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Ask the Queer Resource Center!

Published: September 11, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.

diverse city 9-11-09final_Page_4_Image_0001Do 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’ve heard the words transgender and transsexual, but I’m confused – What’s the difference?


Curious in the Castle

Dear Curious,

That’s a great question, because these words are often used interchangeably, which can be discourteous to individuals who identify as transgender or transsexual. The solution to your question traces back to the difference between sex and gender: while sex indicates a person’s biological and genetic makeup (usually considered male or female), gender is a set of socially constructed roles, behaviors, and attributes that a given society deems masculine or feminine.

Transgender, therefore, is an umbrella term for people who do not fit with their assigned birth gender, either through identity or expression. Under this umbrella are transsexual people, who are physically transitioning or who have transitioned from one sex to another. This includes changes in appearance or name, as well as hormone therapy or surgery.

As with all queer identities, it is important not assume someone’s gender based on their appearance or behavior. It is polite to ask someone what pronouns they prefer (masculine, feminine, gender neutral, etc), rather than assigning them yourself. Also, some people who identify as transgender or transsexual do not adhere to the QRC’s working definitions, and their identities are equally legitimate.



Dear QRC,

A sexual partner of mine asked if we could start being more “kinky.” While I am open to more experimentation, I wouldn’t want anyone finding out about it. Do you think it’s too risky for me to be “kinky?”


Daring in DeRoy

Dear Daring,

First of all, “kink” is an identity that encompasses many sexual fetishes, interests, and practices generally considered non-normative. It often refers to BDSM, which stands for some combination of bondage, discipline, domination, servitude, sadism, masochism, and master/slave relationships, but kink can mean anything from role-playing to hardcore pain. Before you consider whether or not to engage in “kinky” sexual activity, be sure that you know precisely what your partner means when using that term.

When entering the wide world of kink, be sure that you and your partner communicate clearly about your boundaries and expectations. Have an in-depth discussion about what turns you on, what makes you uncomfortable, and what areas you would like to explore together. All sexual activity must be consensual and carefully negotiated beforehand, especially in the realm of BDSM. After this dialogue, you should have a better idea of what your partner means by “kinky,” and what to expect.

Accordingly, kink is most safe and pleasurable when both parties trust each other. NEGOTIATION IS KEY! To assuage your fears of “people finding out” about your sex life, work out an agreement with your partner over privacy. To feel safe engaging in kink, you should be able to trust that your partner will not “out” you, or reveal private information about your sexual identity without your permission.

Good luck with your foray into kink!



Dear QRC,

I have heard some homophobic talk on my hall. Could I have the QRC come to do a talk for my hall?


Fretful freshman

Dear Fretful,

Thank you for contacting us! The QRC presents dorm raps to first-year halls, focusing on gender, sexuality, and acceptance. This is an interactive chance for people on your hall to discuss these issues in an open, safe space. Please talk to your CA, express your needs, and encourage your CA to schedule a dorm rap with the QRC. Thanks for your attention to queer issues on your hall!