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Roundtable at Dougherty Valley High School

On October 30th, thirty high school students gathered in the Dougherty Valley High School, San Ramon, California to discuss gender/sex-specific problems and brainstrom possible solutions. Suhani Akhouri, Rosalyn Ung, and Twisha Chawla hosted this event in partnership with the Dougherty Valley Future Business Leader of America (FBLA) chapter.

Students were first informed about iGIANT’s mission of accelerating the translation of research into gender/sex-specific design elements such as products, programs, policies and protocols and the importance of gender/sex-specific innovation in today’s world. Then, they worked in small groups to come up with specific solutions to problems that they were most passionate about. One group brought up how they thought that there was a stigma surrounding men’s mental health. Another brought up that there is a lack of focus on feminine care in organizations that work on helping out local low-income families. Some students brought up how there is very little information available to teenagers who are transgender when it comes to their options on, and access to hormones.

In their groups, students talked about how these issues affect them and their peers. When it came to mental health, they found that it was more acceptable for girls to talk about how they felt and what they were dealing with. On the other hand, boys said, from personal experience, that they thought they would be ridiculed if they discussed what they were going through. One group of girls discussed their personal struggle with a lack of functionality of pockets in clothing for women. While men’s pockets tended to have ample room for carrying basics like a wallet and phone, girls found that they always had to have a bag with them as their pockets were either non-existant or so small that they couldn’t fit anything. Another group discussed how they had seen their peers go through a lot of pain due to misgendering.

Finally students brainstormed possible solutions to the problems that they discussed. Gisela Liu and Sindhoori Kalavacharla, both sophomores, talked about how feminine care packages could be created in partnership with organizations such as PERIOD and then distributed to the local community through the help of local homeless shelters or charities dedicated to helping low income families. They also brought up how these communities could be educated about the importance of feminine care and be provided free examination through the help of medical organizations like Red Cross.

Michelle Wu and Natasha Koneru discussed working with youth groups focused on helping out and empowering members of the LGBTQ+ community to inform teenagers about their options when it comes to transitioning genders. They also talked about working with the school to educate students on the negative effects of misgendering people and making fun of them for their gender/sexual identity.

Siddharth Prothia and his group focused in on men’s mental health. They planned to talk to youth groups that educate teenagers on mental health problems and wanted to create events for young boys. At these events, boys would learn about the importance of talking about their emotions as well as the importance of telling other people about the problems they are facing.

In terms of next steps, we want to work with the students to implement their ideas in our community. We hope to start reaching out to local organizations to start creating the feminine care packages and distributing them in the near future. We also are going to start reaching out to our school’s mental health club, Just Breath, to plan out events were we can talk to middle school boys about the importance of being open about their mental health. We would also like to talk to our school’s GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) chapter about holding events in our city where transgender youth can learn about their options when it comes to transitioning and events in school where students can learn the importance of respecting people’s gender and sexual identities.

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