“It’s not the differences that divide us, it’s our incapacity to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences.”-Audre Lorde
Many people across the globe are engaging in conversations around the current events that have spotlighted racial inequality and violence against our most marginalized community members.
With the emerging movement of self-examination regarding attitudes towards race, it’s crucial to also explore the attitudes about non-conforming gender identities and expression (e.g. transgender women).
When people hold hidden biases and negative attitudes towards individuals who do not fall under traditional binary gender roles or categories (male and female), they can show hurtful, unfair, or discriminatory behaviors.
Given that these biases may be unconscious, we invite you to self-explore your attitudes and ideas about gender. Understanding the attitudes that shape one’s world view helps to identify what is needed to be learned and unlearned in order to become a better ally to the transgender (often shortened as trans) and gender non-conforming community.
Gender Bias Self Reflection Questions
Pro tip: We encourage you to actually write out responses to these reflective journaling prompts rather than merely read them. We’ve made it easy for you with this FREE DOWNLOADABLE WORKBOOK.
- [Think about your childhood] How was I expected to behave because of my gender?
- How have my parents, family members, classmates/peers, and romantic interests influenced my beliefs about gender?
- How did I come to define my gender identity? (Do I remember deciding what gender I related to most?)
- How do different identity markers such as race, ethnicity, ability/disability (e.g. able-bodied, etc.), body size, socioeconomic status/class, sexual orientation, spirituality/religion, or other identities, influenced my gender identity? (e.g. ethnicity’s influence on masculinity/femininity; religion’s influence on binary gender norms, etc) *use any or all that may apply
- How have I benefited from adhering to gender expectations/roles?
- If I did not behave according to gender expectations/roles, were there any consequences?
- Do I experience stressors related to my gender identity?
- Have I experienced fluidity regarding my gender identity? (e.g. someone identifying as female and engaging in male-dominated sports or wearing men’s clothing)
- Has my gender ever been misidentified (e.g. attaching my voice to a different gender; assuming my gender just by learning my name)? How did that feel?
- How have I contributed to reinforcing binary gender socialization? (e.g. making jokes, participating in gender reveal parties, imposing traditional gender norms on my loved ones, etc.)
- Do I use he/she, men/women in my writing and verbal communications as a catch-all way to describe “everyone?” Why?
- What thoughts and feeling arise when I cannot easily determine the gender of a person? Do I find myself trying to determine the sex assigned at birth?
- When someone calls me out regarding potentially harmful behaviors towards LGBTQ+ or Trans individuals, do I feel compelled to quickly defend myself and my intentions? Why is that? What am I hoping to communicate with this?
- How do I feel about being asked to use or corrected to use non-binary pronouns (they/them etc)?
- When a person challenges society’s binaries in any way (e.g. with appearance, speech, by advocating for non-conforming gender identities, etc.), how do I feel? What automatic reactions does this evoke?
- When I meet or come across a Trans or gender non-conforming individual, do I treat them as I would treat a cisgender individual (person who identifies with the gender assigned at birth)? If not, what is different for me?
- What feelings arise when I see non-binary/Trans individuals displaying affectionate behaviors with another person (e.g. kissing)? Expressing sexuality (flirtatious, provocative behavior)?
- What assumptions do I make about a person’s mental health when I learn they completed sex reassignment/gender confirmation surgery? Do I assume they will eventually change their mind?
- Have I assigned traditional male/female names that match the biological sex of my pets? Why? Do I socialize my pets based on gender (e.g. pink collar for a girl)? Why might it be important to me that a person be able to identify the gender of my pet?
- Have I assigned traditional male/female names that match the biological sex of my baby/newborn? Why? Do I socialize my baby/newborn based on gender (e.g. tape a pink boy to baby’s head)? Why might it be important to me that a person be able to identify the gender of my baby/newborn?
-These questions were adapted from A Clinician’s Guide to Gender-Affirming Care: Working with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Clients by Chang, S., Singh, A., and dickey I.
Want an easy way to write and track your answers to these questions?
We’ve made it very easy with a workbook made just for you. The workbook allows you to type your answers directly into or print it and fill it out later. Get it now by tapping the button below!
Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term intersectionality, reported in an interview with TIME that this is “basically a lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other.” She goes on to say, “We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality or immigrant status. What’s often missing is how some people are subject to all of these, and the experience is not just the sum of its parts.”
