The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be, rather than recognising how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.
Gender expansiveness is not a new concept, but lately it has become more a part of our cultural understanding. The struggle with the gender binary is real and as old as time. Chances are, if you are reading this, you or someone you love has expressed concerns about how their gender is either expressed or perceived. Whether you feel like you fit firmly on one side of the binary, somewhere in the middle, or not at all on the spectrum, taking time to explore the construct of gender and how it affects you (or your loved ones) can be greatly beneficial to your life.
Learn about the construct of gender
Discuss how gender affects all of us
Challenge the gender binary and binary thinking
Normalize all expressions of gender
Normalize normal parts of the human experience.
Things are not always as they seem
If you grew up with a firm understanding of a gender binary rather than a gender spectrum, it may be hard to understand some of the concepts here. That is normal. It is OK to feel confused for your your own experience or your loved one. Give yourself a chance to dig deeper into your understanding of gender in the safety and comfort of the therapeutic space.
Gender is a social construct that we as humans use to help us organize and categorize society. The more rigid we are about gender, gender roles, and gender expression, the less room there is for people to just be themselves, whomever that may be.
Lead by example, start the conversation
We often take for granted how people feel about their gender or their bodies, as it is sometimes hard to talk about things if we don’t have the language. Learn how to appropriately and effectively discuss what gender means to you and how your own ideas of gender may be affecting people you love.
Growth always starts with discomfort
It can feel strange acknowledging and talking about gender expression. However, these conversations can lead us to greater intimacy both with ourselves and others. Sometimes self-discovery can lead you to deep and lasting comfort or peace. Growth can be difficult, but it can also be very freeing.
“Society as a whole benefits immeasurably from a climate in which all persons, regardless of race or gender, may have the opportunity to earn respect, responsibility, advancement and remuneration based on ability.”
– Sandra Day O’Connor
"Gender is really varied and complicated and sort of infinitely individualistic."
– Susan Faludi
“That gender is a choice, or that gender is a role, or that gender is a construction that one puts on, as one puts on clothes in the morning, that there is a 'one' who is prior to this gender, a one who goes to the wardrobe of gender and decides with deliberation which gender it will be today.”
– Judith Butler
“When gender comes down upon us, male or female, it comes as a restriction.”
– Gloria Steinem