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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Group formed to address gender identity

A new Campus Health Service group will provide therapy, education and support for students struggling with gender identity issues.

The weekly Gender Spectrum group launches Thursday on the third floor of the Campus Health Service building in the administration conference room. Each session costs $5 and may be billed to bursar’s accounts.

“It started because we have a number of transgender, gender non-conforming kind of folks who identify along the gender spectrum,” said Jennifer Hoefle, the director for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Affairs. “It’s very much in response to students asking for this kind of particular support service.”

There is a significant number of students who have talked about not being comfortable in their own skin or not fitting in with others, said Martie van der Voort, a mental health clinician at Counseling and Psychological Services. She added that about half of the students she works with deal with gender issues at some point.

She said people who don’t fit in may struggle with the gender binary, the idea that there is a clear distinction and differentiation between male and female. The goal of this group is to allow people to accept and feel comfortable with their own gender and the sessions will target the entire gender spectrum.

“I’m extremely excited to see the Gender Spectrum group form and I think it will provide a very necessary resource for our students,” Hoefle said.

This group will allow people to have conversations about how it’s OK to wonder about gender statuses, van der Voort said. Gender Spectrum is meant to be a safe place that will also honor the confidentiality of students.

“I want it to be a space that is very inclusive of questioning,” she said.

During the group sessions, van der Voort said she expects there will be discussion about stages and aspects of transition. An example of this is social transitioning, which could include someone’s appearance and the clothing they choose to wear. How someone prefers to be addressed may also be a topic for conversation.

There is also a clinical treatment type of transition such as using hormones, van der Voort said. People can use these to either masculinize or feminize the appearance of their body and hormone balance, this can also include surgical procedures.

Gender questioning and issues are not uncommon among students, van der Voort said. Van der Voort is also a facilitator at the LGBTQ support group and she said these discussions come up every week.

People may struggle with gender identity and feel pressure because “our society is very highly focused on the gender binary, you know, male or female,” she said. “That’s it … and you’re either one or you’re the other.”

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