June 25, 2021
June 23rd, the Epstein Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) group held a virtual lunch-time seminar called, “Seeing the Spectrum,” which covered gender and sexual orientation and identification. This session was led by Matisse DuPont (they/them), an educator, artist and consultant with expertise and scholarship in the areas of gender, sexuality and identity. Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Matisse holds a Masters of gender and cultural studies from Simmons University.
Matisse’s presentation was both fascinating and informative, especially on a topic that has created so much confusion in society. In a fast-moving hour-long seminar, which included a number of questions from Epstein’s Chicago and New York-based staff, they spoke on subjects such as traditional sex roles, cis-heteronormative development timeline, the pieces (sex, roles and stereotypes) that make up gender, attraction, multiple identities, and intersectionality.
One of the main takeaways from their presentation was that identities are not static, and that change and fluctuation are common, and context is key. The time and place of an individual’s relationship to power is contextual.
Matisse shared the fact that multiple cultures and societies around the world have gender or sexuality structures that are not binary and each of these cultures has their own unique words and social roles. Alas, many of these people have been attacked or destroyed during periods of colonization.
Matisse also spoke about the vocabulary of the LGBTQIA+ community and the fluidity of those words and descriptions.
The presentation also included words of wisdom on respecting an individual’s right to privacy, including not to "out" people without their permission and always ask with whom the information is safe to share, do not debate other people’s gender or sexual identity (they know themselves better than you do), avoid making broad sweeping generalizations about how men and women are or are not, and, most importantly, keep an understanding and open mind.
They offered some suggestions on how architects and engineers could help the non-binary community through a more holistic approach using the example of how the industry is evolving away from binary gender restrooms, to single-stall gender neutral restrooms, to a more inclusive multi-stall all gender restrooms.
They offer individual and institutional gender consultation services, the former being a personalized session to help someone understand gender and their place in it more thoroughly, and the latter consisting of inclusivity consulting and cultural competency training concerning transgender, non-binary, gender-nonconforming individuals, and the LGBTQIA+ community.