I want everyone to feel welcome, seen, and included in my work.
If you’ve listened to me talk, you’ve heard me say things that may sound a little awkward to your ears: “people who have penises” or “people who were socialized as little girls.”
Because gender is a complicated topic.
Throughout history, many cultures believed that our genitals, chromosomes, and gender were in complete lock step. There were some people who were born with ambiguous genitals (intersex) to confuse the system, but we chose to overlook them as an anomaly. We ignored transgender and non-binary people as “freaks” who had a “mental illness.”
Photo by Zackary Drucker, courtesy of The Gender Spectrum Collection.
Today, science has new revelations about gender and sexuality regularly and culture is beginning to catch up.
We now know that people who are born with sex anatomy variations (intersex) are far more common than we had previously realized. This means genitals are not a reliable marker of gender.
We now know that there aren’t just two chromosomal patterns (XX=female, XY=male), but more than a dozen (I recommend this excellent Twitter thread) This means chromosomes are not a reliable marker of gender.
And the scientific consensus is clear – the transgender experience is real, it is valid, and it is in no way a “mental disorder.” This means people’s chosen gender is real and not reliant on genitals OR chromosomes.
For that reason, I use different language at different times.
I know that the majority of my audience are cisgender women (meaning born with a vagina, brought up as a little girl, and identify as a woman in your adulthood) and you may not understand what the fuss is about. For this reason, I often use standard male/female language.
There are also trans men, trans women, and non-binary people in my audience for whom standard language around gender is not appropriate. For this reason, I often incorporate language about “people with penises” or “people who were socialized as little girls.”
So who am I here to serve?
The unfortunate truth is that in many venues, the type of deep-dive I’ve done above isn’t possible. For instance, if a radio host asks me who I work with, I don’t have the luxury of time to walk them through this discussion. I will often use the shorthand of saying “I work with women.”
But as you can see from the above, while the word “women” in this context may be useful, it is inaccurate.
So here is a more complete answer:
I work with people who were socialized as little girls.
Because so much of my work centers on the messages we internalized as children and how that affects us now that we are adults, I focus on how the world treated you based on your perceived gender as a child.
I work with people who were taught all of the lessons we teach little girls through our culture, language, media, etc.: be helpful, take care of others before yourself, keep your legs together and your skirt down, don’t ask for what you want, don’t consider your own needs.
In general, that includes cisgender women, transgender men, and non-binary folx who were assigned female at birth.
I am available to work with trans women, however I do not have the experience of growing up socialized as a little boy, so there are going to be gaps in my knowledge and understanding of your experience.
I have long been committed to diversity and inclusion and am committed to continuing to learn through both personal and professional growth. I will update this document as I learn more.
The date of last update is Aug. 6, 2020.