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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Ask the Queer Resource Center!

Published: December 5, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

Do you have questions about gender, sexuality, diversity, or acceptance?

Would you like anonymous advice from friendly peer counselors?

Check out the Queer Resource Center, the educational branch of Triskelion, the Brandeis LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual/ally) group. We provide free, confidential peer counseling to people of all identities in Shapiro Campus Center room 328, Mondays through Fridays from 1 to 5 p.m.

Now you can have your questions answered anonymously in print! Submit a question to “Ask the QRC” at Put “Hoot” in the subject line, and you’ll see your question addressed anonymously in next week’s paper!

Dear QRC,

I am a freshman who just came out as gay this year. I have been so grateful for the welcoming environment I’ve encountered at Brandeis, but I am really worried about going home for Christmas break. My family has never spoken with me directly about gay issues, but I know that they are incredibly conservative about things like gay marriage and make disparaging comments about my gay cousin. I don’t think that they will be accepting of me, and I don’t feel comfortable with them knowing my identity. At Brandeis I have finally felt like I am able to be myself and I am scared of losing that when I go home for break. What advice can you give me about feeling confident and secure with my identity, when I know I can’t talk about it?

Sincerely, Concerned from Kansas

Dear Concerned,

Thank you for your question! Many people feel this way when they are going home for the first time after being in an open community like Brandeis. The most important thing is to reach out to people who can be supportive while being confidential: This could be an old friend from home, or a new friend from Brandeis. It seems like you have made good friends here, so utilize that resource by staying in touch with them over break. These friends can help you remember who you really are, so do not hesitate to contact them if you ever feel alone.

Also, do not feel pressured to come out to anyone. Because some families are more accepting than others, there is often an assumption that coming out to parents should be done as soon as possible. Yet this is not true for everyone, so trust your judgment if you feel uncomfortable with certain family members or friends knowing how you identify. If coming out is something that you want to aspire toward, you can always test the waters by bringing up broader queer issues in conversation and seeing how your family reacts.

Yet in the end, it is perfectly okay to be out in one area of your life but not another. You are not betraying your identity by staying in your comfort zone.

Also, the QRC is still a resource over break! You can email us at, and we can help support you along the way.

Dear QRC,

I know that many trans people identify with a certain gender that is different from their sex. What does this mean? I thought sex and gender meant the same thing.

Sincerely, Puzzled in Pomerantz

Dear Puzzled,

Great question! A lot of people get these two terms confused, but their difference is very important within the queer community.

Sex is the biological and genetic makeup of a person, usually considered male or female. This is usually determined by genitals, secondary sex characteristics (facial hair, breasts), chromosomes, and hormones.

Gender is a socially constructed role, based on behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society deems masculine or feminine. This can be broken down into:

• Gender Identity, which is a person’s sense of being a man, women, in between, or something else.

• Gender Expression, which is one’s presentation of masculinity, femininity, or something else. It is the way a person expresses one’s self in gender-related ways, such as clothing, voice, and mannerisms.

Society has a system referred to as a binary that boxes people into two strict categories, male or female, yet trans people often define and express themselves outside of this binary.