01: Professional basics

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We’ve done our best to find the answers to the questions you’ll have as a professional helping gender-questioning or genderqueer people, or their friends or family.

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Article: Different ways to be transgender

Tranifesto website | Different ways to be transgender

Gender Pirate – by Rose Moore

Synopsis

Matt Kailey answers a question from a reader on whether it really is possible to feel transgender but not to dislike your own body. In the article, Matt speaks of medical criteria and why it’s not a good idea to use these exclusively to determine your own identity.

 

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Article: genderqueer meanings

Transgender, Genderqueer, Cisgender… What Do These Terms Mean? | Kinsey Confidential.

This article from the Kinsey Institute website goes into some detail on what gender identity actually is, and the terms transgender, genderqueer and cisgender.

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Audio: Interview with Fintan Harte

JOY 94.9 Word For Word | Download Podcast interview with Fintan Harte, director SHGC

Summary

Dean Beck interviews Southern Health Care Network Gender Clinic director Fintan Harte about his involvement with helping the gender diverse population of Victoria.

He goes into detail about how much diversity there is in gender and that the team he leads does support those who are questioning their gender and who identify as genderqueer.

 

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Basics: Acronyms

Queer@M additional definitions | Asexual | Allies

The alphabet soup

The Queer community is sometimes called the “alphabet soup” because there are so many acronyms and abbreviations used. Here are some of the basic ones you’ll come across.

  • GLBTI / LGBTI – Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex
  • LGBTQA / GLBTQA - Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Queer/Questioning Asexual/Allies
  • SGD – Sex and Gender Diverse
  • DGS – Diverse Sex and Gender
  • SSAGQ – Same Sex Attracted Gender Questioning
  • SSATIQ – Same Sex Attracted, Transgender, Intersex and Queer
  • MAAB – Male assigned at birth; people who have been brought up as male
  • FAAB – Female assigned at birth; people who have been brought up as female
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Basics: Assumptions

Identity | Pronouns | Gender 101 | Gender

You’re walking down the street…

Normal: Melbourne, 31 May 2012 by boigrrlwonder

What’s the first thing you notice when you see someone on the street? Some would say their clothing. Others their gender.

Actually, the first thing you see is a human shape.

Everything else that we see builds to a point where we can make an educated guess about who the person is, all based on verbal and non-verbal cues – the way someone speaks and the movements they make with hands, face and body, their clothing choices, hair length and other things.

As human beings in society, we are taught that the presence of a particular collection of visual cues – what we see with our eyes – corresponds with a male or female gender identity.

Assume nothing

Except this isn’t always the case.

A person with tattoos isn’t automatically a biker and/or a criminal.

A person in a business suit may be a high-powered business-person, but could equally be just about anything else.

Our concepts of masculine and feminine are similarly flawed and based on our personal and collective assumptions – stereotypes – about what particular appearances mean.

So what do I do?

So what to do you do when you see someone who looks female or male? Don’t make assumptions.

A person’s gender expression is their business not yours.

 

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Basics: Binding

Wikipedia article on binding | FTM Australia guide to bindersUnderworks binders | Pay it forward binders

What is binding?

Binding is where you use bandages or a tight (usually purpose-made) top to flatten breasts.

Binding is a way of helping you look less female and more androgynous.

 

 

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Basics: For professionals

Gender 101 | Pronouns | Inclusive Practice | People like you

You don’t know what you don’t know

Gender Thing: Northcote, February 2007 by gotheek

When you’re faced with something outside your experience, worry is often the first reaction: how can I help this person if I don’t have the answers?

The simple reality is that no-one has all the answers. But like everyone when confronted with something new, we can choose to ignore it or learn more about it.

One of the most common situations faced by professionals with gender-questioning or genderqueer clients is that they are being educated by their clients. This isn’t an ideal situation for either party and can put you and them in a difficult situation.

The onus therefore is to educate yourself, and to ask for help if you need it from people like you.

“The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.”

Frank Herbert (1920 – 1986)

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Basics: Gender 101

What is Gender |  “It’s pronounced metrosexual” website explanation of gender

If someone questions their gender they want to be another sex, right?

Gender Thing: Northcote, February 2007 by gotheek

Not quite.

People who come to you may feel they want to explore what it would be like to be less the gender they were assigned at birth.

Some just want to look outwardly like another sex.

Others may want to appear more neutral, neither male nor female, more androgynous.

They may want to take hormones to make physical changes to their bodies, and gain some of the physical characteristics of their preferred gender.

