Heather Houser

Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

The Gender and Sexuality Center recognized World AIDS Day with discussions from two Austin-area speakers on AIDS and topics relevant to gender and sexuality. 

The event was part of the center’s 10-year anniversary celebration. At the event, English assistant professor Heather Houser read from her new book, “Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S. Fiction: Environment and Affect,” and Ebony Stewart, local poet and sexual health educator, spoke on the widespread confusion established among younger generations in regards to gender and sexuality.

Houser discussed the central topics in her book and the relationship between the human body and its environment with reference to diseases such as AIDS. 

According to Houser, when there is a personal relationship with the environment, emotions play a large role in the daily life. This refers to a sick person who deals with his or her owns disease and is surrounded by society — its environment. Houser also said a harmonious nature between individuals and their respective environment should be at the center of politics. 

“What people feel can certainly be a form of knowledge,” Houser said. 

Stewart said there is often confusion and many questions when it comes to topics on sexuality, and it is important to address them. During the event, she read a set of lines from her poems to express such confusion and its normality.

“It is normal to fear what we don’t understand,” Stewart said. “Homosexuality is not covered within my curriculum when it should be, as it is important.” 

Advertising junior Kimberly Doughty said she believes bringing in speakers to the UT community is important to generate knowledge on topics related to gender and sexuality.   

“There are large misconceptions about things such as sexual health and relationships such as illnesses, and I think it’s really important to have such speakers here to broaden our horizons, especially in a place where we may not be as educated,” Doughty said.  “There’s always more opportunities to learn, and these speakers encourage us to want to learn.” 

According to Ola Ukaoma, a biology junior and peer educator in the Gender and Sexuality Center, engaging speakers are important to introduce to the student community as it’s a great way for them to learn.

“Speakers have the ability to make things personal,” Ukaoma said. “There is a lot of information online that you can use and a lot of resources you can utilize, but a one-on-one conversation that is engaging is a good way to spread information to students.”