Student Human Rights Project Award recipient Tebe explains the “Respect for Others-Beyond Gender Binary" blog post project to SHREI Symposium attendees.
The SHREI Outstanding Student Award aims to recognize, reward, and advance the exceptional work of community college students and/or community college student organizations dedicated to raising awareness of Human Rights in an international context. Following is a description of Tebe's work. We extend our congratulations to Tebe for his great efforts in not only addressing human rights at the local community college level but creating resources to be used at the national and international level as well.
Tebe, the alias by which this West Valley College student is known on his blog, created a new media blog post project entitled, “Respect for Others-Beyond Gender Binary,” a positive social cause blog post project for presentation to students in both the in-person and online Photo 10 New Media & Social Change Courses at West Valley College. The blog post promotes equal human rights for transgender and gender queer individuals through educational awareness and recognition, focusing specifically on online website user registration interfaces as an example of the unfairly enforced and non-inclusive gender binary system.
Before Tebe presented this topic in his community college classroom, there was worry that this subject may ignite targeted harmful discussions and/or negative reactions from classmates and student peers in class that could threaten his personal safety on campus. It was decided that the topic was such an important one to discuss that Tebe prepared intensively and moved forward with the project presentation. To prepare for the broader on-campus and international distribution of the project, the student’s name and photograph were removed from the blog as to ensure privacy and safety. The concern for this student’s safety is evidence that this is a topic that is both timely and in need of immediate recognition.
As Tebe’s project points out, certain website registration forms online prolong the narrow gender binary system by requiring new users to register and reveal their gender, offering only male and female options. The process of revealing one’s gender (male or female) is mandatory on many of these sites in order to use particular common online products or services. Tebe’s post reveals solutions for this unfair treatment of transgender and gender queer individuals by showcasing how other select websites either do not require users to state their gender or by offering a more inclusive ‘other’ box under gender. Tebe’s project not only creates awareness about contemporary gender issues but also promotes a DIY activity for students and peers to create their own new media blog post projects for positive social change. At the bottom of the post, there is a downloadable step-by-step set of instructions for students to follow in creating their own blog posts.
Tebe’s project incorporated a human rights issue relating to the current unequal treatment (lack of privacy and inclusion) of transgender and gender queer individuals who attempt to gain fair access to internationally-known websites. This project exposed and confronted the unfair use of mandatory gender specification check boxes required by many website registration forms for users to access well-known services and companies. The project reveals the disparate treatment of individuals online and offers more information for students to learn about the binary gender system, stereotypical gender expectations, cisnormativity and heteronormativity, as well as potential solutions for the issue of website registration.
For the broader campus and international distribution of this project, an interactive DIY activity (downloadable PDF) was included at the end of the project post entitled "How to Create Your Own Post for Social Change.” This activity is intended to engage student groups and individual students in considering their own concerns about social change, using Tebe’s project on gender as an example. By mid-year 2013, the blog project and DIY activity had been presented in two class presentations, one on campus and one online, in the Photo 10 New Media & Social Change courses at West Valley College. The blog project example link and DIY activity PDF were included in course materials for all future students in the West Valley course. The project was also electronically distributed to the faculty advisor on-campus at West Valley College to potentially share with the Human Rights Club and Gay Straight Alliance. Finally, the project PDF is currently being translated into Mandarin Chinese by Tebe to electronically distribute (and include in the blog post project online) to a small community organization in Taiwan called, “A Room of One’s Own.” “A Room of One’s Own” is a small community center that houses books to borrow, group meetings, and exhibitions that discuss gender and sexuality in Taiwan.
Tebe's blog post can be found at http://cerealwithwine.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/respect-for-others/.