50 for 50 Podcast: Olivia Goodwin ’21

Olivia Goodwin

Jun 29, 2022

20 minute read

Alumni Features Diversity and Inclusion

Olivia Goodwin '21

The most recent graduate in our series, Olivia Goodwin came to Dartmouth as a pole vaulter, joined the women's track and field team, and majored in sociology. Goodwin, who uses they-them pronouns, found many ways to help other students feel affirmed and accepted as they explored their gender and sexuality. Serving in leadership roles in the Office of Pluralism and Leadership, the Student Wellness Center, the Dartmouth Outing Club, and the Pride Committee, Goodwin wrote a thesis about how LGBTQ students navigated social issues during the pandemic.

Sexuality, Goodwin tells host Jennifer Avellino ’89, "is one of those issues a lot of people don't feel equipped to navigate. The fear of messing up prevents people from trying or getting started with growing their knowledge about it, so I wanted to give students something to make that journey just a little bit more straightforward."

They're currently earning an MPH from the Yale School of Public Health, studying transgender population health with a focus on non-binary individuals.

Olivia on LinkedIn 

Olivia Goodwin Named 2021 Dartmouth Legacy Award Recipient


 

Transcript

Jennifer Avellino:
Hi everyone. And welcome to our 50 for 50 Podcast, 50 stories for 50 years as we celebrate three major milestones in Dartmouth's history. As many of you know, and some of you can remember firsthand, 1972 was a pivotal year. Women joined the undergraduate community as Dartmouth students, following several years of women exchange students on campus. The Black alumni of Dartmouth Association, or BADA, is also entering its 50th year. And so is the Native American program. Three important anniversaries, and also not a coincidence that so much happened during this critical time. I'm Jennifer Avellino, class of 1989, past president of the Dartmouth Alumni Council and a former senior producer at CNN. As a journalist, my early days were spent as the news director for WDCR, WFRD Dartmouth Broadcasting. I've had the good fortune to meet and bring to the airwaves remarkable people over the years.

And this podcast in many ways brings me home. Throughout this series, I'll be speaking with inspiring, influential and fascinating Dartmouth alumni. They'll reflect on what it was like to be a woman, a non-binary person, a Native American, a person of color at Dartmouth, and how their time at the college led to the lives they're pursuing today. Our guest today is Olivia Goodwin who graduated last year as a member of Dartmouth's class of 2021, a sociology major, and a pole vaulter on the track and field team.

Olivia was one of 14 graduating seniors to receive the Dartmouth Legacy Award in recognition for work at the office of pluralism and leadership. Olivia, who uses they-them pronouns, was a Pride mentor and a member of the Pride Committee. Olivia also served as a Student Wellness Center intern, a member of the East Wheelock House Council and a sustainability office intern on the Bikes Team, as well as a Dartmouth Outing Club trips leader. They're currently earning an MPH from the Yale School of Public Health, studying transgender population health with a particular interest in non-binary individuals. Olivia, welcome.

Olivia Goodwin:
Hi, thank you so much, Jennifer. Happy to be here.

Jennifer Avellino:
Great to have you with us. So you came to Dartmouth from North Carolina. What were your plans? What were you hoping to find when you arrived?

Olivia Goodwin:
Yeah, I didn't really have a plan. I was there as a recruit pole vaulter and my dad's family is from Vermont. So I had some sense of what the environment would be like and the outdoors nature of it all. I knew that I wanted to do sociology and pole vault, and that was about it. I thought I was going to go into medicine, but honestly that plan went a little askew as I'm now in public health.

Jennifer Avellino:
We've had a lot of guests who started out on the science and medical track, and changed courses along the way. As you mentioned, you're a pole vaulter, you were a pole vaulter in high school, and you joined the Dartmouth track and field team. You joined the women's track and field Team. What pronouns did you use when you arrived at Dartmouth? How did that evolve and what was your experience like as an athlete who identifies as non-binary?

Olivia Goodwin:
Yeah. When I first got to Dartmouth, I was still using she-her pronouns. I had not gotten the chance to really explore gender identity yet coming out of high school. But I really spent a lot of my freshman and sophomore year exploring what gender meant to me and what I felt was the correct gender identity. And later on presentation for me, the pronouns changing, that phase happened, I'd say midway through freshman year, up through sophomore year. And for a while I did use both she, her, hers, and they, them, theirs, and them, that eventually just phased over into only they, them, because that felt the most correct for me.

