These stories are a part of an in-depth series focusing on how labels define us, how we embrace them and how they create cages for us. The hot topics of gender, sex and race have been at the forefront of many social disagreements. The goal of this project was to tell the true stories of the TWU community. As a graduating Senior, I have spent my college career as a journalist working for student newspapers. I am thankful for the experience and the privilege of telling other people’s stories. This series will continue next week in the online edition of The Lasso with interviews from First-year students Alex Aguinaga and Camryn Nobis.
Sierra Taylor / The Lasso
For a campus with a small male population, Mark Bershell has made it important to himself to create bonds with other male students.
As a member of TWU’s Fraternity Kappa Sigma since 2013, Bershell has spent a lot of time bonding with men on this campus.
“I think for this campus, because of the ratio of women to men, I think it is important for men to have an outlet to be their whole selves and be around people that will challenge them a way a female peer couldn’t,” Bershell said. “I want you to be a better man, but how do you become a better man? There are certain lessons that you can only learn from someone like you.”
Gender is something that Bershell thinks creates a disconnect in learning those lessons. However, he does not believe that there is anything specific someone does that defines them as a man.
“I think it is just being strong in who you are and not conforming to what people assume your masculinity should be,” Bershell added. “Defining your own masculinity is what makes you a man. I express my masculinity like this and it is okay, because I do not need others to define me or make choices for me.”
For Bershell, society has created a detrimental expectation of what men have to live up to.
“I think it creates unhealthy and unrealistic views of a man. As a man, I think you are expected to deny any emotion other than strong and okay. You can’t show any weakness, you can’t do anything except be there. I think society has a lot to work on in the way it views men,” Bershell concluded.
Sierra Taylor / The Lasso
When sitting down with post-baccalaureate student Anjelica Fraga it is easy to tell how passionate she is about many aspects of social justice.
Fraga is a Latina raised in the Dallas area who has been a member of the TWU community since 2012. She previously received a Bachelors of Art in English and is currently working towards her Bachelors of Art in Government.
For the past four years, Fraga has been working with UNT’s Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance for their yearly production of ‘The Vagina Monologues.’
“Ultimately, ‘The Vagina Monolouges’ is activist art. However, it is also a fundraiser and we tend to donate the money raised to Denton Friends of The Family and Mosaic in Dallas,” Fraga explained. “I feel it is a time to celebrate femininity. I do have my own issues with the script the way they center it around having a vagina, which is trans-exclusive. That is primarily why I wanted to get involved with the leadership team, because I wanted to be someone that advocates for it to be more trans-inclusive, and gender-queer and non binary content.”
Working closely with other feminists, Fraga thinks it is important to uplift others and make connections to members of this community.
“I do my best to support women’s choices because that to me is the best way to combat patriarchy,” Fraga said. “There are legislative moves that need to be made, but as a society we need to change as well. If it’s normalized for women to do what makes them happy even though it might not be traditional roles, then that to me is the best way to make us be seen as human being. “
Fraga is a champion for not only women’s rights, but the rights of any marginalized group. That why the recent incidents of far-right propaganda appearing on campus bothers her. Fraga explained that the cookie-cutter response and continued silence from the administration troubles her.
“If we don’t say something then it is going to get worse. I know that they just post little flyers around, but I am worried that because there have been no consequences that they’ll start feeling more comfortable to make bigger moves on our campus,” Fraga stated. “It is time for us to come together as z community and as a campus and say, “Hey we are not okay with this.” and I feel like there is no leadership stepping up and saying that. I don’t know if that needs to be something from the student body where we come together or we want an instructor or a dean or someone. But, TWU as a community needs to be more engaged together.“
Sierra Taylor / The Lasso
Even though they spend most of their days covered in paint, Ann-Marie Blackington is not someone covering who they truly are.
Majoring in Fine Art with a concentration in Painting and Drawing, Blackington has always been creating in one way or another.
“I have always drawn and read, but it wasn’t until middle school that these hobbies helped me discover who I am,” Blackington explained.
Blackington has been diagnosed with anxiety Disorders, Major Depressive Disorder, and even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Through painting, this has allowed them to explore their intense emotions, sexuality and gender in a creative way.
“I am drawn to paint what I paint because it is very intimate to me, but at the same time I make it sexually androgynous,” Blackington said. “I make them completely unidentifiable as an individual, but they are humanoids so that the viewer can assign whatever gender, sex, or romantic orientation they want to these people. While each image is very intimate to me, it also can become something personal to other people and has no holds barred on heterosexuality.”
Blackington explained that they identify as queer and demisexual, but have problems fitting into the LGBTQ community because of their appearance.
“I am a large person, I visually appear female and people look at me and assume I am a woman. That is fine with me, because pronouns do not really matter to me, but as a large seemingly female person I have been bullied for my weight, starting at the age of four because I have always been big,” Blackington said. “Later on, when I interjected myself into the LGBTQ community, people tended to be less accepting of me because I am large.”
Despite the difficult things they have faced, Blackington remains a positive person.
“Be open to who you are,” Blackington advises. “Be open to other people and accept who they are.”
NAACP: Nicole Douglas
Photo provided by NAACP
U’s NAACP Chapter, Nicole Douglas has been working with other members of their chapter to create a better presence on campus.
“It is important for NAACP to be on campus because sometimes students, mainly African American students, are lost in the shuffle,” Douglas said. “We are concerned about race relations, as well as the issues that everyone else is concerned about such as gender and LGBTQ.”
Douglas, a Graduate Student in the Department of History and Government, takes every opportunity to educate the people around her, including the uneasy history of the African American presence on campus.
“If you research Quarkertown, this part of campus used to be an African American town.” said Douglas. “That community was pushed out of their homes and businesses to make room for the expanding TWU campus. That is just a barrier that most people don’t know about.”
The absence of the history of The Quakertown people on campus has not set well with Douglas. As a part of the History department, she only found out about the history after being on campus for a while.
“Although it was unfortunate, I think TWU owes students of color, especially African American students their just-do. Give them something that they can identify with because a lot of African American students do not know about Quakertown,” Douglas stated. “It is not something that is publicized, but as a member of the community I want to know about all the history. It should not be a choice whether a university teaches about it’s history. All of it is relevant. We are required to learn history, but not everything is in the history books.”
Douglas shared that it is important for her to teach and shed light for people who are not aware of the injustices in the world.
“They hear it on TV, they read it in history books, but some students have not come across people who have been discriminated against.” Douglas said “Because if it doesn’t happen to them, or they never see it, it is not internalized like the people who encounter it two, 10, 15, 100 times in their lifetime. It is a different mindset and changing the mindset is something that is important to me.”