Updated: Apr 2, 2020
Social Justice and Gender by Vicki Carter
I am sometimes invited to attend Texas A&M's Student Counseling Services's annual Social Justice Conference. Last year the topic was White Privilege. This year the topic was providing gender-affirming care to transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary students. Both the presenters were transgender men. Both had expertise in counseling these populations. It was a great conference.
I was familiar with some of the terms that were introduced at the beginning. I knew that cis-gender means that a person's gender identity and sex match, and that gender expression is a whole other topic.
One of the first things we were all invited to do was to forget about grammar and get comfortable with the non-binary pronouns they/them/theirs. When people spoke during the conference, our names and pronouns were offered by way of introduction, something I am used to doing at Unitarian Universalist conferences.
We did an exercise on gender privilege. Because the first day presenter was the only person in the room who was not cis-gender, we all ended up on the opposite side of the room from him as we took a step forward for each privilege we enjoy that he does not. (e.g. People never ask me why I “chose” my gender identity.)
We were told about a process called “coming in” that precedes “coming out” in the trans, GNC and non-binary communities. Coming in refers to gathering information, a private process. Coming out is when people share their gender identity with others. The average time between coming in and coming out is 14 years!
While I learned about medical and legal interventions, because practicing psychologists need to know this information for the sake of their clients, the most important take-away was that you never ask a transgender person something you wouldn't ask a cis-gender person. I also learned, directly from a panel of transgender people, that if you misgender someone, just apologize. Don't make a big deal about it, because that is more embarrassing than the original mistake.
I bought a book written by the second day presenter, Colt Keo-Meier, Ph.D. It's called Stacy's Not a Girl. In it are all sorts of terms for non-binary people, including “gender priuses” and “gender smoothies.” Want to know what those terms mean? You'll just have to come to RE when I use that book and we learn about the many, many flags that celebrate the wonderful world of gender diversity. Watch this space for a future date!