LGBT Center works with graduate students to create a more inclusive CWRU

Halle Rose, Staff Reporter

AmariYah Israel, assistant director of the LGBT Center at Case Western Reserve University, started her talk by handing out three things: a matching game, a packet of vocabulary words and a cartoon labeled “The Gender Unicorn.”

Three dental students, two Master of Public Health candidates and a CWRU School of Medicine employee paired off to play. Terms like “ally,” “queer” and “androgynous” are shuffled between partners as the attendees rifle through dozens of slips of paper for the correct definitions. 

“That was hard,” one of the dental students commented after Israel brought the group back together. “I honestly didn’t get many of them right.”

Located on the first floor of the Tinkham Veale University Center, the LGBT Center was established in 2010 as the first permanent space for members of the LGBT community and allies on CWRU’s campus. Since then, half a dozen student groups have formed to create inclusive spaces, furthering the mission of the Center. 

AmariYah Israel first came to CWRU in 2014, after graduating from Xavier University with a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and gender & diversity studies. Before her time at CWRU, Israel spent a year serving at the Ohio Center for Progressive Leadership in Cincinnati through an AmeriCorps program called Public Allies, where she worked as a program and outreach coordinator. She assumed the position of assistant director at the LGBT Center in 2018, where she organizes Safe Zone training programming, advises various diversity, inclusion and social justice initiatives and supervises student coordinators.

On Dec. 3, Israel represented the LGBT Center when she took part in the Graduate Student Diversity 360 program series. Her presentation, “Building Supportive + Inclusive Care Environments for Trans & Queer Communities,” introduced attendees to language and strategies used to create inclusive spaces that they could employ in their own lives and work.

As the matching game wrapped up, Israel began her presentation with four agreements, “Ask questions, share knowledge; assume positive intent; speak from your own experience; stories stay in the room but learning carries forward.” 

She then introduced the Gender Unicorn, a graphic used to distinguish between gender identity, gender expression, sex assigned at birth, physical attraction and emotional attraction. 

“I like this model because each [characteristic] is on its own line, not on individual sides with neutral in the middle,” Israel explained.

Unlike other models of gender and sexuality expression, the Gender Unicorn allows someone to incorporate non-binary characterization into their identity. For example, instead of ranking oneself as more masculine than feminine, someone could identify as about 75 percent masculine, 20 percent feminine and 5 percent other.

The rest of Israel’s presentation involved a discussion on experiences with gender, a video that detailed the significance of pronouns, and a frank question and answer session during which attendees asked for advice on grappling with issues of gender and inclusivity in their own fields.

“It’s about being with, versus being there to fix,” Israel explained, as the session came to a close. “That’s the best way you can support each other and create an inclusive environment.”