They may want to have surgeries to alter some parts of their bodies.

They may want to have surgery on their sexual organs to remove or reshape them

Any variation is possible in gender-questioning or genderqueer people.

Gender-questioning

If someone comes to you and says they’re questioning their gender, then they’re asking questions about what it is to be male or female. They’re asking questions about the relationship between their physical body and how they feel inside about their gender.

Genderqueer

When a friend or family member says they’re genderqueer – neither male nor female, or both, or something else entirely, then they’ve come to a conclusion that the categories of “male” and “female” as understood by mainstream society don’t fit who they are.

Transgender

Someone who calls themselves transgender is saying that they could be gender-questioning, genderqueer, transsexual or another non-normative gender expression.

Transsexual people identify with the opposite sex and their gender identity is fixed: they ARE the other sex rather than wondering about gender (gender-questioning) or floating between (genderqueer).

Cisgender

Finally, cisgender people are those whose internal gender identity (their own sense of gender), outward gender identity (how others perceive their gender) and physical body (chromosomes, hormones and sex organs) match up.

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Basics: How I can help

AssumptionsGender 101 | What is gender?Pronouns

Supporting a gender-questioning or genderqueer person

The very best help you can give someone who is gender-questioning or genderqueer is support.

Support can be as simple as

  • putting judgement aside;
  • researching what might be going on for them (and this site is a great place to start!);
  • listening to what they’re going through or need.

If you’re a friend or family member

If you’re a professional

  • put judgement and assumptions to one-side;
  • remember that there are many things that gender-questioning and genderqueer people are, and many that they are not (and you can find out more about this in Gender 101)
  • Hormones or surgery may or may not be requested;
  • it is always up to the individual to tell you where they need to go.
  • Step up and learn as much as you can but don’t be afraid to ask for help for you or your client from other professionals in the field (and you can find some under professionals like you).

 

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Basics: How many are gender-questioning or genderqueer?

Writing Themselves In | Fintan Harte radio interview

Statistics

It’s a difficult number to quantify because gender diverse people aren’t easily identified as they often just blend into the population and get on with their lives.

In “Writing Themselves In” (Hillier et al. 1998) it was estimated that 3% of those surveyed (a total of 3134 SGD young people) identified as gender questioning (which worked out at 94 young people approximately). In this context, Gender Questioning included those who were unsure of which gender they belonged to (gender-questioning), those who identified as neither male nor female (genderqueer) and those who believed themselves to be the opposite sex to that assigned at birth (transgender).

In his recent radio interview with Dean Beck of Joy FM, Fintan Harte (director of the Victorian Gender Dysphoria Clinic) stated that gender diverse people were as much as one in 10,000.

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Basics: Inclusive Practice

Gender 101 | What is gender?Pronouns

Welcome!

The idea of inclusive practice – the act of being welcoming to all human beings – is an opportunity for you and your organisation to be respectful towards people who are sex and/or gender diverse.

If someone comes to you for help, ask basic information such as:

  • what pronoun do you wish to use
  • what gender do you identify as
  • how do you wish me to address you

Things to think about

  • You could ensure your intake forms and systems have the possibility of entering a self-determined gender identity, or event just leaving it blank.
  • Try to identify exactly why gender is important on your intake forms and in your systems.
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Basics: Labels don’t define us

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Atheist or Agnostic? – YouTube

Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson speaks in this video about how labels can be used against people to claim you are something based upon a narrow definition.

This is something Genderqueer Australia works with people to understand, that our definitions of ourselves are extremely narrow, and their use reduces us to these labels. So when we say we are a husband, mother, white, black, homosexual, transgender or genderqueer, we are giving someone else the ammunition to define us as exactly that label and no more.

As human beings we have limitless potential to be something much better: We can be ourselves.

 

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Basics: Pronouns

Comic on Gender pronouns | List of Gender Neutral pronouns | Blog on “they” as a singular pronoun | Grammar Girl – “Yo” as a pronoun

In English, he is a pronoun that identifies a male. She is a pronoun that identifies a female.

So what do you do if you don’t identify as either? What do you do if you can’t tell just by looking what gender a person is?

I want to be called…

Some people invent their own pronouns or rely on ones created by others for this purpose such as xe, ze or hir. Other people may choose to use the singular pronoun they. Many different pronouns have been suggested, as the list on the Gender Neutral Pronoun Blog indicates.

Everyone assumes

Based on outward appearance, most people assign other people a gender based on whatever they see in front of them.

