Therapist discusses gender at school assembly


Kathy Fang

Guest speaker Maureen R. Johnston introduces herself to the sophomore and freshman classes during the assembly today. She spoke to upper school students about gender roles, gender identity, depression and anxiety today.

by Karina Chen and Tiffany Wong

Students across all four grades attended an assembly hosted by guest speaker Maureen R. Johnston about gender roles and stereotypes today in Nichols Atrium.

Johnston, a licensed marriage and family therapist with a practice in San Jose, first spoke to the sophomores and freshmen from 11:10 a.m. to 12 p.m. before addressing the seniors and juniors during a second discussion from 12:30 to 1:25 p.m.  

Upper School Head Butch Keller opened the discussion with a short introduction of Johnston, who then took the stage to first address the topics of gender, gender roles and gender stereotypes. She emphasized the importance of a non-binary view on gender and encouraged students to continue viewing gender not as a rigid construct but as a fluid topic.

“Growing up, my brothers had one set of chores; my sister and I, we had a different set of chores. I got lots and lots of messages, both explicit and implicit, about what girls could do and what girls couldn’t do,” she said. “At that point, I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I was constantly pushing against these gender roles and gender stereotypes. It wasn’t until relatively recently that the actual words of what I was doing came to me, but I’m here in front of you all because I want you to know your gender does not define you; you define your gender.”

During her presentation, Johnston discussed how people undergo gender transition and spoke about the importance of supporting and respecting the transgender community. Additionally, she elaborated on how depression and anxiety affects individuals emotionally and socially in our world today.

Johnston also led the students and their advisors in a snapping game, asking them to raise their hands in the air and snap if they were familiar with any of the terms she projected on the screen behind her. Students snapped to gender, gender roles, gender stereotypes, gender expression, gender identity, gender non-conforming and a variety of others displayed during the activity.

Many students felt that today’s discussion helped educate them about gender and society and brought important information and issues to light.

I thought it was a good thing that this information was being given to the whole student body. I feel like there were some topics that weren’t gone into the specific depth that they maybe should have been gone to, but overall, it was a really good thing to inform the students [about],” Elliot Kampmeier (9) said. “It’s important because a lot of their classmates and friends would be going through certain things like this, and they would need to know how to be respectful and supportive of their friends and peers.”

Johnston also spoke to upper school faculty during an assembly held after school today.