Redefining Gender at the University of Oregon

, Alex Nitzberg, 2 Comments

photo by Wolfram Burner

photo by Wolfram Burner

From queer studies and LGBTQIA+ scholarships to gender-free pronouns and special “gender equity” housing, the University of Oregon stands at the forefront of the social revolution to redefine gender.

The Office of the Dean of Students’ LGBTQIA+ webpage states that, “Creating a campus that is welcoming to all means providing a space for all gender expressions that is free of homophobia, heterosexism, and gender bias.”

LGBTQIA+ stands for, “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, aromantic, and ally,” with ally referring to people supportive of the LGBTQIA+ movement. Elsewhere the term “agender” is also included.

The university dedicates an entire page to pronouns, explaining, “Like names, pronouns are an important part of how we identify that deserves to be respected. And we recognize that assuming someone’s gender can be hurtful, especially to members of our community who are transgender, genderqueer, or non-binary.”

According to this pronoun guide, the pronouns they, them and theirs can serve as singular or plural pronouns devoid of gender implications, and the pronouns ze, hir, hirs, Co, co, cos, and Per, per, pers also eliminate gender specificity. The guide offers readers examples of how to pronounce and use these new pronouns, for example:

“Co, co, cos: does not indicate the subject’s gender. Pronounced coh.

Jesse is going to be my roommate in Gender Inclusive Housing. Co is bringing a mini-fridge.”

The pronoun page also provides a list of statements to help people “explain why it’s important to share pronouns.” Some of the suggested statements include:

“Oh, I share my pronouns so that people have the chance to remember that assumptions about gender hurt us all.”

“I think it’s more respectful not to assume someone’s gender based on how I think they look. I’m sharing mine so that you won’t have to assume either!”

“Because I always want to fight prejudice against transgender, genderqueer, and non-binary people whenever and wherever I can.”

Upon request, the University will furnish “pronoun ribbons” for use with nametags.

Oregon University’s “LGBTQIA Marketing and Communications Standards” includes a section titled “LGBTQIA Grammar and Style Guide,” that provides information about terminology and guidelines for usage. One guideline instructs:

“Transgender is an adjective, not a noun or verb. Use transgender as a descriptor. Janet Mock, a transgender activist, visited our campus last May.NOT Janet Mock, a transgender, visited our campus last May.”

But the University of Oregon’s efforts extend beyond the promotion of politically correct speech.

The “Gender Equity Hall” offers housing, “ … for students who would feel more comfortable living in a hall that does not conform to the gender binary of male or female. Residents in this community can choose to share a room with a student of any gender identity or biological sex. Residents who choose this community will have varied understandings of gender, gender identities, and gender expressions.”

Students can earn a minor in “Queer Studies” by taking courses like “Queer Ethnic Literature,” “Queer Migrations” and “Transgender Issues.” The University also offers special “LGBTQIA+ scholarships” to students involved in promoting the LGBTQ movement. There are also several “LGBTQIA+ student organizations.”

Self-described LGBTQIA+ individuals and supporters could add their name to an “Out List” slated for publication “in the form of an advertisement placed in the Daily Emerald during the week of October 11 to correspond with National Coming Out Day and our own UO Coming Out Week.”

The University hosted an event titled the “Coming Out Week Festival” on October 11th. Part of the description reads: “Stop by to take a picture with the traditional Coming Out Door, hop around in the bouncy castle, get painted in rainbows and glitter, contribute to our community art project, and show that you are loud and proud to be queer-identified or an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community!”

Another webpage titled “Transition Support,” relates the University’s desire to help students who “transition” while attending college. The page informs students about how they can “update name and/or gender identity on UO documentation … ” and it also notes that the insurance plan available through the school, “covers hormone and surgical treatment just like any other student medical need—meaning it is subject to the same maximums, copays, and policies.”

Alex Nitzberg is an intern at the American Journalism Center at Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.