Breaking the Gender Binary

Breaking apart the forced unity of sex and gender, while increasing the scope of livable lives, needs to be the central goal of feminism. This is important for everybody, especially, but not exclusively, for trans people

Susan Stryker – Transgender History

My first course, “Transgender in Scandinavia” originally drew me in based on its unique perspective on trans experiences in Scandinavia, as well as an opportunity to learn how to bring inclusive activism to our home communities.

On a personal note, I also wanted to learn more about my own non-binary identity. Although my home University, Iowa State, has a well-developed Women and Gender Studies program, I have found that there is a lack of transgender-specific classes. I wanted to expand my knowledge on both the trans community and non-binary perspectives.

One of the cornerstones of our class is safety and diversity. The first day of class, we spent time creating a collection of “class guidelines”. The goal of this is to collaborate on what we as a class need to create both a safe and brave learning environment before beginning material. Our professor, Iwo Nord, values our safety and well-being above all else, and this activity is just one way he helps us feel we can express ourselves and grow.

The course materials cover a variety of trans identities and experiences within Scandinavia, as well as the United States. Our professor is extremely passionate about the class, and has helped guide us through the many aspects of transgender identities, activism, history, health, safety, and most of all trans pride and joy, all while providing diverse and unique course materials.

We spend our classes in discussions and interactive activities, which help us make real world connections and challenge our perspectives. We also have immersive book clubs for our two books for the course, Testo Junkie by Paul B. Preciado, and Whipping Girl by Julia Serano. With the increased emphasis on open discussions and presentations, I have felt challenged to expand my perspective on both the trans community and my own identity.

As a recently-out non-binary person, I am relatively new to both the trans community, and my own identity. Although I have familiarity with many of the subjects in the course, I have not had the opportunity to go as in depth and focused as this class has offered.

I am monstrous by virtue of not succumbing to human society’s restrictive patterns of self recognition. I am a monster simply by being other

Anthony Clair Wagner

The most moving day of class so far was titled “Monstrous Transformations”. A daunting title, this session explored how trans people are seen as “monsters” or “non-human” by society. It was during this class we realized that when trans people are deemed less than human, their oppression can be rationalized. Many in the class identify as trans or non-binary, and having this course helped us realize that we can embrace these terms, and see being “other” as positive and empowering.

Next week we are going on a field study to Uppsala, Sweden. Here we will visit the Anti-discrimination office to conduct a workshop about preventing discrimination, creating safe spaces for equality work, and how Sweden supports trans communities legally.

Along with Uppsala, we will also be going to our professor’s Queer Collective to see trans research, activism, and experiences first-hand. Here, we will be able to do another workshop about different ways to build families and queer life trajectories.

Back home, I am a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee member for the Iowa State Bands program. I am hopeful that both the Uppsala and Queer collective field studies will give me useful knowledge and ideas to further diversity initiatives in our band programs and on Iowa State’s campus.

Overall, I know that I am more secure in my gender identity now more than ever before. A large part of that is thanks to this class, my classmates, and our amazing professor. With one week left, I cannot wait to grow even more.

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