Gender Stories

Self-consent and gender

March 22, 2019 Season 2 Episode 16
Gender Stories
Self-consent and gender
Chapters
Gender Stories
Self-consent and gender
Mar 22, 2019 Season 2 Episode 16
Alex Iantaffi
Alex Iantaffi offers some reflection on self-consent and gender expressions and roles.
Show Notes Transcript

Alex Iantaffi offers some reflections on self-consent and gender expressions and roles. They start from defining self-consent using Sophie Graham's article at https://loveuncommon.com/2017/09/28/self-consent/ and then discuss why self-consent matters when it comes to gender, how it may be constrained by issues of power and privilege and how we're impacted by social and cultural pressures, which might get in the way of respecting our own needs, desires and boundaries around gender.

Singer:
0:01
There's a whole lot of things I want to tell you about. Adventures dangerous and queer. Some you can guess and some I've only hinted at. So please lend me your ear.:
Narrator:
0:32
Everyone has a relationship with gender. What's your story? Hello and welcome to Gender Stories with your host, Dr Alex Iantaffi.:
Alex:
0:45
Hello and welcome to another episode of Gender Stories. Um, I would like to thank all my regular listeners for your patience because the last two episodes came out kind of a few days late. I'm kind of catching up just when I'm a spoonie. That means I live with a disability and chronic illnesses. And so I just had a little bit of a delay but I'm catching up and uh, I'm going to be back on a regular schedule within the next few weeks. But so thank you for your patience with me over the last past couple of episodes. And I hope you enjoyed the episodes even though they were a little late. So this week is just me talking about self-consent and gender and I will define self-consent in a moment and say a little bit more. Uh, but first of all I wanted to tell you kind of why this topic. Um, I find that when I do trainings around gender or when I talk with my clients or even want to talk with folks in my community or read various folks on Twitter around their relationship with gender, often what happens is that gender identities, expression, roles and experiences can all kind of get wrapped up in one.:
Alex:
1:53
And there's not a lot of distinction made between how somebody identifies, how they might express their gender, what role they may have, which may or may not conform to stereotypical gender role ideas that we might have in dominant culture and societies and what our experiences that we field. I kind of filtered through the lens of gender, but let me back up a little bit. Um, let's start from kind of what is self-consent. Um, I want to kind of give a shout out to Sophie Graham who is an amazing sex and relationship counselor and coach. You can find out more of their material at loveuncommon.com. That's loveuncommon.com and that's the definition on their article about self-consent an introduction. So these are Sophie's words, "self consent at its heart is about treating your needs, desires and limits with respect. It is about being curious about yourself and making choices that express your authentic self. It is central to learning to have a consensual relationship with others because it embeds consensual practice in your life and all your interactions. I believe we have to have consensual relationship with ourselves before we're capable of consenting to the interaction with others. That means understanding our own body's sense of yes and no and our own desires, needs and limits." Sophie goes on to talk more about self-consent in this introductory article, but really I wanted to kind of start from this idea of self-consent. And often I find this idea of self consent, so this idea of how do I know that I am doing what, what I want to be doing? How do I know that I have a sense of yes or no in my body? And of course sometimes we also do things that we might not want to be doing, that we have made a commitment to do.:
Alex:
3:48
Um, so for example, some days I might feel ambivalent about my capacity to kind of show up for work or for parenting. And I need to kind of really tune into myself to have something a little bit more modulated that it's not just yes or no, but how much can I show up in what capacity and if I'm struggling, what is it that I need to support myself in order to show up to kind of my commitments, I hope that I am making sense dear listeners. Um, and the reason why I talk about, I want to talk about self consent is because it's not something that is taught to us, um, in the over culture in that I don't know about you, but as somebody who was assigned female at birth, I definitely was taught, um, both by my family, but also kind of the culture around me that my needs were not as important as the needs of others.:
Alex:
4:41
And, um, and that it was very important for me to meet the needs of others before my needs could even be met. Sometimes that might even look like not making any direct asks about my needs. I remember a wonderful example of when I was training, um, as a therapist and we had talked a lot about communication. I'm a systemic therapist, also known as a family therapist. So we talked a lot, a lot about communication and relationship. And in one of the communication theories book, there was this example where there is a couple and they're driving along the highway and this is very gender and kind of cis heteronormative, but go with me. That was the example in the book, um, where the woman turns to the man and says, are you hungry? And he says, no. And they continued driving.:
Alex:
5:27
