While gender might be something that we don’t think about every day, it impacts nearly every aspect of our lives. GENESIS, which stands for Gender Exploration and Support in an Interpersonal Setting, wants to talk about gender.
GENESIS is a group dedicated to talking about gender and its impact on people. This will be the first gender-based discussion group that Counseling and Psychological Services has run and combines group therapy discussion and a discussion about social issues.
“We’ve had LGBT umbrella groups, but we haven’t had one specifically about gender. We’ve also had gender specific groups,” Cameron O’Mara, a co-facilitator of the group and clinical social work intern at CAPS said. “This is the first group that’s had its focus as gender identity.”
The facilitators say that they are starting the group because of interest in talking about gender both at Penn and in the larger community. GENESIS is being created in response to student demand.
“I think we’re seeing so many more students coming into CAPS interested in talking about gender, gender identity or how gender impacts their lives,” said Cyndy Boyd, director of training at CAPS. “There’s more acknowledgement that the gender binary is confining some people.”
Likewise, the increasing visibility of non-normative genders and gender identities, as well as LGBTQ representation, have also spurred the creation of this group.
“More broadly in American society right now, as things like trans identity are being more talked about, it’s opening up the conversation from beyond the LGBT community,” O’Mara said. “There are more folks that feel more comfortable repping non-gendered identities.”
There are a number of differences between GENESIS and gender discussion groups both inside and outside CAPS.
“It’s different from other groups that are not at CAPS because there’s a focus on it being therapeutic and on it being healing in a particular way,” said Jessica Chavez, another co-facilitator and post-doctoral fellow at CAPS. “We’re hoping that students feel supported by other students who are dealing with similar things.”
The group is heavily based around what students bring to the discussion and listening to other people’s narratives. The intention is for people not just to learn about gender from the facilitators or to explore what “gender” is but to also learn from each other.
“The group hinges upon what people bring in terms of their experience,” O’Mara said.
In addition, the group hopes to be a place where students can talk about the emotional impact of gender on their daily lives, as opposed to talking about “gender” in an academic setting.
“We can become very intellectually involved but not have a space to talk about it emotionally,” O’Mara said. “We’ll talk about gender impacts without having to have a theory to justify it.”
GENESIS is currently looking for members and is hoping to create a discussion group with a variety of members with different experiences, from students who have specific gender identities to students who are curious about gender, students who feel isolated or students who are activists. They are not looking for any one type of student in particular.
“I guess the main thing we’re looking for is students who see gender as important,” Chavez said.
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