“I think Chad’s probably the first non-binary person to serve on the senate, which is a big thing,” said Juan Martinez (SFS ‘20), a GUSA senator. “It’s obviously predominantly white, male, cis[gender], heterosexual.”
He’s talking about his best friend, Chad Gasman (COL ’20), a newly elected representative to the GUSA Senate. Gasman, who uses they/them pronouns, ran on the slogan #FEMMEtheHilltop, and won the west campus election on Sept. 28 in the first round of voting.
“I wanted to be part of the movement to get more women and femme-identified people into GUSA and kind of shake up the balance away from a more male-dominated group toward a more female/femme-dominated group,” said Gasman, who identifies as non-binary femme, a feminine person outside the male-female binary.
At their first meeting as a GUSA senator, Gasman described walking into a clearly masculine space. “All of the male-identified senators came in, if not wearing suits, wearing something very close to a suit,” they said. “Meanwhile, I came in wearing something a lot more feminine than everyone else.”
For Martinez, Gasman’s self-presentation and fashion reflects how they are likely to disrupt the usual order of the senate. “I think Chad’s look is an embodiment of Chad’s purpose in the senate.”
Gasman thinks that male overrepresentation in the senate, plainly evident in its dress, affects what issues the body focuses on. “There’s a lot of things that I experience that a lot of other, male senators don’t, and that is like issues with housing, with discrimination on campus,” they said. “Those all have a lot of policy implications that male senators will never get.”
Gasman believes greater diversity in the senate is necessary to address problems that all students face on campus. Nate Tisa (SFS ‘14), GUSA’s first openly gay executive, said the senate has enough seats for members from every marginalized community to be represented.
“The people in the room matter at the end of the day,” Tisa said. “If you have ten minutes to meet with the president…what three issues are you going to spend those ten minutes talking about?”
And, as president of GU pride, LGBTQ issues rank highly on Gasman’s list of priorities. They hope to continue the push for an LGBTQ living-learning community (LLC) and for gender-inclusive restrooms, two initiatives which have been underway for years but have yet to be realized.
An LLC would be an important step in Gasman’s policy goals toward making LGBTQ students feel safer and fostering a community on campus. “It’s really hard to have a community of queer and trans Hoyas when there’s not really a place for us to come together,” they said.
These goals are rooted in Gasman’s personal perspective as a non-binary student. “Chad has expressed that the LLC is something that means a lot to them because that’s some place that specifically they as a non-binary person would feel most comfortable and most safe, so that’s something they have stressed a lot of support for,” Martinez said.
Gasman has been thinking of additional ways for the senate to support the university’s LGBTQ community. They want gender identity questions on university forms to be more inclusive of students who fall outside the gender binary and want GUSA to support the women’s and gender studies program, which houses many of the university’s LGBTQ studies courses, as students and professors push to make it a department.
While Gasman and Martinez, who is also GU Pride’s vice president of community engagement, have worked on LGBTQ issues together in the past, Gasman says that GUSA has a certain influence with the administration that GU Pride lacks.
“The administration will constantly look to what GUSA does as an idea of how to make the campus better,” they said, “whereas GU Pride has been fighting for gender neutral bathrooms and an LGBTQ+ LLC for years and nothing’s really happened out of that.”
According to Tisa, discussion surrounding an LLC was around even when he was a freshman in 2010. He said that student activists are at a disadvantage because the turnover in the student body leads to a lack of institutional memory. In contrast, the administration doesn’t really have this problem.
The decision ultimately rests with the university administration, but Martinez thinks initiatives like the LLC are more likely to succeed with Gasman in the senate. “Chad is a very driven person,” he said. “Chad’s a person that likes to get things done.”
Martinez also thinks Gasman’s disruptive attitude will extend to GUSA’s fashion. “Chad wears a lot of pastels and the bright red lipstick sometimes and makeup and earrings, and I feel like that look stands out.”
Gasman said that winning a seat in student government on a campus where they sometimes receive stares from other students is a sign of progress. “I still get stares and looks when I walk around campus looking more feminine…I hope that not just GUSA but all of Georgetown kind of changes towards accepting people who are gender non-conforming in their fashion.”
Photo credits: Isabel Lord