Alex Farquhar-Leicester poses for a portrait in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Women's Center in the Nebraska Union on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Bearing warm smiles and the enticing aroma of Valentino’s pizza, the Psychology of Gender Student Organization welcomed students into the Regency Room in the Nebraska Union on Nov. 19 for a screening of “Nanette,” a live comedy performance by Hannah Gadsby that touches on topics involving gender. Film screenings like this are just one way the organization works to promote understanding of gender in nonbinary terms. 

The Psychology of Gender Student Organization started as a Recognized Student Organization in the early 2000s, but for a few years it was forced to disband because it didn’t comply with administrative RSO standards at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. However, in 2018 it reconvened as an official RSO at UNL, having achieved all of the administrative qualifications once again. 

According to Alexander Farquhar-Leicester, a graduate student in psychological studies in education at UNL, the purpose of this organization is to explore other narratives of gender — personally, socially, institutionally and politically. The first goal of the organization is to encourage students to think beyond binary terms of gender classification and categorization. Their second goal as an organization deals more with the empirical side of gender.

“[The goal is to] promote gender equity on campus but also in the scientific community,” Farquhar-Leicester said. “Just giving students the tools to self-narrate their own bodies and improve in their conception of gender and how they can support other people in living their lives more fully.” 

Farquhar-Leicester points out that there is an underlying theme of psychology when it comes to gender, which is why the organization tries to tailor a lot of their work toward psychological and empirical research. Some events the organization hosts regularly involve inviting guest speakers such as transgender activists or social activists to help facilitate dialogue within the campus community. 

Movie screenings are also common because they allow students to view stories from different perspectives in order to open a discussion on gender, much like their recent screening of “Nanette.” The film, released in 2018, is a live comedy performance on Netflix by comedian Hannah Gadsby. In the film, Gadsby touches on the subjects of inequality, societal views of gender and her own story as a lesbian and a comedian. The topics aligned with the goals of the organization, prompting ample discussion on the subject of societal views on gender. 

Pat Tetreault, director of the Women’s Center and advisor for the Psychology of Gender Student Organization, said the organization is looking at gender from the perspective of a group’s impact on people and how people can impact the group. “Nanette,” according to Tetreault, is a great example of precisely that relationship. 

“Here’s an individual who's talking about how society has impacted her, but also an individual who, through the work that she does and sharing her life experience, is also impacting other people,” Tetreault said. “So I think that's a lot of what psych of gender student work looks at.”

A large motive of the organization is to encourage people to start discussions on topics that aren’t always comfortable to be a part of. Tetreault pointed out that events like the screening of “Nanette” are held so that topics such as sexual assault, social policy, trauma and tension could be discussed and analyzed further. 

“I think that whole ability to put on an event where you try to get students to think about gender critically — that's really important because so many things can be addressed,” Tetreault said. 

One of the benefits of being a part of the Psychology of Gender Student Organization, according to Farquhar-Leicester, is that they get to help put on events that are important and that promote a more positive and inclusive perception of gender. 

“My favorite part of this organization is putting on meaningful events that promote and facilitate dialogue about negative stereotypes and narratives of gender, gender-specific roles, and then promoting a more healthy holistic and nonbinary view of gender,” they said.