Elisabeth ‘Biz’ Lindsay-Ryan presented the September Levy Lecture, “Understanding Sexual Identity and Gender Identity,” on September 10 at the Levy Senior Center. She covered unfamiliar terminology, gave examples of how to handle situations with sensitivity, and answered many questions from the audience. It was a remarkable afternoon; those in attendance learned and were charmed by Biz's easy-going and confident presentation style.
One of the topics Biz covered was bias. Everyone is biased about something. One way you can identify your own biases is to note when you are surprised about someone or something. If you are surprised when someone tells you part of their story, the chances are you are confronting a bias.
Biz also discussed the idea of privilege, saying, “Privilege is when we assume that everyone has the same experience and options that we do. But that is unrealistic because we experience the world in different ways based on our identity and what we present to the world.”
As the conversation moved into terminology, Ms. Lindsay-Ryan explained that as people’s experiences expand, our vocabulary evolves to describe and honor those experiences. For instance, using the singular ‘they’ referring to someone who may not identify as male or female may sound awkward to your ear the first time you use it, but it demonstrates respect and acceptance of the person you are referring to.
Biz acknowledged that if someone you love is exploring a different gender identity or expression, you may find it confusing. You might make mistakes using the right term or pronoun. The difference between acceptance and rejection hinges on how you handle the mistake. Acceptance means apologizing and admitting you need to work on this more. If you get angry at the person, not only is that a rejection, but it is demeaning. If we love these people and want them in our lives, we need to accept them at every stage of their journey. That was a message that resonated for everyone.