And then about 20 minutes later they have this huge argument about how he doesn't care about her needs because really what was happening was that she was hungry. But in dominant culture, often people who are assigned female at birth are taught to not to express desires especially around hunger because of body image and food issues. And so that asking, are you hungry meant can we please stop for food? Um, but that is not how the man had heard it because that was not something he had been taught. However, this idea of kind of, um, self consent and knowing our own needs and desires, it doesn't impact just folks who are assigned female at birth. It also impacts folks who are assigned male at birth because for example, even though they might be, uh, taught, especially if they're cis men, cis men might be taught that their needs and desires are valid, they can be met, they can be expressed however which the needs and desires that can be mad and express usually only the ones that kind of, are in that are consistent. That are in compliance I wanted to say. And then I thought, is that too strong a word? And I was like, no, I'm going to go with that. They're in compliance with the dominant cultural and societal expectation of what it means to be a man. And so maybe, um, they can have self consent when it comes to expressing their kind of, their needs and desire and boundaries when it's, um, when it conforms to their idea of masculinity that it's in dominant societal and cultural scripts, but not as much when it does not. So for example, um, I have worked with, um, cis male survivors of sexual assault. And one of the things that can be very difficult is setting boundaries over their own bodies. So the idea that men can say, actually, please don't touch me in encounters or can you please ask for consent before you touch me?:
Alex:
7:31
This is not consistent. It's not compliant with kind of cultural normative scripts or lists where I, where I live and also where I was brought up, um, with cultural and societal scripts around masculinity, if that makes sense. And so that can make even even harder. And of course we could talk about this for a long time. It's so complicated. There are so many nuances and the more I talk about this, the more I realize that might go into a rabbit hole. So I'm going to keep to my show notes and try not to go down the rabbit hole so much. But the main point that I was trying to make is basically that self consent is not something that's really kind of embedded, um, in kind of dominant a social and cultural scripts. I'm neither where I was brought up, they need a lead or where I lived for a long time in the United Kingdom or where I live now on Dakota and Anishinabe territories currently known as Minneapolis, Minnesota in the US. Um, and self consent in itself is pretty gendered in many dominant cultures some of the examples that, um, that we given. So the idea that some people, because of their gender might have their needs, desires and boundaries more respected than others, but also on only certain needs, desires and boundaries. So not all needs, desires and boundaries are going to really be equal depending on their gender lens. And of course, gender is not the only factor. Right. For example, where I was brought up in Italy. Um, there was a lot of pressure and I spent a lot of time in Sicily where my mom is from. There was a lot of pressure for children to be forced to hug and kiss relatives and relatives was a really large umbrella. There were lots of aunts and uncles because pretty much anybody who was close to a family was an aunt and uncle.:
Alex:
9:17
And so in that context, the wasn't space for self consent and as a parent that's something that's really close to my heart to make sure that my children are not forced to hug and kiss people. Um, you know, they can have manners and they can just say hello, but that doesn't ever have to hug or kiss people that they don't want to, including, their parents or parental figures in their life. And culturally, there isn't a lot of respect for kind of children's autonomy and consent. But I think it's really important to kind of teach children consent from a young age in an age appropriate way. If we look at kind of another lens the lens of disability from a systemic point of view, again from a larger societal structure point of view, the in forced sterilization of young people with intellectual disabilities is still kind of rampant and going on.:
Alex:
10:09
And generally, um, disabled people tend to have their autonomy, um, removed and taken away from by both caregivers and healthcare providers very frequently. And um, and the kind of again takes away the possibility of really treating one's needs, desires and limits with respect because this needs, desires and limits are not being treated with respect and kind of a broader cultural context. So even though the focus is on gender for this episode, there are other intersections and aspects that cannot be ignored. So, and I think that's true for every episode. Whenever we talk about gender, we're just not talking about gender. We're talking about um, s so many different aspects of kind of dominant societal and cultural scripts. However, I will try to stay focused on south consent and gender expression and roles for this episode. So how and where are we able to express our gender in ways there?:
Alex:
11:15
Self consensual. That has been a question that's been on my mind because often I see people, um, both, like I said in either the therapy room or when talking to community, people are on social media talking about how they might feel they can or cannot express their gender in certain ways because of societal and car, a cultural expectation. So for example, often a trans masculine people feel it's harder for them to wear makeup or wear clothes that are deemed to be more feminine and kind of dominant cultural aspects or um, kind of feminine people. Um, or find it hard though to kind of express their genders in ways that do not do not conform to cultural, social expectations. For example, from being very sporty and developing muscles to not wanting to wear I pro feminine closed. Um, and so there is kind of this pressure of how do we feel about our gender internally and then how do we express it at word outwardly, right?:
