Chapter 1: Histories, herstories, theirstories

In this chapter we will read stories of how the field of Narrative Therapy took up the challenge of addressing heterosexual dominance. We will honour the definitional power that histories (those told and those untold) have to erase, marginalise, and to uplift, make visible and celebrate. And through personal, professional and political reflections we will gain a sense of the endless movement, tensions and fluidity in traditions of thought relating to expansive gender and sexuality.


How did conversations about challenging heterosexist assumptions in therapy begin within the Field of Narrative practice? Cheryl White (she/her) reflects on the contributions of lesbian and gay practitioners

Seeking a therapy free from heterosexist assumptions in A memory book for the field of narrative practice.

Joan Nestle (she/her) took on the challenge of thickening subjugated stories of lesbian lives at a time and in a context where being gay or lesbian was almost unspeakable. She sought ‘to give people back to themselves’. 

Responding with History and Story: An Interview with Joan Nestle— David Denborough.

Janet Bystrom’s (she/her) reflection on the establishment of a narratively informed grassroots community organisation, RECLAIM, is a delightful account of a community coming together to reclaim their storytelling rights.

Thinking Queerly about Narrative-Informed Organisational Development: A conversation with Janet Bystrom, founder of RECLAIM— An interview with Julie Tilsen.

The history of the relationship between Feminist movements, poststructuralism and people of expansive gender and sexuality is multistoried with tension, exclusion, challenge, embrace and expansion.  

In this video from our Feminisms and Intersectionality project, Aaron Munro (he/him), a trans man from Turtle Island describes how his relationship with feminisms has evolved across time and gender in a conversation with Vikki Reynolds (she/her).

In 2003 Arthemis Rohanthy (she/her), a transfemme therapist wrote a letter in response to the 2003 paper, ‘Feminism, therapy and narrative ideas – Exploring some not so commonly asked questions’, compiled by Shona Russell and Maggie Carey. 

Correspondence to the ongoing project on Feminism, therapy and narrative ideas — A Letter from Arthemis Rodhanthy.

Joan Laird (she/her), who identifies as a lesbian, feminist, postructuralist, wrote this letter in response.

Continuing Correspondence in Relation to Feminism and Transgender Issues – A Letter to Arthemis Rodhanthy from Joan Laird.

And finally, meet Laura, Frances, Jama, Crystal, Shaun, Nicole, Anusstasius, Curtina, Lay, and Darren (all use she/her), sistagals of the Tiwi Islands telling their stories in ways that make them stronger*. 

Reflection questions:

  • What are the histories told, re-told and untold of gender and sexual expansiveness in the context you work or live in? If you’re not sure, what ways might you have of researching those histories? (Speaking of local histories, this publication compiled by Suzy Stiles in 1995 was a key contribution to Dulwich Centre’s engagement in these realms). 
  • What role might you play in your practice to support the reclamation of storytelling rights of those whose identities have been subjected by dominant accounts of history?


* Telling stories in ways that make us stronger is the wisdom of Aunty Barb Wingard. Check out the Aboriginal Narrative Practice Course to learn more.

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