Meet John Arnold

Meet John Arnold

WIIS Gender and Global Security Program Assistant- Fall 2018

By: Sarah Kenny

“Sexual orientation and gender identity don’t receive much attention in the policy and academic spheres. If I can help shine a light on these issues, I would find that very rewarding, both personally and professionally”

John Arnold grew up in the small suburban town of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania with his parents, two younger siblings, and beloved cat, Tonya. He earned a major in sociology from Franklin and Marshall College, a private liberal arts college located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In choosing a major, John picked a course of study that allowed him to combine his passions for government, history, and psychology. To explore this intersection in greater depth, John took advantage of a study abroad program in Amsterdam as a college junior. John’s passion for learning more about the world is evident through his personal travel history, which includes visits to 27 nations on six different continents. Of these trips, John has most enjoyed his visits to Canada, the Netherlands, and Thailand.

John near the Gulfoss waterfall in Iceland

While studying in Amsterdam, John gained insight into international perspectives of gender and sexuality. John reflects,

“This experience allowed me to examine how other cultures construct both sexuality and gender in a city and country at the forefront of gender and sexual equality.”

After completing his undergraduate education, John worked as a real estate agent in Washington, D.C. for two years. He thereafter joined a nonprofit that fought to achieve monument status for the Stonewall Inn in New York City. When looking for Masters degree programs, John sought out a curriculum that would allow him to combine his interests in International Relations and Gender/Sexuality studies. George Washington University’s Masters in International Affairs with a concentration in Global Gender Policy constituted the perfect fit for this budding scholar and social activist.

As John prepares for graduation in May, he will work with his capstone seminar on a gender and conflict-based project, such as human trafficking. After completing his Masters, John hopes to work as a gender advisor for a government agency, NGO, or aid organization. Through such a role, John could help ensure that the institution’s programming takes a gendered perspective into account, as well as addresses the distinct needs of gender and sexual minorities.

Sexual orientation and gender identities (SOGIS) face an increased likelihood of abuse, oppression, suicide, and overall violence. This grouping is a blind spot for many organizations. On the importance of advocating for SOGIs in the national and international security spheres, John notes, “Gender is at the forefront of many international issues.” While this enhanced focus is positive, he points out that “Sexual orientation and gender identity don’t receive as much attention in the policy and academic spheres. If I can help shine a light on these issues, I would find that very rewarding both personally and professionally.”

John during his study abroad in the Netherlands

I asked John what the work of advocating for SOGIs looked like around the globe today. John shared that countries around the world are grappling with how to integrate LGBTQI individuals into their militaries. The Middle East and Russia are particularly dangerous places for SOGIs at present. In the US context, the Trump Administration’s transgender ban on individuals serving in the military is a salient example of one such area of policy conflict for advocates like John. Furthermore, John lamented the lack of significant scholarship on SOGIs in academia. He seeks to contribute to the scholarship on these identity groups so that policymakers can “understand the extent of violence perpetrated against these individuals around the world.”

As a fall Gender and Global Security intern at WIIS, John is working on the WIIS Blue Book Initiative, organizing a reunion for former program assistants at WIIS, writing blog posts, and conducting research on SOGIs. I asked about his thoughts on including a gendered perspective in national and international security matters. He responded,

“It’s important to say that gender does not mean only women. Historically, he notes, the body of policy has tended to skirt around the needs of women and gender and sexual minorities. Therefore, it’s important for organizations like WIIS to continue its role advocating for women and SOGIs working in the security and international policy fields.”


John celebrating his kickball team’s winning season

In his free time, John enjoys being active with his friends in Washington, D.C. He plays on a kickball team and serves as the co-captain of an intramural dodgeball team. Off the field, John enjoys cooking gluten-free food and reading a mix of historical nonfiction, fantasy, and current affairs books. WIIS Global is grateful to have John in the DC office this fall. We look forward to the contributions that he will make to the field of inclusive national and international security.

John is a second-year Masters student at GW, where he is pursuing a degree in International Affairs with a concentration in Global Gender Policy.

You can get in touch with John at [email protected].