Panel Discusses Journeys of Men In LGBTQ+ Community

A screenshot of the Zoom panel featuring several guest speakers.

For Ben Nehring, a Fresno State history graduate student, a birthday can be the most memorable, yet uncomfortable, day of the year.

“I love birthdays, but sometimes I don’t [look forward] to them because my grandparents will get me cards. They’re like ‘Happy Birthday granddaughter’ on them and I’m like, ‘Oh yay, there’s $20 for a consolation prize, I guess,’”  Nehring said.

As a transgender male, Nehring – and others within the LGBTQ+ community – often find themselves in a daily struggle for recognition and equity across the world. 

To be simply acknowledged by the correct pronouns can be a heartwarming experience, yet oftentimes – and even by accident – being misgendered can ruin their day.

“Honestly, the emotional impact of being addressed by the correct pronouns is like – I don’t know how to express exactly how big and powerful and impactful it can be. There are some days where literally just being misgendered once by accident can knock me sideways. I’m just out for the rest of the day. I just don’t want to deal with people,” Nehring said. 

Nehring was one of seven speakers for the “LGBTQ+ Men: at Intersections of identities,” presentation in collaboration with Fresno State’s Cross-Cultural and Gender Center (CCGC) and Stanislaus State.

The panelists were Fresno State graduate student Alejandro Llama; Estevan Parra Guerrero, coordinator for the CCGC; Miguel Jimenez, Stanislaus State coordinator for the Male Success Initiative; Jonathan Pryor, Fresno State assistant professor; Daniel Soodjinda, Stanislaus assistant professor; and Enrique Guzman, director of student involvement at University of California, Merced. 

Parra, alongside Soodjinda, began the initiative out of need to provide more programs for LGBTQ+ men, whom they believe are often overlooked.

“[Soodjinda] said, ‘If you pay attention when we attend conferences or workshops or webinars around men’s success… we tend to overlook the LGBTQ identities. So for this one, let’s focus on something about LGBTQ,’” Parra said.

Parra noted that many men face challenges that can prevent them from being able to easily access these resources, including cultural barriers, issues of safety or simply not having time.

The purpose of the presentation was to share stories of men in the LGBTQ+ community who have traditionally been underserved, as well as discuss the historical snapshot of the LGBTQ+ community.

Pryor led the historical presentation in discussing how homosexuality connects with gender, the contributions of men of color in LGBTQ+ history and the role of students in advancing LGBTQ+ equity within colleges and universities.

For Pryor, who identifies as a gay queer man from a rural town in the state of Kansas, homosexuality is historically defined through lenses of gender and gender expressions.

“This categorization of homosexuality was deeply connected to assumptions about gender… Today we understand our sexuality and our gender identity are distinct identities, [but] early responses to one’s sexuality or their ability to transgress gender were seen as interchangeable,” Pryor said.

Pryor noted the term homosexual grew out of the rising industrial cities of the late 19th century in which individuals from rural and religious towns migrated and began to express their sexuality further in cities.

Although the term homosexuality would be widely recognized as an acceptable term for someone’s sexual orientation, men still face discrimination in places defined by traditional notions of masculinity to this day.

Pryor recalled how in the ‘90s Fresno had a series of pride parades in downtown Fresno, which were often protested by Central Valley chapters of the Ku Klux Klan. 

“I know that, and 20, 30 years ago, it was quite hostile … to share the experiences of when the Ku Klux Klan had come out and [counter protested],” Pryor said.

Even with constant pushback against LGBTQ+ equity in the city of Fresno, Pryor highlighted the importance of LGBTQ+ activism on university and college campuses to help advance equity in higher education as well as in the city.

“One of the ways that we’ve seen success in higher education, and for the betterment of LGBT folks, have been those people who have come together on their own time, to advocate for expansion of campus services, expansion of policies that support and affirm our LGBTQ+ students,” Pryor said. 

Pryor highlighted the recent raising of the pride flag at Fresno State for the first time in history on Wednesday, June 9. Although this victory was enjoyed by LGBTQ+ members of Fresno, the fight for equity continues across the state.

“I know that this summer we had a lot of great successes with the pride flag being flown at City Hall, at Fresno City campus and, of course, here at Fresno State. But just down the road are friends and peers in Kingsburg, California, [who are] experiencing different forms of hostilities, and not that kind of acceptance that we saw,” Pryor said.

Despite currently experiencing staffing shortages at the CCGC, Parra Guerrero recommends students to come in and propose new events if they don’t see an event that represents themselves. 

“Go to our Instagram [@FresnoStateCCGC] and look at all the events that are going to take place in the near future. Is there an event that’s missing?… Let me propose it, but for the most part, we’ll make it happen,” Parra Guerrero said.

“Our hands are tied right now, right, our hands are really tied. We are really understaffed. But at least for me, I put it on my to do list like you know what, it’s not for this month, next month, maybe, for sure early next semester,” Parra said.

More information about these resources and regular presentations are available at the  Cross Cultural and Gender Center located at the Thomas Building.

Updates on events and activities are posted on the  CCGC’s Instagram page.

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