But it was because I was deciding for myself how important are pronouns to me, how much doesn't matter, and when do I feel mispronouned. And because, especially coming from a sociologist's perspective, I really hold the multiple perspectives of all people around me and in my head at the same time. So on one hand, there's like, what makes me feel affirmed? And on the other hand, where are other people coming from? Do they even know singular they is an option? And how comfortable are they incorporating that into their everyday speech?

Jennifer Avellino:
So how was it on the women's track and field team? Did you feel affirmed? Did you feel in your later years at Dartmouth, that that was your place?

Olivia Goodwin:
Yeah. No, I definitely felt affirmed on it when I was going through that transition. It was actually the track and field team that I came out officially for my gender identity. I wrote basically this text message to the team because we have a mass GroupMe thread, where I talked about that a little bit. And then I sent a slightly different message to the coaches, but it was very well received. I felt very supported in it. No one really gave me a hard time for it. So I do feel like it was the right decision and being on the women's team did not feel like a reflection on my core identity, so to speak. It just felt like the right place to be as a competitor. Because... Some background I'm not on testosterone and I never was while I was competing either. So competitively speaking, it made the most sense to be on the women's team since I was assigned female at birth.

Jennifer Avellino:
Yeah. Beyond athletics, did you find that your peers and your professors at Dartmouth got it when you came to your pronouns or did you have to do a lot of explaining?

Olivia Goodwin:
I never had to do explaining so to speak. I never had to explain singular they to my professors. I had to do some exploration in my pronouns with my Italian studies. Even though I didn't minor or major in Italian, I did spend quite a lot of time in the Italian department and navigating gender in a romance language became part of that journey. And I actually went back and forth with my Italian professor. I had the same professor for Italian 1, 2, 3. And we really worked together to figure out like, "Okay, what can I do in Italian that still respects the language from a native speaker's perspective?" I think that was one of the most of supportive environments I'd been in, because of the professor. First was like, "Hey, this doesn't work," but did research on his own accord and then came back to me and was like, "Oh, actually, I found out that this is a thing."

And to explain further in Italian, I do use the feminine endings, but when I write, I draw an asterisk instead of an "a" ending, the feminine ending in Italian. Because I knew that I wanted to do the LSA or LSA plus, and I felt that I would be presenting more feminine than masculine from an Italian's perspective. And because of that, it felt more socially correct to use the feminine endings. There's also an element of political significance to it because Italian is very patriarchal. Some people intentionally go with the feminine endings as a way to push back against the masculine endings, which usually trumps, so in a group you use a masculine ending. And so it felt good in affirming to push back against that in a way.

Jennifer Avellino:
So your professor at Dartmouth helped you navigate the language and make it work a little bit better for you, and then when you were on LSA plus, what was that experience like?

Olivia Goodwin:
Yeah, the LSA plus was really fun. I was nervous a little bit before going about like, "Oh, what if situations came up?" But I actually found that I didn't really have to worry too much about it. I think the biggest thing I noticed was that the idea of having a queer aesthetic or being gender nonconforming is a very American idea of what it means to be non-binary or LGBTQ. And that doesn't exist as much in other countries, so I wasn't getting clocked, so to speak, as gender nonconforming. I never felt unsafe. I did have instances where people were confused because I looked very masculine at times. My hair was pretty short at the time.

And I had this one instance with this Italian man who was elderly, where we were chatting while waiting for a bus. And he was asking me about vocabulary things, because he found out I was a student and that was really exciting to him because not that many people want to learn Italian of all the languages to choose from. So it's really exciting for native speakers when they meet a student who's learning Italian and about their world.

And we get to a point and he asked me, "What's your name?" And so I say, "Oh, it's Olivia." And then he asked me, "Oh, is it Olivio or Olivia?" Because there was this disconnect for him between "You don't look feminine, but your name is feminine." And he basically invented a new name, which I didn't know was possible. I don't know if it was affirming so to speak, but it was fascinating to me. In a way it was affirming because it affirms androgyny through that confusion without it being explicitly said.

Jennifer Avellino:
It sounds like a fascinating experience. And the expectations of you were maybe not what you expected, they moved into a completely different realm, maybe.

Olivia Goodwin:
Yeah. That's definitely fair to say.

Jennifer Avellino:
So Olivia, I have to ask you, what is the Dartmouth Bikes Team and what was your role there?