Intersectionality is a theory that explains that people have different identities and/or social categorizations (e.g. race, class, gender, sexual orientation) that grant them different privileges and/or disadvantages.
This is important to think about because those privileges or disadvantages can impact an individual’s physical and mental health in many ways (e.g. access to medical or mental health treatment, education, job opportunities, etc.).
For example, a white, heterosexual, cisgender (identifying with gender assigned at birth), middle class, college-educated man will have more advantages and potentially better health outcomes than a black, queer (term used to express fluid identities and orientations), poor, high-school educated, trans woman.
Now, let’s ask ourselves, how are black, brown, and indigenous trans people of color being impacted? How are they being represented in the BLM movement? In a recent article by BBC it’s quoted:
“Black trans people are tired. We’re tired of having to pick sides. We’re tired of having to understand everyone and yet nobody understands us.”
This quote certainly captures the daily struggle Black trans people face due to not only their gender identity but also their race or the color of their skin. Transgender people, and more specifically, trans women of color are particularly vulnerable to facing prejudice, discrimination, stigma, and violence including murder.
According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), at least 16 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been violently killed this year (2020); and at least 26 were killed in the United States last year (of whom 91% were Black women, 81% were under the age of 30, and 68% lived in the South).
“At this moment, transgender women of color are living in crisis. Over the past several years, more than 150 transgender people have been killed in the United States, nearly all of them being Black transgender women”– Alphonso David, President of the Human Rights Campaign (2019)
With the image below, we demonstrate the varying degrees of treatment (from negative to positive) LGBTQ+ individuals can experience. Taking into consideration the concept of intersectionality, you can probably imagine that the level of treatment they receive may vary considerably according to the context.
For example, hostile treatment is where our society treats Black Transgender women of color with overt discrimination (e.g. open and blatant prejudices) and acts of violence. On the other hand, organizations that attempt to provide access to healthcare and promote well-being might position themselves higher within the scale.
Thinking from a systems perspective, where does your workplace, neighborhood, or healthcare system stand/position themselves in how they treat LGBTQ+ communities?
On an individual level, where do you tend to fall?
The ideal goal is that everyone moves towards treating LGBTQ+ individuals from a Liberation perspective.
By definition, liberation is “the act of liberating,” or “a movement seeking equal rights and status for a group.”
Using Liberation Psychology, we are prompted to think about the roots of how gender norms were formed. We think about how this impacts Transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) individuals and how we can use our privilege to transform healthcare and our communities. We can also use our privilege to engage in social change so that TGNC people are better served in all settings.
Learn more about our LGBTQ+ affirming therapy here.
How can we be a part of the solution?
We can all participate in our own gender liberation process. It is critically important to explore within ourselves the concepts of gender while using a liberatory and intersectional perspective (i.e. continuing to look inside ourselves to find ways we can seek equal rights while giving extra attention to the complex levels of treatment).
By unpacking our own understanding of gender, we can better understand that diversity in gender can actually help communities thrive.
We want to stress the importance of active action and lifelong commitment towards liberation in all aspects of our social structures. It is our hope that by journaling or participating in the provided prompts above, you’ll continue to examine any privileges you might possess, think about how your biases and behavior could impact others, and how you can help others gain awareness of their potentially harmful behaviors.
We also hope that this post helps you continue the process of self-exploration, education, and active allyship; only then can we make significant strides towards liberating all members of our society.
As Bobbie Harro stated in The Cycle of Liberation, “Liberation is the practice of love.” He continues, “liberation is a commitment to the effort of critical transformation, to the people in our community, to the goal of equity and justice, and to love.”
Dr. Gabriela Sadurní Rodríguez is a licensed psychologist at The Psychology Group Fort Lauderdale and is an expert in trauma-related issues, depression, anxiety, life transitions/adjustments, and difficulties in interpersonal relationships. Call 954-488-2933 x 8 or email today to discuss how her services can help you.
Servicios disponibles en español.
Dr. Hiram Rivera-Mercado is a Clinical Psychologist at the Michael E. DeBakey VAMC (MEDVAMC) and Assistant Professor of the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences of Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Rivera-Mercado is the first LGBT Staff Psychologist, is a clinical supervisor for the LGBT Interprofessional Emphasis Track, and LGBT Veteran Care Coordinator at MEDVAMC.