Being non-binary in binary places

 

 

Non-binary. What’s that then?

 

Non-Binary Genders are gender identities that don’t fit within the accepted binary of male and female. People can feel they are both, neither, or some mixture thereof. It might be easier to view gender as a 1-dimensional spectrum with male on one end, female on the other, and androgyne in the middle- but the reality is that gender is more complex, and 3-dimensional models with axes for male, female, and how strongly you feel attached to that gender identity have been suggested.” from the gender wiki

 

That, in a nutshell, is me. I have never really identified as ‘female’ and in fact, I’m quoted in a book that I’m not going to link to here that was published in 2006, saying that ‘I do not know what ‘woman’ feels like. I only know what *i* feel like’. At that point, I didn’t know that non-binary existed. I remember as a small child, thinking that I must be a boy. But that feeling faded a bit. I don’t feel female. I don’t feel male. And sometimes I feel like both together, or neither at once. Or – that’s not quite true. There are days when I am comfortable performing gender in one way, and some in another. Today I am wearing a skirt and presenting as you’d expect ‘a woman’ to present. There are other days when I am in jeans and a button-down shirt and presenting in a way you’d expect ‘a man’ to present. And days when I mix that up. Most of the time, my identity is stable. As non-binary. As genderqueer. As me.

 

But I am perceived (coded) as female. In mixed-gender places where people know my pronouns (they/them/theirs) they use ‘she’ unapologetically and without conscious thought (I hope). I hope, because everyone does it. Counsellors, trainees, workplacements, university, loved ones (at least my loved ones correct themselves. This helps), everyone.

 

I had a much more personal story written; the story of what’s happening with my placement. But I am choosing not to share it here, and instead, will share something I read on facebook the other day:

 

“When trans people say “respect our pronouns” we are not just asking you to shift your language, we are asking you to shift an entire paradigm around sex, gender, and race. It’s not enough to change one word when we are asking for the end of an entire worldview.

What we are saying is not just “this word makes me feel good,” but rather I demand the right to narrate my body and my history on my own terms in a system that is predicated on categorizing, containing, and criminalizing me.

When we say “respect” what we mean is fight like hell for me. What we mean is I wasn’t just assigned this gender at birth, I am non-consensually gendered every day and what are you going to do about that?

This is not an opportunity to be politically correct, this is an opportunity to stop being incorrect.” Darkmatter

I do not (yet) call myself trans. But I also recognise that strictly speaking, I am not cisgender; My gender identity is not congruent with the sex I was assigned at birth. But the lines above, they speak to me.

 

Never assume that you know someone’s pronoun. How we perform our gender does not necessarily have anything to do with our gender identities. You would pretty much always look at me and code me as female. sometimes I wear skirts. Sometimes I wear jeans. I’m still ‘they’.

I post this today, with trepidation. But why should I not be me? Anyone else with me (please feel free to comment and say it’s private and I won’t undo it – unless you’re a person who has automatic approval!)

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Trainees, do you need a mentor? Reasons why you might…

 

English: A new and emerging symbol for Polyamo...

English: A new and emerging symbol for Polyamory, non-monogamous relationships, and LGBTQ individuals. The box unfolding into an open heart represents “love outside the box”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since we launched the mentor list two weeks ago, the response from counsellors volunteering their services has been phenomenal. We have over 20 counsellors on the list so far, volunteering their services, covering almost every flavour of LGBTQI, poly, kinky, sex-positive, non-binary, and ethically non-monogamous.

 

So I am guessing that there are people reading this who might benefit from a mentor but are wondering if this is right for them, or what the point is. I wanted to point out a few places where it might be useful to have a mentor to go to. Some of these are my own experiences, some are based on others’ experiences.

 

Firstly, if any of the above identities fit with you (or you THINK they might) and you’re not out about them, then a mentor with experience in that area might be able to help. This has so far been the biggest request from trainees – it seems we most want to talk to people (so far) about how to manage our professional and personal identities; how out do we want to be, etc.

 

If you are out, and things might mostly feel ok, then you might wonder why a mentor would be helpful. Essentially, sometimes, it can be useful just to have the ear of someone who has passed through a similar situation with similar concerns. Someone who can understand when you say ‘it really makes me cross that everything on parenting covers ‘mother and father’ and there is no considering for same-sex parenting’, or ‘I have to explain my identity to my class before I can have a conversation about something important to me’.

 

Perhaps you’re poly or otherwise ethically non-monogamous and have heard the comment ‘greedy’ (see also ‘bi’). These may have been presented as jokes, but they hurt (they’re called microaggressions. If this has happened to you, look it up – you will find some useful stuff). Or you hear ‘I don’t understand how you can love more than one person (or have sex with more than one person)’ or ‘but isn’t that cheating?’

 

Perhaps you’re trans or non-binary and in your class you hear jokes about a ‘man in a dress’, or you’re out as trans/NB and often misgendered or misnamed. You may be lesbian gay or bi and hear ‘that’s gay’ as a derogatory comment. As an L or G person it’s directly insulting. As a B person it’s insulting and also depressing, because you’re invisiblised (I think I made that word up). You might be kinky and be hearing a LOT about 50 shades of grey right now, about how BDSM is abuse; that you cant consent to it, or that something is wrong with you if you like it – especially if you’re the dominant/top.

If any of these feel like you, click here to sign up for a mentor. You won’t have to wait more than a few days before I get back to you with someone relevant.

 

Calling LGBTQIA+ counsellors and trainees – mentor list

Rainbow flag.Trans flag.Leather flag.Bi flag.Asexual flag.Intersex flag. Genderqueer flag. Poly flag.Bear flag.
(I’m aware that I’ve missed some flags, and that some are more contentious than others, but I wanted to put up a selection)

 

Do you identify as lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, genderqueer, pansexual, non-binary, asexual, intersex, polyamorous, ethically non-monogamous, kinky, or with some other alternative gender or sexual diversity? Are you a supervisor, therapist or a trainee?

As a psychotherapy trainee who identifies as queer, sometimes, I am glad of the opportunity to be able to talk with experienced therapists who identify in similar ways to me. I was recently at a Pink Therapy event and was part of a conversation where it was suggested that it might be a good idea to create some kind of mentor program to help trainees in similar positions. I’ve volunteered to organise it.

So,  for Pink Therapy I am co-ordinating a mentor scheme for those people who identify in the above groups (as well as others I haven’t listed here that are along similar themes – please let me know if I have missed yours out!). It will also hold supervisor details, so if you don’t wish to mentor but are willing to offer supervision, please also complete the form. This list is open to anyone working or training as a counsellor, psychotherapist (of any modality) or clinical or counselling psychologist.

 

If you’re in some way LGBTQIA or ‘beyond the rainbow‘ and are a qualified counsellor or counselling/clinical psychologist who could offer some advice/support to a trainee, or if you’re a trainee who could use some support from a qualified counsellor or clinical or counselling psychologist, or if you’re able to offer (or are looking for) supervision please go to this page to fill in the form that goes directly to me.

As a general rule it would probably be short-term via email, but it would be negotiable between you and the trainee/therapist you’re matched with.

 

I am maintaining two lists, one of mentors/supervisors and one of trainees. When trainees contact me with the type of person they feel they would benefit from talking to, I will send their email address to a relevant person and ask that person to get in touch. If you’re a ‘senior’ trainee (someone who feels they could mentor newer trainees), please feel free to ask to go on the mentor side. Click this link to get to the page with the relevant information or email me: rainbowoftranquility@gmail.com or leave a (screened) comment below.