Olivia Goodwin:
Dartmouth Bikes, it is one of the several internship groups in the Sustainability Office on campus. And the Bikes Team is primarily a group of bike mechanics. We fix people's bikes on campus, but we also are a fully functional bike shop, which is how we are able to do that. Our space is in the basement of Fahey & McLane. We actually share that space with that dorms bike storage. It's like the back half of the space, but when we're not fixing bikes, we're renting out our fleet to students every term, except winter. And in the winter, because not that many people are biking around Hanover, we are running a mechanics class, which basically teaches you everything you need to know to fix your own bike on the fly, should you break down.

Jennifer Avellino:
So you're a bike mechanic on top of everything else?

Olivia Goodwin:
Yep. I'm a bike mechanic. And that is actually something that I've gotten to keep doing even after leaving Hanover, which is something I'm very excited about.

Jennifer Avellino:
Olivia, what was your involvement with Triangle House at Dartmouth? Triangle House is a residential community for LGBTQ students, which was founded in 2014.

Olivia Goodwin:
Right. Triangle House, I knew about it even before starting at Dartmouth, because when I was looking at the housing options, I did see that it was one of the LLCs, the living and learning communities. But I also wasn't sure what it meant to live in an LLC, so I opted to just go into the dorm life my first year, because I wasn't sure if it meant having to commit time to things. I didn't know what my time management would be like, but luckily I was in East Wheelock House while I was at Dartmouth, and that is right next to Triangle House on campus. So I did get quite familiar with it just by proxy that first year.

And then sophomore summer was my first time living in it, and I really found it to be like my home on campus in the end. It felt very much like a living space to me, it was sometimes a social space and sometimes more just a living space. It depended on what group of students we had living there at the time. But I definitely felt like my home. Once I lived there, I never stopped living there.

Jennifer Avellino:
Did you find a lot of allies during your time at Dartmouth? You've already mentioned the Italian program and Triangle House, where did you find your support systems beyond that? And how challenging was that?

Olivia Goodwin:
Yeah. I found my allies honestly across campus, and the way I built up my network was very much, if you think of it, as a flower with petals going around it. So I had groups and people all over the place, but not all of them knew each other necessarily, like Italian department, definitely. Also the Sustainability Office, especially the bikes group, because those were the people I was around the most, where I would definitely consider allies. I might have already said Triangle House. I say the Sociology Department, for sure. Especially, I got very close with three professors in particular. One of them advised my undergraduate thesis and then the other two, I either took classes with them or kept having coffee chats with them over my time. And even beyond, I just saw all three of them very recently.

And then also there's OPAL, the Office of Pluralism and Leadership. I did a lot of work with them doing on different committees and stuff, so I got to know the staff there. And then I also had my work in the Student Wellness Center, of course. And I found that to be a great place of support too.

Jennifer Avellino:
We'll certainly talk about all of those. And it sounds like you found your connections in many different areas on campus. Tell me Olivia, what does it mean to be an ally to people in the LGBTQ community? Give us your view on that.

Olivia Goodwin:
Yeah. I think I see allyship as being willing to be curious and learn. That can mean a lot of different things based on the people involved. Some people, their idea of allyship is seeing someone take initiative and learning something from their self, doing their own research. I saw that a lot in the Italian department, where my professor. We were talking about me using the asterisks and the first time we talked about it, he told me, "Oh, well, usually this is only used in very formal context, so it doesn't really make sense to just use it on the daily..." But then came back a few days later and said, "Hey, I looked into this and people are actually doing this now, so go for it." That's one example. Other example is just being going to have a conversation and being vulnerable and saying, "Hey, I don't know that much about this, but can I ask you about this?

Which for me specifically, I have no issues answering people's questions and helping them navigate these questions. I know some people do feel like it's asking them for a labor that they're not emotionally or mentally able to give at the time. But for me, I actually do enjoy when people ask me about that, which is why I keep finding myself in situations like this, where I'm openly talking about it or just publicly involved in ... It's how I got involved with OPAL a lot. Was because I love when people have the curiosity to go to events, go to places and listen to people speak or ask questions.

Jennifer Avellino:
So for you, it's in part when people are open to learning and asking questions and not necessarily knowing all the answers?

Olivia Goodwin:
Right.

