"Let's Talk Sexuality"

Author: Samantha Farrow

My name is Samantha Farrow and I am in third year Electrical Engineering here at Western. I am a Soph this year, head of Graphic Design for WECCA, and on Women in Engineering. I play water polo, and I started out on the men’s team this year but we are trying to start a women’s team, and I am the captain of this team. I have also volunteered to be head of junior design for this year’s Western Engineering Competition. I like to crochet and knit, as well as drink lots of tea.

This past weekend I had the honour of being one of five delegates to represent Western at this year’s Conference on Diversity and Engineering. The theme was Algorithms for Success, and all the workshops, panels and keynotes were all themed around diversity of women, first nations, minorities, and ways to overcome being in one of these groups. Another diversity that was focused on was the diversity of sexuality. One of the talks, “Let’s Talk Sexuality” went through all the different types of sexuality, with the help of the Genderbread person. Vanessa Raponi, McMaster Engineering student and founder of Engiqueers. She was an excellent speaker, she was really engaging and had lots of personal experiences with most of the situations she described. The Genderbread person was a great way of explaining everything clearly. Normally when we classify someone’s gender, we usually just look at the biological signs and classify and man or women with no in-betweens. On the Genderbread person, it focused on four different components on representing your sexuality. They are Gender Identity, Gender Expression, Biological Sex and Attraction (Sexual and Romantic).  She also described that in each of these categories you did not have to side with male or female, it was more of a scale and you could choose how masculine and/or feminine you felt. Vanessa went over many different types of sexuality as well, including a six page booklet of definitions. Going into this workshop, I knew very little about sexuality and this really opened my eyes to how to respond to this. She gave lots of tips on how to deal with situations where you do not know the person’s sexuality, or their gender identity. She said to try and not use personal pronouns, but rather use “they”, “them” or “zem”, and “ze”. She also said to be ready to ask how they identify, and always be ready to apologize if you say an incorrect pronoun.