“They” was deemed last year’s Word of the Year by Merriam-Webster.
In recent years the plural pronoun “they” has morphed into a word used to refer to a singular person whose gender identity is nonbinary.
If words like the singular “they,” “nonbinary” or “gender identity” confuse you, you’re not alone.
Although most young people have developed a more expansive, inclusive relationship with gender, older generations have not had the chance to reflect on, learn or talk about different understandings of gender.
A free presentation titled “Understanding Gender and Youth Today” aims to help community members learn about gender diversity and answer any questions.
The event is co-sponsored by the Jackson Hole Community Counseling Center, the education organization Gender Spectrum and the local LGBTQ advocacy group Jackson PFLAG.
Planned for 6 p.m. Thursday at Teton County Library, the discussion will be led by Stephanie Brill, a leading national expert, author and speaker on youth and the evolving understanding of gender identity. Brill has authored several books on the topic, including “The Transgender Teen” (with Lisa Kenney) and “The Transgender Child” (with Rachel Pepper).
Brill is also the founder of Gender Spectrum, an organization whose mission is to “create a gender-inclusive world for all children and youth” through education and outreach to families, schools, organizations and institutions.
The talk will break down gender in an accessible, engaging way and cover a broad range of topics related to gender diversity and the experiences of today’s youth, Brill said.
“I hope people will come away with a new vocabulary and a new framework for viewing the world around them,” Brill said. “In doing so it will answer questions about ‘how do people become transgender or otherwise gender expansive? What does that mean anyway? How can someone choose their own pronoun? And what are some things I can do in my own life to help create more inclusive environments?’”
Although Brill points to age as the primary factor in how gender is experienced and understood, she recognizes that strong differences develop based on where one is raised, religious upbringings, racial and ethnic influences and geographic influences in formative education years.
Brill also hopes to dispel the misunderstanding that notions of gender are somehow political.
“They are personal, and gender diversity is part of natural human expression,” Brill said. “In fact, people of all political and religious beliefs are both gender diverse themselves and give birth to gender diverse children. It is a natural part of humanity.”
For Jackson PFLAG, which stands for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, the talk is essential for building awareness, support and dialogue around gender identity in the community of Jackson.
“Jackson PFLAG welcomes Stephanie’s presentation as a critical step in providing the community a better understanding of the intricacies of gender identity and gender expression,” PFLAG coordinator Mark Houser said. “Every day, all around the world, gender issues are being weaved into conversations big and small, in settings from government to households, from schools to places of employment.
“Brill will take this conversation about gender diversity to another level, in a manner that will positively resonate with those who attend,” he said.
Jackson PFLAG works to promote the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals through support, education and advocacy. It also works to end discrimination and secure equal civil rights.
The group hosted a public screening of the National Geographic documentary “Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric” in 2017 and was also an important voice for Jackson’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which was enacted in 2018.
Brill hopes those who attend the talk leave with an acknowledgment of the diversity of gender identity and with more language to accurately represent the nuances of the subject.
“This evening can help create a road map for understanding the complexities of gender and lay a foundation for deeper connection with the children and teens of today,” Brill said. “We hope this presentation and discussion will be a catalyst for our community to continue to work together to improve inclusion, fairness and equality for everyone who calls Jackson home.” ￼