Jennifer Avellino:
Yeah. So you were involved at Dartmouth in a number of different ways, as you've indicated, in educating your peers about gender and sexuality issues. You mentioned the Student Wellness Center. What did you do for them?

Olivia Goodwin:
My first taste in the Student Wellness Center, I did the Student Support Network Program back in my freshman year. It was either winter or spring. I honestly don't remember this time, but for that, we all received training in helping people navigate crisis moments. And that was my first taste in the Student Wellness Center and I loved the program. I definitely use those skills, as we all know, Dartmouth and college in general is a stressful place, there's a lot of learning that needs to be done about managing your stress and managing your mental health. So definitely right off the bat, I had a good experience with the Wellness Center.

And then later on in my senior year, it was like my junior summer all the way until the summer following graduation, that senior year. I worked on the positive relationships and sex website, basically your one-stop shop for advice and info on navigating relationships and building relationships, whether that be romantic, platonic, sexual. And then of course it delves into things pertaining to sex specifically as well. But it was my chance to really put my interest in sexuality and sexual expression into practice and give people, I guess, wisdom in the sex ed that I never got in school and that a lot of people don't get.

Jennifer Avellino:
Yeah. You're really drawn to teaching fellow students about these issues.

Olivia Goodwin:
Yeah. It makes me happy to see people excited to, I guess in a way, make themselves better. Because I think it's one of those issues where a lot of people don't feel equipped to navigate them or the fear of messing up prevents people from trying or getting started with growing their knowledge about it. So I wanted to give students something to make that journey just a little bit more straightforward.

Jennifer Avellino:
Yeah. You were also a peer orientation leader and a trips leader, not focusing on gender and sexuality education, but on other sort of peer leadership and mentorship. Tell me about some of those experiences.

Olivia Goodwin:
Trips leader is like you're giving students their very first introduction into a Dartmouth social life. And mostly it's about having fun and showing people that it's okay to look silly because it's a way to break the ice. Because trips, as most people know, has primarily the dances and a lot of the dances are not sexy, but they are a lot of fun. And I think it's a way to break that ice and say like, "Hey it's okay, we're all regular people. Even though Dartmouth, the school, can be intimidating." And that's very focused on making students feel welcome and that they have a place to call home. And then you cut over to the orientation team. The first week is a continuation of trips because of the way the staggered schedule works out. You're basically running events and interacting with students, albeit on a larger scale, the helping them orient themselves to the campus directionally. And then the second week is much more like formal orientation where you're helping run events, staff the orientation events.

Jennifer Avellino:
What was the toughest part of those jobs? Was it doing this during the pandemic?

Olivia Goodwin:
The toughest part of the job stays regardless of being in a pandemic or not. And that is that you are socially on for an extended period of time. At first, like you're on a social high, and it's very exciting you get to meet all these people. But you have to remember that it's okay to take a break and pull back, because we are pretty much doing something at least 12 hours a day, if not more. The teamwork in that was really about making sure everyone was sleeping enough and that people weren't getting stuck with back to back shifts morning and night.

When COVID hit, the hardest part about that was being in front of your camera all the time and just having to spend all that time on Zoom. And I think, yeah, it got tiring, but it was something that I would not go back on. I would definitely make the same choice and do it again, if the opportunity presented itself.

Jennifer Avellino:
That's a lot of dedication to new students. Olivia, this year is Pride Celebration at Dartmouth, focused on intersectionality. You were on the Pride Committee during your time at Dartmouth. What was most important to you about celebrating pride? And what did you hope to share with the rest of the Dartmouth community?

Olivia Goodwin:
Yeah. When I was on the Pride Committee, the theme was, one pride, different strides, or perhaps it was reversed. But it was almost a precursor to intersectionality, because we were trying to acknowledge the fact that the LGBTQ plus community is not a monolith in that everyone has very different experiences. Even within the same label groups, there's a lot of diversity. And so to me, pride first and foremost is for the queer community itself, it's for the current people who are out and are vocal about their identity to take ownership of that. But it's also for people who are not necessarily out, but maybe know or might know in the near future, to show them that "Hey, this isn't a sickness, this isn't the case that something went wrong with you. You can be a fully functional and happy individual and still have these identities." Which I think especially going into college, some people have childhoods where it's very hard to reconcile being queer and among their other identities.

Jennifer Avellino:
For sure. So in your senior year, you co-directed a student production called Upstaging Stereotypes. What was the content? What lessons were you hoping to impart about stereotypes?

