May 30, 2023, Adrian, Michigan – During a recent presentation on Understanding Gender, guest speaker Socorro Sevilla offered a key recommendation for encountering gender expansive persons: common courtesy and respect. Socorro Sevilla A 25-year social services and social work professional and now a counselor with a private practice in Adrian, Socorro recently gave the opening presentation in a new series offered by the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Office of Racial Diversity and Cultural Inclusion. The series brings speakers from various racial, religious, cultural, and gender communities to the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse to present their world view. “My hope is through understanding and education, [the series] can bring compassion, and we can be better allies to so many communities that need help with their voice,” said Kevin Hofmann, Director of the Office of Racial Diversity and Cultural Inclusion. Speaking to an audience of Sisters, Associates, Co-workers, and community members, Socorro noted that many people experience “confusion, fear, anxiety, and questions” when working through the changing views of sex and gender: from traditional, binary, biological male and female to include transgender, non-binary, gender fluid, and other gender expansive identities. In recent years, Socorro said, the idea of binary gender shifted to seeing gender as a spectrum: a line along which people fall, with male on one end to female on the other. Yet more recently, they explained, gender is seen as a galaxy. “Every person’s gender is a star somewhere in this galaxy – unique, distinct, but maybe clustered in areas.” Socorro spoke from experience as a counselor primarily to youth, with 82% of their clients in the LGBTQI+ community. Many in the LGBTQI+ community experience “distinct and chronic stressors related to their sexual orientation and/or identity,” as well as to racial identity. Many of these stressors come from the assumptions that others make about their identity. The stress, they said, is “not so much what’s happening [inside you] … It’s dealing with everybody else’s stuff coming at you.” Young people and those who have been rejected by their families can easily internalize the messages they get from others, Socorro added. Socorro suggested a simple way to help people in the LGBTQI+ community: common courtesy and respect, accepting them for who they are and using their preferred names and pronouns. This simple form of respect can decrease suicide in the LGBTQI+ community by half, Socorro said. “If that’s all we need to do to cut suicide rates in half, I don’t think it’s that much to ask.” Watch the entire video of Socorro’s presentation below.