On Wednesday, September 30, Jennifer Bryan spoke in assembly to the Nobles community. Bryan is the founder and principal of Team Finch Consultants, a group specializing in issues related to gender and sexuality diversity.
“How does language affect who feels safe in the world?” queried Bryan of the audience of more than 600. She shared some of the questions she gets when she works with younger children, noting that her work takes different forms depending on the age of students:
“Can two girls get married?” ask the youngest children, or, “How do you become gay?”
When students are more mature, questions develop into why society tends to label boys with several romantic interests as “players,” while girls become “sluts.” She acknowledges the important work that all people engage in related to individual gender and sexual identity. “We need a broad construct that is inclusive of everyone,” she said, as she used a species of coral reef fish—who could change gender depending on environment—as metaphor for human biodiversity. “You can’t always tell by looking at the outside who somebody is. We have a paradigm shift going on,” she told students and faculty members. “Think of identity as being on a spectrum.”
Bryan discussed the limitations for some of being required to check a “male” or “female” box on forms, and she spoke of the importance of vocabulary. “What’s the difference between being transgender and transgender queer?” she asked. “There are people who don’t line up with the binary [of being simply male or female],” she explained, suggesting that critical thinking skills are useful in examining intersecting identities of gender, sexuality, race, class, religion and other aspects of what defines a person.
Bryan offers information and support to educators and students who aim to create safe, inclusive learning communities for children, adolescents and young adults. Later this fall, she will train Nobles faculty to facilitate related discussions. Her visit is part of an ongoing curriculum related to understanding and talking about often complex issues of diversity, according to Steven Tejada, who leads conversations on diversity at Nobles.
Bryan began offering specialized gender and sexuality consultation 14 years ago. She published From the Dress-Up Corner to the Senior Prom: Navigating Gender and Sexuality Diversity in PreK-12 Schools with Rowman and Littlefield Education. Her conceptual and pedagogical models related to gender and sexuality in educational settings continue to evolve, keeping pace with the profound and rapid social changes occurring every day in the culture at large.
For more on Bryan’s approach to building values, curriculum and policy, go to http://teamfinchconsultants.com.