their personal lives,” he said.

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