Per request of the students, last names have been adjusted or not included due to privacy reasons.
Non-binary students met at the Cultural Center for Theyta’s first official meeting on Nov. 17. Born from a desire for an inclusive space on campus, Co-President Ray Geo created the organization for gender non-binary students.
Geo, a sophomore, describes Theyta as a social, professional, and volunteer organization open to all gender non-binary, non-conforming, and questioning students at Emerson. Geo runs Theyta with co-president sophomore Lin Vega.
The organization focuses on fostering a sense of community and a commitment to educating people on how to address non-binary people.
As the first non-binary organization, they want their meetings to be a place where students can feel comfortable, talk to each other, and relate on struggles. Geo says Theyta is a safe space for non-binary students to make friends.
Geo set up the room, filled with candy and beads for the first meeting, making the students feel welcome as soon as they walked in and sat around the table talking about their days and making bracelets.
Theyta’s first meeting drew three students, and they all had visions for what they wanted from the club and for its future. Their next meeting will revolve around gender nonconformity in media and takes place on Wednesday, Dec. 5 in the cultural center.
Lee, a freshman performing arts major, said they felt the importance of speaking up and creating initiatives.
“It’s important for there to be a lot of student-led inclusivity because we’re the ones being affected by the school’s policies, so it’s important that we speak up,” Lee said.
Jude, a freshman writing, literature and publishing major, also attended the meeting and feels particularly excited about the friendships.
“It’s a really nice way to make connections and have a good support system, because not a lot of other people understand where I’m coming from,” Jude said. “Especially when I want to express and identify myself a certain way, and it’s really great to find people who get it.”
Geo said they created Theyta after noticing a lack of student organizations representing non-binary students and their concerns, such as the lack of staff training and general acknowledgment of Emerson’s non-binary population.
The mail room also presents a constant reminder of non-binary students’ dead names. Employees continue to acknowledge students by their birth name, that they changed to better fit their identity, when handing them incorrectly labeled packages.
“I want to have a community space for non-binary people so they’re more comfortable with being non-binary on campus,” Geo said. “I also want to have info sessions for people who work here on how to treat non-binary people, look more into volunteer work … and do a ‘week of binding.’”
Geo decided a “week of binding” would be a great way to inform the community. They said they know how hard it can be for non-binary people at the beginning of their transition as they acquire the funds and support to be themselves.
The “week of binding” would focus on raising money for chest binders, a cloth strip used to flatten one’s breasts, for those who cannot afford them, according to Geo. In addition, Theyta plans to hold a session on the correct way to bind and the health dangers that surround the practice.
“I wore a tank top from fifth grade, one of those made out of spandex, for like four years [to bind] and it really hurt,” Geo said. “I don’t want kids to be doing that now.”
The organization is still in the process of planning these events and coming up with concrete ways to make them happen.
Theyta hopes to help not only Emerson students, but non-binary teens all over the Boston area.
“There’s a lot trans teens in the area that might identify as non-binary or as a trans man, woman, or genderqueer, and that’s so valid,” Geo said. “I’d love to help them out.”
Geo also hopes to end the culture of miseducation of administration regarding students pronouns, stating that many faculty and staff still use gendered language when referring to students.
Geo and Theyta members want the dining center staff to refer to all students with gender-neutral pronouns, since they should not assume students’ pronouns based on what they look like.
The group also hopes to break stereotypes about what non-binary students look like.
Geo said they want people to change small behaviors to make non-binary people comfortable in day-to-day interactions.
“When you meet someone new, introduce yourself and say, ‘Hi, my pronouns are …’ Because that opens the doors for us to say I use they/them pronouns,” Geo said. “I think that just makes it a lot easier and addresses the fact that not everyone is what they seem [to be].”