OSKALOOSA — A local chapter of a national LGBTQ support organization will be hosting a screening of the National Geographic documentary "Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric" at 6 p.m., Tuesday, March 21, in an effort to help educate the local community about issues related to gender identity and the LGBTQ community.
The documentary, which was made in conjunction with an entire issue of National Geographic magazine dedicated to LGBTQ and gender issues, examines the "rapidly evolving complexities of gender identity," said Chad Farner, an Oskaloosa Middle School teacher and a president and co-founder of the PFLAG Oskaloosa chapter.
The film will be shown in the Fellowship Hall of the St. Paul Congregational United Church of Christ, 501 High Ave. E., Oskaloosa, and will be followed by a discussion on the issue of gender identity and LGBTQ issues with a local transgender woman, Robin White, present to interact with attendees.
"There is certainly a need to advocate and educate about LGBTQ issues," Farner said of the film showing and discussion. "[Gender identity] is not as black and white as people may think. The idea is to educate the public on gender identity and the different facets."
Farner said PFLAG has a goal of advocating for equal rights for all Iowans, especially those who identify as LGBTQ. The local Oskaloosa chapter has a mailing list with more than 50 people, and meets monthly. Farner said there are several students in the Oskaloosa Community School District that are "exploring their gender" and the organization strives to help them in any way possible.
"We've had a least one transgender student reach out at the high school, and there are several at the middle school." Farner said. "There is support among the other students and the district seems to be handling [the issue] well. It feels good."
Robin White, a transgender woman who resides in Marion County, will give a brief introduction speech to attendees.
White, who is 67-years-old, is a U.S. Army veteran who transitioned from a man to a woman in her 60s. She said in a telephone interview with the Herald she is hoping for a crowd of at least 30 people and said the event is an opportunity to open up the discussion on LGBTQ issues as well as build awareness and educate the public on the issues surrounding gender identity.
"This documentary was made for people who are unaware of the issue [of gender identity]. This is not about us [LGBTQ community], it is made for people who are not transgender," White said. "I've been fairly active with LGBTQ issues in Des Moines, it's a smaller community in Oskaloosa. I've found the church is very open."
White, who was the 2016 Volunteer of the Year for One Iowa—an LGBTQ advocacy group in the state, said gender expression and identity feelings or questions often develop in children at a very young age.
"I grew up in Iowa, and I wasn't as aware of the transgender issue as, say, others in places like San Francisco or other big cities. I wish I would have had the internet 30 years ago," White said. "I'm just happy I was able to put the pieces together at my age. My support group is all 25 to 35 years old. They accept me as the 'old lady.'"
Farner said one of the goals of the PFLAG chapter, and events such as the documentary screening and discussion, is to offer a place to go for not only those questioning their gender identity, or in the LGBTQ community, but also relatives, parents, siblings and friends of those dealing with the sensitive issue.
"What we've found is there isn't a lot of places to go [for support], Farner said. "We've had family members come [to events] who have found out the ones the love may identify as LGBTQ."
White stressed that the film showing, and educational aspect, are intended to inform people who not aware of all the facets of gender identity.
"The more that people know about this, they will realize that [gender identity questions] are not quite as unusual as they think," she said. [Transgender] people are just people to."
— Jeff Forward is the editor of the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached in the newsroom at 641-672-2581, ext. 425, or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. He is also on Twitter: @OskyHeraldEditr.