Beyond the Binary: A New Campus Group Explores Sexuality and Gender

Staff Counselor at Colgate’s Counseling and Psychological Services Denise Contreras and Assistant Dean/Director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Initiatives khristian kemp-delisser hosted a brown bag on Thursday, November 12 to introduce their newly formed on-campus group, Beyond the Binary. Together, Contreras and kemp-delisser saw a need on Colgate’s campus to address the emotions that can result from an individual’s pursuit and acceptance of an identity that strays from the strict gender binary of males and females. In this organization, Contreras and kemp-delisser plan to use a group-based approach that emphasizes open dialogue. However, Contreras noted that all participants should feel welcome to listen as well as vocally contribute. The group plans to meet weekly in the Counseling Center; its meeting times will be announced near the start of the spring semester.

“We fix cars, not people. It’s a process,” Contreras said. She described Beyond the Binary’s approach of developing one’s sexual identity and understanding that identity as bring a lifelong process. For this reason, the group will take an exploratory approach to sexuality. Contreras and kemp-delisser will lead discussions that address the fluidity of sexuality and the various social constructions around gender and identity. They dismiss the notion that all individuals fit within the narrow definition of gender that the gender binary provides, namely that one’s identity is strictly male or female.

kemp-delisser further dismissed the notion provided by a widely-accepted LGBTQ discourse that the sexuality of all individuals fits within one of those categories. This group encourages individuals to attend who do not find themselves in agreement with the gender binary or strict rigidity of sexuality categories.

“It is a counseling-based, group-based approach,” kemp-delisser said. He explained that his experience as director of LGBTQ Initiatives has shown him that students could greatly benefit from a space that allows them to question, discuss and explore their sexual identities.

Contreras emphasized that the fact that the group’s meeting place will be the Counseling Center should not stigmatize it as being a self-help group. She explained that this is one of the many services that the center provides to students, and that understanding one’s sexual identity is not remotely a problem that calls for self-help. It is a common aspect of all lives, and therefore Beyond the Binary aims to allow all Colgate students to benefit and grow from exploring their sexuality within a safe space.