Very few people actually ask what a person’s gender is or how they want to be addressed.

It’s often not deliberate, it’s just the way we’ve been brought up in this society of ours. There are males and females and that’s it.

So what do I do if I can’t tell?

Well, the simplest way to find out is to be bold and ask! For example: “What pronoun do you prefer?” or “How do you like to be referred to, in terms of pronouns?”

Or you could rely on knowing the person’s name and use that instead of him or her.

Finally, some people use they to identify people who don’t identify their gender.

The XKCD cartoon to the right is a great reasoning for why you can use “They” as a gender-free pronoun.

 

 

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Basics: Tucking

Transgenderzone.info article on tucking | Crossdressing.pl guide to tucking | Tranz wiki article on tucking

Tuck – Melbourne, May 2012 by gotheek

What is tucking?

Tucking is where you pull your male sexual organs back in order to conceal them and look less masculine. This can be achieved with tight underwear and surgical tape if necessary.

Care should be taken if using tape as it can damage the skin.

The article links above explain this all in much greater detail.

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Basics: What is Gender?

Sex differencesGender | Third gender | Intersex | Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome

3 dimensions of gender

Gender in our world is really split into the physical aspects of our bodies and the way we express ourselves through the way we dress and the ways we behave.

One way to imagine gender is with three dimensions:

  • Physical – the way the body looks and its underlying biology
  • Mental – the way we feel we are
  • Expression – the outward appearance, the way we express ourselves through behaviour, clothing, haircut, etc.

Physical

Gender is supposed to be clear and well-defined by our external and internal genitalia – male or female.

There are physical aspects that are identified as male or female, including:

  • body shape
  • external and internal genitalia
  • secondary gender characteristics (eg. male facial hair, female breasts, etc.)

Our genitalia, hormones and chromosomes are used to identify our physical gender, but even these aren’t 100% accurate. Here is where the sliding scale above can help.

Our genitalia can be large, small or different depending on all sorts of factors, both known and unknown. People born with ambiguous genitalia are termed intersex and their lives can be very difficult.

Hormones can be affected by different biological syndromes which means that despite their presence or absence, our bodies don’t react as expected. Androgen insensitivity syndrome is where, for example, testosterone doesn’t make the fetus change to male as expected.

Mental

How a person feels about their gender identity is rarely taken into consideration. The majority of people in the world identify as male or female and are perfectly happy with that.

These people are referred to as cisgender.

But this isn’t an absolute rule. It’s an assumption, an expectation. And it’s not true for everyone.

We all sit on a sliding scale of mental gender, from the stereotypes of masculinity and femininity shown in movies and popular culture, to the ways we behave around others.

Expression

Not everyone conforms to the stereotypes we often see in popular culture about how men and women look, dress and behave. Men can cry. Women can be strong.

Many of the rules about appropriate behaviour and appearance for people perceived as male and female date back to the eighteenth century and reflect the influence of dominant religions (Muslim, Jewish and Christian). The result was that social gender roles for men and women became very sharply defined, with “male” and “female” roles viewed as being complete opposites.

Historically, however, there have always been variations in gender expression, and in some societies people who didn’t fit in with dominant gender roles were accorded particular status. For example, two-spirit people often became the shamans of native American tribes.

These days, not conforming to social gender stereotypes is more permissible; females especially have more license to be tomboys and dress in ways that are not considered stereotypically feminine. People who are perceived as boys on the other hand often still face stricter social conventions about  appropriate dress and behaviour, although this varies considerably by social context and group.

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Basics: What is Self-harm? – YouTube

What is Self-harm? – YouTube.

Self harm is a unspoken issue in the LGBTIQ community, this video is meant to help break down the stigma and explain the reasons why people do it. Dr. George Forgan-Smith speaks about self-harm, what it is, why people do it, and how to work through it.

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Cartoon: Rooster Tails – Is My Binary Showing Part 3

Rooster Tails – Is My Binary Showing Part 3.

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Fred McConnell: There’s no such thing as a sex change

Here’s a great explanatory video from The Guardian and Fred McConnell on why there’s no such thing as a sex change

Fred McConnell: There’s no such thing as a sex change

It covers why “sex change” is incorrect, how to talk to people who are transgender and the ways in which conversation about this subject can help educate and help Trans and non-trans people.

 

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Genderbread person

The Genderbread Person v2.0: a helpful visual aid for explaining gender (again).

The genderbread person has had an upgrade!

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