Tessa Arthur is a butch lesbian. She says so herself, and so does the backward baseball cap she wears with the words “bad butch” printed on it.
Tuesday night, she told a crowd of about 50 in the Reitz Union Grand Ballroom that she finds empowerment in her masculine identity.
Arthur, a 20-year-old marketing sophomore, is one of six UF students who discussed societal definitions of gender and their experiences at the fifth annual Masculine Mystique, a panel sponsored by Women’s History Month and, for the first time, the UF Interfraternity Council.
The others were psychology sophomore Chance Fortson, journalism and political science junior Damian Gonzalez, finance sophomore Tyler Drescher, finance and mathematics junior Scott Strauss and political science senior Eric Brown.
LB Hannahs, director of LGBT Affairs at UF, moderated the discussion.
Fortson, who identifies as trans male, said he appreciates that strength and determination are associated with masculinity, but masculine people should not be pressured to hide their emotions.
“Masculinity and my gender identity have a very strange relationship,” he said. “I also feel like trans males have even more pressure to be masculine.”
Hannahs, who identifies as a genderqueer trans person and uses the pronoun they, realized during the sexual assault crisis last Fall that because they pass as a white man, they have privileges and protection from risks women face. This isn’t a fair situation, Hannahs said.
Drescher, one of the panelists and president of the Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity, said he likes the respect and helpfulness that are sometimes associated with masculinity.
“I like the gentleman image,” he said.
Drescher also said he sometimes feels uncomfortable wearing his Greek letters because people have assumptions about fraternal brothers expressing their masculinity in homophobic and misogynistic ways.
Kia Rahmanian, IFC vice president of operations, said the council has been working to encourage more diversity and was happy to co-sponsor the event with Women’s History Month.
[A version of this story ran on page 4 on 4/1/2015 under the headline “Student panel discusses masculinity, personhood Tuesday”]
From left, Tessa Arthur, Eric Brown, Tyler Drescher, Chance Forston, Damian Gonzales, Scott Strauss and LB Hannahs participate in Women’s History Month’s Masculine Mystique panel. The group discussed how concepts of masculinity have influenced their lives and gender expressions.