Alyssa Washington

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Winthrop University hosted an event last month intended to educate, celebrate and advocate for gender equality and appreciation.

The Winthrop associate chapter of the Zeta Sigma Chi Multicultural Sorority, Inc. and the Social Work Club hosted the event, Sept. 18 in Dina’s Place, which served as an approved cultural event.

“The event provided the Winthrop Community with an opportunity to learn more about gender, beyond the masculine man, feminine woman binary, through one person’s lived experiences,” said Dr. Kori Bloomquist, an assistant professor of social work, who helped plan the event.

Ash Penn, a poet and motivational speaker from Spartanburg, S.C., was the featured speaker. Penn is an African-American who identifies as a non-binary transmasculine person.

Transmasculine is a term used to describe a person who was born biologically as female, but who identifies with masculinity more than femininity.

“I feel very grateful to have this experience and to be able to teach a little bit of what I know,” said Penn.

During the event, Penn discussed the definition of gender, the spectrum of gender identity (such as transgender, bisexual or queer) and shared personal stories about growing up and choosing a gender identity.

“I want to continue to evolve,” said Penn. “I’m really being immersed into my life and really enjoying having a family.”

Penn currently works with Pride Link, a newly formed nonprofit group that advocates for LGBTQ people in the Upstate of South Carolina.

Pride Link was formed by Ethan Johnstone, who graduated from Winthrop with a master of social work degree.

Bloomquist connected the leaders of Zeta Sigma Chi with Johnstone.

“Ethan connected the sorority with Ash, the speaker for the gender appreciation and advocation event,” said Bloomquist.