The pieces of the identity puzzle

He or she. Him or her. Male or female. Man or woman.

At a young age, we learn that an individual can either be one or the other. There is rarely any description or acknowledgement of what lies in between or outside of these terms.

Senior Katka Showers-Curtis and junior Cristina McCracken are both individuals who struggle with the issue of lying outside of these generic terms.

Showers-Curtis uses “ze” instead of he or she. Ze identifies as genderqueer and trans*. Similarly, McCracken uses “e” as a possessive pronoun. E is someone who considers emself to be without gender. Refer to Opinion page 5 to view the entire table of preferred pronouns.

“As a culture, we are so focused on the binary that we believe there must be one or the other,” McCracken said. “We forget to think about things in the middle or outside of the binary.”


Both Showers-Curtis and McCracken are members of a student organization called Being Real in Doing Gender Equality. B.R.i.D.G.E. is a group for people who indentify as trans*, gender queer, agender or anyone who is outside of assigned genders to meet and share their experiences. The group is also open to allies and people who want to learn more about issues and help promote them.

“A big thing that B.R.i.D.G.E is looking at right now is policies that we would like to shift,” Showers-Curtis said. “We found 15 areas on campus where we think policies need to change and become more inclusive.”

Some of these issues on campus that B.R.i.D.G.E members hope to see resolved are placing gender neutral bathrooms on campus, finding alternative living situations for non-binary individuals and including more inclusive sex-education on trans issues in the UHCS.

B.R.i.D.G.E serves as an awareness group and looks to help get out information to people who are not usually educated on gender issues.


Despite the activity of groups like B.R.i.D.G.E and IMPACT, Showers-Curtis, McCracken, and other individuals still face struggles on campus when it comes to their identities.

“For me, a lot of what affects me is unintentional,” McCracken said. “It’s just the fact that people immediately gender any person they meet and that can be problematic.”

McCracken also said e feels that some people erase the identities of those who are non-binary.

“People are socially conditioned to categorize someone as a gender,” Showers-Curtis said. “You can’t just look at someone and know their gender or their pronoun.”

Showers-Curtis said ze has been in situations where people categorize hir as a lesbian because of hir short hair, something that didn’t happen when ze has longer hair.

These kinds of stereotypes have happened to both Showers-Curtis and McCracken.

Showers-Curtis and McCracken both said they feel that pronoun usage is one of the most frustrating issues they run into because being referred to as the wrong pronoun can be very detrimental to your emotional health.

“Our pronoun usage is something that is important to us and is often part of our gender identity and how we interact with people,” McCracken said. “It’s very intrinsic.”

Showers-Curtis and McCracken both said it is an uphill battle to try and get other people to understand different gender identities, professors included.

“For the most part, professors have been really great about it,” Showers-Curtis said. “But some feel that if their class isn’t a gender studies class, they shouldn’t have to talk or be concerned with the issue.”

Instead of using he or she and categorizing someone as a certain gender, singular “they” is more inclusive.

“Singular ‘they’ is preferred because it allows people the room to gender themselves,” Showers-Curtis said. “It works really well.”

When it comes to being emotionally affected by improper pronouns, McCracken said people don’t typically feel hurt or gendered if you just use the singular “they.”

“Though if you know someone’s pronouns, then that is what you should use,” McCracken said.

To get out more information on these topics, events like “Are you on the Spectrum?” and the LGBT Panel have been organized. A brochure will also be published soon with pronoun articles and information on it.

Another major event for the community is Transgender Day of Visibility, which will happen sometime in April.

“Last year we had about 90 people show up and there was a variety of different identities present,” Showers-Curtis said. “We include a panel of people talking about their identities and emphasizing that not everyone is the same in their gender identities.”

To get out information about these events, Showers-Curtis said ze feels like the P.B. Poorman Pride Resource Center does a good job at marketing.

“The Pride Center has consistently had some sort of trans event organized the past three years,” Showers-Curtis said. “They’re good at being inclusive and trying to get as many gender identities represented as possible.

A common misconception with gender identities is also the difference between sex and gender. Showers-Curtis said ze thinks both are socially constructed.

McCracken said it’s becoming more important for people to get out of this binary construct.

“It’s awesome to see people moving in this direction,” McCracken said.

Showers-Curtis said the best way to deal with pronoun usage is to ask someone what their pronoun is and then utilize it when referring to them.

“No woman is a woman in the same way another woman is,” Showers-Curtis said, “It’s the same with my gender; my identity is different from anyone else’s identity.”