Speakers Jennifer Lopez, Daniella Dominguez, and Jeremy Penn of the YES Institute recently held a discussion on gender identity and sexual orientation in a room full of students, faculty, and staff. The YES Institute is a non-profit whose mission is “to prevent suicide and ensure the healthy development of all youth through powerful communication and education on gender and orientation.” YES Institute is a recognized leader in South Florida in providing powerful dialogue and research-based education on gender identity and sexual orientation.
OUTLaw President, Christina Robinson, says that “one of our major goals for OUTLaw this year has been to create spaces for Miami Law students, faculty, and staff to have open discussions on gender identity and sexual orientation. We could think of no better way to meet this goal than to invite the YES Institute to our law school and co-sponsor this event with the Child Advocacy and Family Law Society, which is deeply affected by YES Institute’s mission.”
At the event, students, faculty, and staff engaged with the YES Institute speakers to evaluate common notions and societal expectations surrounding gender and orientation. The speakers addressed how gender norms and stereotypes are developed in early childhood and persist into adulthood. Students shared their own experiences of instances in which they behaved or felt differently from what it is socially expected of someone of their gender. Students were also able to share their own questions about gender identity and sexual orientation, including those about the differences between sex and gender.
“I loved that part of the YES Institute’s mission statement is to reduce suicide in the LGBT+ community through education and open dialogue,” said Ariana Aboulafia, a 1L, “I think events like this help to bridge the gap and bring some of that understanding in a format that’s approachable and fits into the busy schedule of law students.”
Speaker Jeremy Penn spoke personally about their experiences with their identity, and how their sexual and gender orientation has shaped who they are today. Jeremy spoke about the challenges of coming out in high school and about the community they found here as a part of SpectrUM, the undergraduate LGBT+ student organization. They answered questions about using the singular they/their pronouns and how their perspective has changed as their identity has developed. Penn also addressed the importance of intersectionality and the role it plays in addressing discrimination.
“I really welcomed the discussion on intersectionality, and it was really powerful to hear multiple perspectives on the subject of marginalization and how it plays out in the LGBT+ community,” said 2L Alyssa D’Bazo.
This is the second year YES Institute has visited the University of Miami School of Law, and OUTLaw hopes to make YES Institute’s dialogue with students, faculty, and staff an annual event.