Olivia Goodwin:
Yeah. A little background for Upstaging; it was created back when The Vagina Monologues were being performed because The Vagina Monologues were where women on campus asked and confronted the problem of sexual assault and sexual abuse from their male peers. And out of that space came the question of, "Okay, but where do the men fit into this conversation? Because they are a part of it either actively or passively, so how do they contribute?" And then we have Upstaging Stereotypes. And more recently Upstaging Stereotypes has become not just the guy's experience within the question of sexual abuse, but more generally masculinity in the concept of how does masculinity affect everyone's experience. Because regardless whether you identify as a man or present masculine at all, you're definitely living in a world where masculinity exists and because of the way social ties work, it'll affect people's outlook on you by profiling you as masculine or feminine or androgynous in some cases. And it will also affect how you profile other people. So it's this question of what does masculinity mean for us? And at the times, we lo look a lot of toxic masculinity and how oppression and masculinity fit together. And in the 2021 Upstaging group, that cast was very focused on the intersection of masculinity and race. We looked a lot about how masculinity becomes racialized and what does that mean for different racial groups experiences.

Jennifer Avellino:
So the pandemic changed your Dartmouth experience, changed the experience for really all Dartmouth students. We've talked about your experience a little bit, but it also provided you with a subject for your senior thesis. Tell me about the focus. Olivia Goodwin: Yeah. Love talking about my senior thesis. I looked at how the pandemic impacted Dartmouth LGBTQ plus undergrads and how they were using their social support networks. I discovered that ... Well, yes. People were having hard times, but it wasn't all bad. People were able to find community and make connections. It was interesting to see where people found their connections. A lot of people found it with their friends, some of them with their families. It was fairly common for people to live in a pod off campus, so to speak. And so they would have a group there and they would talk about how being in that friend circle was affirming to them or it taught them new things about how they relate to people or how they communicate.

And then I think the best case for building community that I came across was the 24s. So it had turned out that the class of 2024, who had yet to be on campus, but were already committed to coming, made their own community fully virtual. I believe they made it through GroupMe, but every 24 I interviewed brought up the 24 LGBTQ group. And they would tell me about how this started out as "Hey, let's Zoom and see everyone's face," and it was supposed to be like a one-hour event, so to speak. And it turned into a five-hour event because people had such a good time talking to each other and then it turned into a weekly Zoom, and then it turned into pretty much a nightly Zoom. It was something that people grounded themselves in so strongly that by the time they got to campus, they already had 10, 30 or so friends or familiar faces.

Jennifer Avellino:
So look back at your years for me, Olivia, on Dartmouth's campus, you've only been gone about a year. How does Dartmouth need to continue to evolve so that LGBTQ students feel like they have an important place in the community?

Olivia Goodwin:
I think the primary way Dartmouth can evolve is in the physical sense, in the spatial sense. Housing shortage is one of the biggest topics. I'd say we have this opportunity to create dorms and stuff, so as buildings get renovated, as new dorms are built and, or renovated, build them with inclusivity in mind, make bathrooms single use, or otherwise ungendered. That's one of the biggest things, literally creating a campus space that says inclusivity and is not just subtly pushing people to the margins. From a social perspective, I'd say Dartmouth's path forward is to continue what they're already doing.

The biggest change that I saw while I was a student there was sharing your pronouns was normalized during trips. And that was very powerful because it gave people the chance to state their identity if they felt comfortable doing so.

Jennifer Avellino:
A couple of really important things to focus on that you've mentioned in terms of physical space for students at Dartmouth and throughout our society, and recognizing people for the pronouns that they choose to use. Just two little takeaways here in the last part of our conversation, but Olivia I've really enjoyed speaking with you. Thank you so much for joining us.

Olivia Goodwin:
Yeah. I've really enjoyed being on the show too. Thank you so much for the invite.

Jennifer Avellino:
And I look forward to seeing where your career takes you in the future. We'll be watching. Thanks to you again, Olivia, and to all of you for listening to our 50 for 50 Podcast series supported by our office of alumni relations. I'm Jennifer Avellino. My deepest thanks to our co-producers, Catherine Darragh and Charlotte Albright, and to Dartmouth's Media Production Group for technical assistance. We hope you'll tune in for more episodes marking these three milestone anniversaries. You can find out more about our 50 for 50 storytelling project at alumni.dartmouth.edu.