Life@DUML: Marine Lab takes P.R.I.D.E. in stride

North Carolina’s HB2 (House Bill 2) has shot the state into the national public eye. The law, which disregards gender identity by compelling anyone using public facilities in the state to use the bathroom matching the sex assigned on their birth certificate, has marked North Carolina as a trans-phobic state. This has led to massive withdrawals of businesses and organizations from the state in protest. And HB2 isn’t the first law that the North Carolina legislature has passed to target and discriminate against LGBTQIA+ people. As recently as 2011, the state voted to pass a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, only overturned in 2014 by the Supreme Court of the United States.

In a climate like this, prospective LGBTQIA+ students applying to the Nicholas School might think that this is the last state they would want to move to. The concerns are valid and the loss of these talented students is felt acutely – by Duke University, by the Nicholas School of the Environment and by the field which could lose these students to other areas.

But the waters around Duke University Marine Lab are becoming a bit more rainbow-colored. On Feb. 15-16, the Marine Lab community in Eastern North Carolina came together to support LGBTQIA+ folks. The Duke Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity held a 6-hour P.R.I.D.E. and Trans 101 training at DUML for the first time ever. Students, faculty and staff came from the Duke Marine Lab and also from nearby marine labs to attend the training.

The P.R.I.D.E. and Trans 101 trainings attempt to increase awareness and provide education on issues impacting people with marginalized sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions. We discussed language and definitions of key terms. We watched videos. We discussed scenarios. We shared our own stories and experiences. And we decided on some action items that we would take in the next month to make DUML a more inclusive space.

Some useful terms that we defined:

Sexual orientation: One’s sexual, romantic and emotional attraction to others. Not everyone experiences each form of attraction. Labels regarding sexual orientation must be claimed by the person and cannot be placed on someone regardless of their sexual behaviors. Some examples: romantic attraction to women; asexual; bisexual.

Gender identity: One’s internal sense of self and their identification in relationship to gender which may or may not conform to one’s sex assigned at birth. Some examples: I feel like a woman; I feel like no gender describes who I am.

Gender expression: An external expression and presentation of one’s gender through clothing, roles, mannerisms, etc. One’s gender expression may not align with their gender identity for a variety of reasons, including social and cultural stigma. Some examples: today expressing masculine gender; mostly expressing androgynously.

SOGIE: Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression. The blend of the above terms that an individual claims for themself at any given point in time. Some examples: lesbian/female/female; straight/male/androgynous.

Agender: Individuals who identify with no gender.

Assigned Sex: Sex determined at birth, usually based on the appearance of external sex organs. Some examples (USA context): male, female.

Cisgender: Individuals whose gender identity matches that which is expected of them based on their sex assigned at birth.

Transgender: A diverse group of individuals who cross or transcend culturally defined categories of gender. The gender identity of transgender people differs to varying degrees from the sex they were assigned at birth.

Heteronormativity: The presumption that everyone is heterosexual.

Cissexism: A system of privilege and oppression with the underlying presumption that everyone is either male or female and every person’s gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth. It is expected that every individual must conform to roles and expectations aligned with their sex assigned at birth.

We also talked about some terms that can be offensive (note: not all these terms are offensive to all people, but many people do find many of these terms very offensive), including “no homo,” transvestite, tranny, hermaphrodite, “you’re confused,” “it’s just a phase” and “that’s so gay”.

Did you miss the training?

If you missed this training, catch the one on main campus. Register here! Trainings are happening this semester at the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, 100 Bryan Center on the following dates:

  • Wednesday, March 29th from 11am-2:30pm
  • Monday, April 10th from 9:30am-1pm

Or, catch the next P.R.I.D.E. training at DUML next year. Check out the Duke Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity website or sign up for a coffee chat with one of the staff. In the mean time, here are some tips for making the space around you more inclusive:


  • Symbols. Put up a rainbow flag. Or, put rainbow stickers on your car or office walls.
  • Pronouns. When you introduce yourself for the first time to someone, state which pronouns you prefer (i.e. she/her/hers, they/them/theirs, xe/xem/xyr, he/him/his, etc). Don’t assume anyone’s pronouns if you don’t know what they use. If you’re confused by pronouns, see the Gender Neutral Pronoun Blog.
  • Duke OutList. It lists faculty and staff, including visiting scholars and postdoctoral fellows, who have signed up as willing to be contacted as an informal resource about LGBTQIA+ issues. Sign up if you are faculty or staff who is willing to be a resource for other students, faculty, and staff. You do not have to identify as having a marginalized SOGIE; allies are welcome. If you seek resources, find someone in your department on this list.
  • Try to be aware of and reduce microaggressions, which the P.R.I.D.E. training identifies as “Brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults towards members of oppressed groups.” These microaggressions often stem from an assumption that folks are heterosexual/monosexual/cis-gender. Attend trainings, practice your language and reflect on your assumptions. Try to create an inclusive atmosphere.
  • (And, lastly, directly from the P.R.I.D.E. training) You’re going to make mistakes. Apologize when you do and keep going.

Together, we can make a better DUML, a better Duke and a better world!

About the Life@DUML series:

The Life@DUML series will feature monthly blogs covering special events and stories about daily life at the Duke University Marine Lab (DUML). DUML is located on Piver’s Island, 3 hours east of Duke’s main campus. DUML is replete with resident undergraduates, Master’s students, Ph.D. students, faculty and a fully-equipped staff. As a Ph.D. student, I will call this tightly-knit community my home for 4 years.