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Oakley Phoenix BA’23 publishes book on understanding gender

by Linda Lenhoff,

Does Women’s and Gender Studies and Studio Art double-major Oakley Phoenix BA’23 (he/they) ever sleep? 

Oakley Phoenix
Oakley Phoenix BA’23

The busy Associated Students of Willamette University president, 2022 Shuchat Fellow in Studio Art, and choreographer for the Willamette Dance company has also written his first book, "The Gender Friend: A 102 Guide to Gender Identity," which was published last month. With Transgender Awareness Week observed Nov. 13-19, the book couldn’t be more timely.

Phoenix felt inspired to write "Gender Friend" by “the sheer number of well-intentioned, under-informed allies who were reaching out to me asking questions about gender that were well beyond what they could quickly find answers to in introductory gender studies courses or on digital resource hubs,” he said. 

People weren’t just asking Phoenix about changing pronouns: “They wanted to know more about the ins and outs of how my family and coworkers reacted, how I jumped through the legal loops of transitioning, how I keep myself safe…in a world that isn't the friendliest to Black trans autistic individuals. These aren't easily Google-able questions,” he said. Book

And what does Phoenix hope readers will learn from the book? “I'd love for the cisgender audience to gain a deeper understanding of gender, and to be able to support their loved ones and acquaintances who are experiencing shifts in gender identity or expression. And I’d hope that the questioning, closeted, and out trans and nonbinary persons who read 'The Gender Friend' feel genuinely seen and supported,” he said. 

Phoenix credits both Willamette faculty and students for supporting and influencing the content of the book, including Professor Leslie Dunlap’s Feminist, Gender, and Society course. “I've also been blessed to be surrounded by other Class of 2023 students who've come into their own gender expressions and identities in tandem with me,” Phoenix said.

“I want them (and young adults like them) to know that they are profoundly loved and that they are welcome to step out in the world loudly and proudly as themselves.”

Learn more about Phoenix’s book, "The Gender Friend."

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