Black, trans and intersex bodies: living with a mirror not made to reflect your experience

 Students gather in groups and discuss the relevance of body positivity in today's social climate. They also discussed the negative effect of body expectations according to gender. (Brandon Barzola/The Daily Campus)

Students gather in groups and discuss the relevance of body positivity in today's social climate. They also discussed the negative effect of body expectations according to gender. (Brandon Barzola/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut Women’s Center and the Men’s Project discussion titled “Mirror, mirror off the wall” centers on bodies not reflected in media.

Held in the Asian American Cultural Center, the discussion focused on black, trans and intersex masculinities and how they are positively and negatively represented in media when they are represented at all.

Participants introduced themselves with their name, major, pronouns and one thing they liked about their body to start off the night. This set the tone for an open discussion on marginalized bodies.

Taylore Grunert, a seventh-semester English and ecology and evolutionary biology major, emphasized that the diversity of the participants made for a productive discussion.

“I think this was a really diverse event and people had really good and honest conversations and felt free to have those conversations,” Grunert said. “I think that’s always really important to make spaces where people aren’t afraid to be wrong and say their true opinions.”

Some of these honest conversations touched on Jeremiah Harvey, the nine-year old black boy falsely accused of groping a white woman, representation in advertising campaigns and racial and gender double-standards in romantic relationships.

Rhys Hall, a facilitator of the Men’s Project and a fifth-semester PhD student in the sociology department, emphasized the importance of having people of a variety of backgrounds be a part of conversations about masculinity.

“When we come together as a means of educating each other, not only can we subvert the dialogue as we’ve known to see it, but we can also show that this wave of wanting to confront masculinity isn’t just a heteronormative white man thing,” Hall said. “I think it’s super important for that group to be featured within that dialogue, but we must demonstrate that other people are not only engaging in the dialogue but also bringing a lot of other concepts into it.”

Tommy Jacobson, a facilitator with the Men’s Project and a seventh-semester secondary English education major, made a similar point. Jacobson stressed the idea educating yourself is vital to challenging dominant narrative surrounding social issues such as masculinity.

“To educate yourself and continue to grow as a person and a member of our global society, conversations like this I think are really helpful in terms of just understanding that there is more than what you’ve experienced in your bubble of life,” Jacobson said.

In the group discussion, Lindsey Vieweg, a ninth-semester elementary education major, made the point that while this aspect of education is important to challenging and ultimately changing identity stereotypes, it’s “not the job of the oppressed to educate the oppressor,”


Alex Taylor is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexis.taylor@uconn.edu.