Thinking Outside The Binary

Last weekend, Andover celebrated the LGBTQ community with the annual Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) Weekend. Amidst a pride parade, panel discussion and other events, one of the highlights was the keynote address from Alex Myers, the first openly transgender man to graduate from Exeter. Entitled “My Queer Life: On Being Transgender,” Myers’s presentation focused on gender and sexuality outside of the traditional gender binary.

In his presentation, Myer discussed the existence of problematic structural systems that disregard the experience of individuals outside of the gender binary. His address was particularly relevant in the context of Andover, where culture and policies often implicitly assume that our student body is entirely cisgender in nature — a structural flaw that was made apparent at an All-School Meeting last year, when AJ Augustin ’15 spoke about the discomfort he feels using restrooms in public as a gender-queer individual at Andover.

In light of both Augustin’s speech and Myer’s presentation, the Andover GSA has followed the example of universities nationwide such as the University of California system and Northwestern University by starting discussions about establishing gender-neutral bathrooms on our campus.

The Phillipian fully supports these measures and also encourages the inclusion of gender-neutral pronouns alongside the traditional “she” or “he,” specifically when writing school-wide surveys and policies. Language is not static and constantly evolves with social progression. As the world develops a more progressive stance on LGBTQ issues, the language we use must mirror these advances.

If Andover aspires to achieve true diversity within our community, then the school must implement gender-inclusive changes on a systematic scale. We strive to make Andover a safe and comfortable place for LGBTQ youth and faculty, and while events like those held last weekend are laudable steps toward raising awareness and understanding of queer and nonbinary students on campus, cultural issues can only be effectively addressed once structural barriers are purposefully broken down.

We believe that the implementation of gender-neutral bathrooms at Andover is integral to becoming a community in which students on all points of the gender spectrum feel comfortable, and we urge the administration to accompany the GSA in making all necessary changes in order to represent the full diversity of the queer and nonbinary community at our school.