-By, Juliet Isselbacher
Spectrum’s recent initiative to label all bathrooms as gender neutral has drawn attention from students and faculty alike. In light of this school-wide discussion regarding gender identity, Izzy Thorndike agreed to share their perspective as a person who identifies as gender nonbinary.
How would you describe your gender identity?
I identify as nonbinary, meaning that my gender does not fit within the gender binary (the idea that everyone is either a boy or a girl). I use they/them pronouns to describe myself instead of she/her, because they/them pronouns have a comfortable sense of gender ambiguity.
What are some misconceptions about it?
A common misconception about a nonbinary gender identity is that it doesn’t exist. Although there is an increasing awareness of transgender people, it is still commonly believed that they can only transition within the binary (i.e. from male to female or from female to male). However, gender is actually more of a spectrum than a binary.
How do you reconcile your identity with Winsor’s definition as an “all-girls’ school?”
This is something I’ve thought about a lot, actually. Since I was raised as a girl, socialized as a girl, and am still, for the most part, seen as a girl, I am still affected by sexism, misogyny, and all the restrictions that the world tends to force on women. For that reason, I find “all girls” spaces to be pretty empowering, as I feel that they’re places where girls and women are taught to be confident and independent. I am, of course, a huge feminist, and I love, support, and benefit from the teaching of those values to girls of all ages.
However, it’s often very difficult to feel that I’m part of a community where my identity is not recognized or is constantly ignored. There is a TON of gendered language that floats all over Winsor, and the fact that the large majority of students here DO identify as female makes it pretty easy to forget that not EVERYONE does.
In your opinion, who “belongs” at Winsor?
This is a difficult question, seeing as I can’t speak for all trans/genderqueer/nonbinary/etc people who might attend Winsor. I can really only speak for myself. I think that anyone who feels they belong here has a right to do so, and I think the school should be open to accepting students of gender identities all across the spectrum. I’m pretty sure I belong–at least most of the time.
As someone who sees gender as a spectrum, do you believe that the concept of a single-sex school is inherently problematic?
No. Like I said before, I think that all-female spaces can be super empowering and do awesome things for women. But this is a complex question–because I ALSO think that having any sort of qualification based on genitalia is pretty ridiculous. So yeah, I think single-gendered spaces can be pretty great; HOWEVER, I think in a time where the world kind of doesn’t really know yet that genderqueer/nonbinary people even exist, any sort of institution that knows about the myth of the gender binary should take an active part in destroying that and providing the same kinds of advantages of single-gendered schools for kids who are genderqueer/nonbinary.
What, if anything, does Winsor need to change about the way it discusses and understands gender identity?
It would be awesome if gender identities besides just the binary ones (male and female) were addressed in class discussions about gender. Gender is complicated, and there is currently stigma around the idea of being nonbinary, so it would be really cool if people were just more open-minded to the idea of identities they’ve never heard of. But most importantly, gendered language isn’t very fun to hear. Teachers often use the term “the average Winsor girl” and also address their classes as “girls” and “ladies.” This language wears down on my self-confidence and pride in my identity when I hear it every five minutes.
How can non-genderqueer Winsor students better support you?
It would be really awesome if people started using my correct pronouns! It would mean a lot to me, especially for a change that’s not too difficult to work into your vocabulary. It makes me feel respected, loved, and supported when people use my correct pronouns, and when people call me “she,” it can feel discouraging and deflating. Even if you think it might be hard to remember all the time, at least making an effort to use them would be so appreciated. Thank you in advance!
Talking about me, you might say, They went to the park. They brought their frisbee to the park with them. They played frisbee with themself.
Any other thoughts?
Spectrum’s Valentine’s Day Dance is coming up in February! Keep an eye out!