The F Word, a feminist student group on campus, hosted an open panel discussion Tuesday to bust some myths about gender and sexual violence as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Week.
Most notably, they said people often confound gender and sex when each term carries clearly distinct definitions.
“Gender identity is basically what is between your ears and sex is what is between your legs,” one panelist said. “Gender identity is not always in line with sex, or what makes a person’s sex.”
Formed of Cornell students and representatives from the LGBT Resource Center and the Skorton Center for Health Initiatives, the panel raised other contemporary issues of gender inclusivity and sexual assault.
Jesse Bonney-Burrill, public health fellow at the Skorton Center, elaborated on why confusion arises from the public regarding gender labels.
“People want to label someone’s sexual orientation based on a behavior,” she said. “Behavior and sexual orientation can be completely different. Someone can identify as a gay woman and still sleep with men.”
The panelists said that while many students, when thinking about sexual assault, commonly conceive of heterosexual women being assaulted by a heterosexual men, statistics show that members of the LGBTQ community are much more likely to be victims of sexual violence.
The privilege that gender-conforming people have “can sometimes help mitigate the threat and violence” of sexual assault, another panelist added. “Usually it is trans folks, gender nonconforming folks that are most likely to experience sexual violence within their lifetime.”
The discussion then proceeded to a question and answer session and panelists shared personal stories of overcoming biases, dealing with gender conformity and seeking support from others.
Organizers encouraged the audience to seek help and guidance from various available resources on campus regarding sexual violence and provided helpful advice for individuals searching for their own gender identities.