Saskatoon

Queer 101: Pronouns, gender, and and how to use that acronym

A seminar provided by OUTSaskatoon for Pride makes navigating queer communities as a straight person a little easier.

It can be confusing at times, but the willingness to learn indicates acceptance and respect.

Amanda Guthrie educates Saskatoon about gender, sexuality and inclusion. (CBC News/Bridget Yard)

Amanda Guthrie writes furiously on a paper board on a stand in the boardroom of OUTSaskatoon. It's a little high and she has to reach to scrawl "LGBTQ."

She introduces herself.

"I'm Amanda and my pronouns are she and her."

This is part of Guthrie's introduction because some people use the pronouns "they and them." These pronouns are gender neutral and also helpful when someone's gender is unclear.

This — and other things about the LGBTQ community that some people don't fully understand — were the subject matter of Queer 101, a seminar OUTSaskatoon offered last week.

L-G-B-T-Q-A-2S (and more)

Guthrie's audience was mostly made up of middle-aged professionals, with a millennial or two sprinkled into the mix. The room listened intently while she unpacked term after term used to identify and respect queer communities.

One of the first questions from the group was about naming and identifying queer identities.

"As we see the acronym evolve and change, that simply means that a group of people, whether it's the federal government, or OUTSasatoon or you child or co-worker are simply trying to recognize more people." she said.

"L" stands for lesbian, "G" for gay, "B" for bisexual, "A" for asexual and "2S" for the two-spirit community.

It's tricky, but understanding your audience is key.

"My best tip for trying to figure out which one you should use is think about who you're talking to and what is most accessible," Guthrie said.

For example, an audience of elderly people may not understand a very long acronym, so Guthrie encourages people to "meet them where they are."

The acronym "LGBT" may be more accessible and less confusing, so the message is more clear.

Enter the gender-bread person

The gender bread person is a visual tool to explain gender, sexuality, sex, and presentation (https://www.itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/)

Most are familiar with the gingerbread man as a classic Christmas. There's a new, non-binary cookie on the block.

Guthrie used the genderbread person to demonstrate four terms: gender, sexuality, sex and presentation.

"Sex is assigned at birth whereas gender is a social construct. It's also another identity altogether," Guthrie said.

"Sex is comprised of different characteristics of a biological sex. But it does not dictate gender. Gender is located in the mind."

Guthrie told her students about science that uses MRI scans to prove trans identities are valid. A woman assigned male at birth will have a similar scans to one assigned female at birth, while in a transgender man the brain lights up similar to a man assigned male at birth, Guthrie said.

Flying the Pride flag and understanding terms related to the queer community are two ways to celebrate Pride month. (CBC)

On the genderbread person, each of the four characteristics are assigned to a body part.

Gender is located in the brain, sexuality in the heart, sex between the legs and presentation on the whole person altogether.

Guthrie describes sex as lego blocks. They can be changed and have little to do with gender identity. Presentation is the overall physical presentation of a person, be it feminine, masculine, androgynous or somewhere in between.

Hard questions

A woman raised her hand tentatively near the end of the session.

As she spoke, participants nodded their heads.

"Someone I know who I identify as 'she,' she's saying she's non-binary and has changed her name and I have a hard time switching," she said.

Amanda delivered an answer easily. She praised the woman for trying, but there's a catch.

Misgendering someone is an easy mistake to make, she said, so if you make it say sorry and move on. Next time, she said, try harder.

"That work is on you to figure out."