Many teens who identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community struggle daily with accepting their own identities due to the hetero-normative society that we live in. Learning about the struggles that LGBTQ+ youth go through is an essential step in creating an accepting and supportive community in our schools, homes, and workplaces. SOJOURN is creating huge strides to educate and support the Southern, Jewish community on these issues, to ultimately better our community.
On October 3rd, the young leaders of the Strong Women Fellowship had the pleasure of learning from McKenzie Wren from SOJOURN. McKenzie is the program coordinator of the organization. SOJOURN’s goal is to empower communities to advance and celebrate gender and sexual diversity across the South through education, outreach, advocacy, and support.
Our session was focused on the pillar of education, primarily focused on gender. We learned about the Gender Spectrum, the difference between gender identity and gender expression, the vocabulary used to describe different gender identities and sexual orientations, and tied gender back to Judaism. We were given the space to ask uncomfortable questions that people often fear to ask. Those who didn’t previously understand the gender spectrum were given the opportunity to learn in a non-judgmental space. The fellows had a very positive experience with SOJOURN and felt comfortable in the community that was created.
I am interested in the idea of the gender spectrum and hope to study Gender and Women Studies in college, so this session drew me in. I learned interesting facts about how to further explore this topic and was able to engage in meaningful conversation with my peers. The conversation of gender is usually tip-toed around and it is important to discuss it in a productive and welcoming way. This is exactly what we experienced with SOJOURN.