Chapter 3: Gender multiverse

In this third chapter we will learn from gender transgressors on the front line of resistance. Oftentimes tragic or harmful single stories of trans lives dominate public consciousness. As Tatiana (she/her), who you will meet, shares, ‘People should know more stories about us. There are not just sad stories.’  We will be introduced to Non-Binary superpowers, trans talents, and narrative practices that foster dignity, resistance and draw on the multitude of existing skills and knowledges of gender expansive folk.

In this powerful poem Lee Mokobe (he/him) shares his multi-storied account of “what it’s like to be transgender”.

 


 

Kyle Sawyer (he/him) unpacks the way that rigid gender norms are enforced through discursive power, coercive power and repressive power and gives language to the resistance of trans subjectivity.

Explorations in Trans* Subjectivity — Kyle Sawyer

 


 

In these videos David Nylund introduces us to some of the complexities, opportunities and ethical dilemmas of therapy with transgender young people. He then shares a short recording of a conversation with William (he/him), a young trans man, which centers William’s knowledges about masculinities and agency in self-determining his preferred masculinity. 

NOTE: When David Nylund refers to Rae Connell, David is referring to influential gender studies scholar, Raewyn Connell (she/her).

 


Bi-gender therapist Esben Esther Pirelli Benestad (he/she) shares rich practice wisdom and lived experience about resisting pathologising practices, gender incongruence, gender belonging, trans talents, bodily adjustments and finding a resting place in order for a body to be a good place to live in.

‘Some of us have a body that we need to adjust in order for them to be a good place to live’: Belonging, resting places and gender talents — Esben Esther Pirelli Benestad

Two years on Esben Esther reflected on this interview and wanted to extend the conversation. She names ‘the power of the demand for passing’ in trans lives and communities created by the ongoing hegemony of binary gender constructions. His short essay hopes to invite you into the conversation.

Reflexions on ‘passing’– Esben Esther Pirelli Benestad 


Aya Okumura, alongside Nikki, Connie, Melenie, Noelle, and Tatiana (all use she/her), illustrates how the metaphor of journey can allow for rich explorations of gender transitions and the importance of co-researching liberatory traditions of gender diversity.

No Turning Back: Male to Female Transgender Journeys of Getting through Tough Times— Aya Okumura


Here’s another rich example of practice. Together, Manja Visschedijk (she/her) and Indi Wishart (they/them) describe the possibilities for re-authoring gender histories, repositioning trans folks as expert and subverting the patholigisation of trans lives.

Reflection Questions:
  • What do you know or what might it be possible to know about the cultural histories of gender expansiveness in your context (especially pre-colonial cultural histories)?
  • How many gender diverse people have you knowingly worked with? 
    • If your answer is none or few, what do you think might be the barriers for gender diverse people to access your practice or to be open with you about gender diversity? 
    • What might you be able to change or shift within your practice or the context of your work to reduce those barriers?
    • For cis-gendered therapists/community workers: How do you attend to cis-privilege? 
  • What has been made more possible in your life or practice by the resistance, activism and shared lived experience of trans and non-binary communities?
  • What will you do differently in your practice or life as a result of the resources in this chapter?

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    AI

    What do you know or what might it be possible to know about the cultural histories of gender expansiveness in your context (especially pre-colonial cultural histories)?

    This made me curious. I live in America but I was born and my ancestry traces back to Mesoamérica. Nahuatl is the language of the Pipils, a group very inter-connected between Aztecs, and unlike Spanish, the Nahuatl language does not have any gendered pronouns–but this makes me want to connect with my ancestors and look more into this history. I appreciate that.

    No more than a few, and it is difficult to come by quality lgtb-focused care, if any at all. They also have other needs case managers aren’t used work with or will not work. My hope is to expand on the literature about queer theory, social work, and narrative therapy as also advocate for better lgtbq- focused care.

    For cis-gendered therapists/community workers: How do you attend to cis-privilege? This is sorta hard, as I often do feel gender-queer, particularly bigender and within that, there’s other structures but for the most part, passing and being femme, can be a privilege, and I do want to constantly contribute to solidarity, and use my privileges to help other folks in the community but especially trans folks as it is very hot topic in American education as well as very violent place for trans woman of color.

    What has been made more possible in your life or practice by the resistance, activism and shared lived experience of trans and non-binary communities?
    What will you do differently in your practice or life as a result of the resources in this chapter?

  2. Avatar

    Megan M. Matthews

    Hi, I’m Megan (say it: MEE-gan), writing from greater Cleveland, Ohio, USA; my pronouns are she/her.

    – What do you know or what might it be possible to know about the cultural histories of gender expansiveness in your context (especially pre-colonial cultural histories)?

    My city (a small city called Lakewood that’s located just outside Cleveland, Ohio, USA) has a long-standing reputation as a diverse and inclusive community; however, this seems to be said (at least in the media) most often in the context of sexuality rather than gender and gender expression. On the other hand, it’s relatively often that I meet people in my community, just by chance, whose facial features present as one gender and whose mode of dress/aesthetic present as a different gender. (I often compliment strangers on their style when I think it’s amazing, and these folks are no exception.)

    I find it unfortunate that I have been unable to find much cultural information on the Erie people, on whose traditional land my city stands and whose population was almost completely wiped out in a war with the Iroquois in the 16th century. I don’t plan on letting this stop me from continuing to search, however.

    How many gender diverse people have you knowingly worked with? If your answer is none or few, what do you think might be the barriers for gender diverse people to access your practice or to be open with you about gender diversity? What might you be able to change or shift within your practice or the context of your work to reduce those barriers?

    If I have worked with any gender-diverse people in my current agency practice, I do not know about it; I expect that this is likely due to the fact that although my agency (a substance use treatment facility) is not officially a faith-based agency, the prevailing culture of the agency is heavily influenced by Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Twelve-Step recovery in general, which in turn seems to be heavily enculturated in/by Christian attitudes and beliefs. Given the historical lack of support for transfolk in many Christian sects, I am not really surprised to think that any transfolk who came to us for help might be extremely unwilling to be open with any of our staff about their preferred gender. Unfortunately, I do not feel that I have much if any power to effect change at my agency regarding this; however, my private mental health practice is already intended as a safe space for queer and trans/non-binary folk as well as people of color, neurodiveerse folk, and all those who self-describe in any way as having non-mainstream facets of their identity.

    – For cis-gendered therapists/community workers: How do you attend to cis-privilege? I have resolved to become more thoroughly educated on the trans experience by reading; by taking courses like this one; and by speaking to trans/non-binary people who are willing to speak to me about their lived experience.

    – What has been made more possible in your life or practice by the resistance, activism and shared lived experience of trans and non-binary communities?

    I believe strongly that if it were not for the resistance and activism of trans and non-binary communities, I would not have/have had several people in my life whose presence I value and have valued greatly; some trans*, others genderfluid; all are or have been my friends. One is my hisster-in-law, who has stated flatly that without outside support from their own community they would have most likely been dead years before I ever met them.

    – What will you do differently in your practice or life as a result of the resources in this chapter?

    I have already begun to make a practice of asking my agency clients what name they prefer to be called, and then using that name consistently. As previously mentioned, my aoon-to-open private practice is intended as a safe space for all who self-describe with identities that are “non-mainstream”, including queer, trans* and non-binary folk; and I will actively use the resources in this chapter as well as other resources to seek out continuing education in the areas of nonprivilege with which I have no lived experience.

Leave a Reply