Alex:
12:28
Um, and how, and where do we feel that we can express our gender in a way that south consensual. So we check in with ourselves and we're like, I feel really good about wearing this beautiful suit and makeup and uh, this wonderful lipstick and a beautiful scarf with the suit and tie. Um, yes. And this is an example from me going to listen to the orchestra gear listeners and, um, and where do we feel pressured to conform to societal, familial and other discourses? For example, where do we feel pressure to present in a certain way and feeling pressure is not bad. It doesn't mean that we are conforming or we're giving in to the man to the dominant took kind of a cis gender is to racist, to kind of patriarchy, settler colonial patriarchy. It just means that we need to make decisions, uh, where we might want to find tune, is this decision I'm making for myself or is this a decision because of pressures by society, culture or family?:
Alex:
13:41
And of course it's not that binary, right? All of our decisions are really placed on this large landscape and there are lots of things to consider. Is Safety for example, is an important concern? Personally? Am I make decisions about express my gender even based on geographical location? I mean you need a Lee. Um, for example, when I go visit, I feel fairly safe in Rome, but I'm also aware that there is a lot of transphobic violence in my country of origin. And so I might make different choices than when I'm here on what is currently known as Minneapolis, any myself, Minneapolis, particularly neighborhood where there aren't many trans nonbinary folks and where I'm actually feeling fairly safe to express my gender in, um, less conforming way. So partially with my one are considered geographical location. We also need to consider how much autonomy do we have over our own bodies and choices.:
Alex:
14:41
For example, people were minors might not have autonomy and choice over which clothes are being bought for them by their families, whether they're being bought makeup or not. Um, how our families are perceiving their gender and disabled people live in group homes might have some of that autonomy taken away or pulling out. But unfortunately, we do know that there are a lot of abuses of power that happen in group homes. So those who are reliant on kind of group homes or caregivers headings might not have as much autonomy over their own bodies and choices. And also other issues like systemic racism. I've often heard from indigenous black and Brown folks. There's not as safe for them to express, um, there to express their gender in less conforming way and more expansive way. We're more kind of rebellious too dominant culture ways if we want to call them there.:
Alex:
15:39
I like expansive more than rebellious, honestly, but, um, that is not safe because it increases the visibility in, um, systemically racist embarrassment and therefore Mike make them more of a target for violence or harassment and violence. Um, and that is the reality. So even when we're talking about south consent and gender expression, those things do not happen in a vacuum. Those things do not happen independently from all their other kind of, um, discourses of power and privilege, um, in society if you like. And in terms of roles for, so we talked a little bit about expressions, but I also want to think about gender roles for a little while. In terms of role, we might feel the pressure to live up to certain roles because of our gender identity and expression. For example, I'll give you another personal example as a disabled person or used to be fem presenting in some ways and will, has mobility issues and strength issues.:
Alex:
16:45
So it's things like I can not kind of pick up and lift tables very easily or even the grocery or even on some days open water bottles. How I've been known to ask complete strangers had the bass station or a train station if they're good police open and water bottle for me, if I've forgotten to bring my own water bottle and I had to buy a plastic one. So when I was femme presenting as a disabled person, there was some more leeway for appearing what in a kind of dominance, societal and cultural scripts and we might call week, which really makes my skin crawl. Even saying that because it's not a matter of weakness, it's a matter of mobility and strength, which um, we have a broad range of and mine various also from day to day. Um, but when I started to present more masculine, there was um, more, uh, disbelief whenever I needed support or I said, no, I can do that.:
Alex:
17:44
Um, there was also an assumption that I was being lazy or the I not want to cooperate and sometimes people were downright hostile if I said no to doing things like, um, something that was more a manual like lifting a table or doing something kind of accused me of like not wanting to do that and got really hostile and in my face. Um, because it masculine presentation for them wasn't congruent with an ability to do, have the physical tasks. Um, and also there is an age aspect. I went to occupational therapy and I'm with a new provider and the provider was like, Oh yes, you know, as we get older and those things happen and I said to them, I actually feel my age is kind of catching up to what my disabilities have been for a little while. So now that I'm older and kind of almost 50, there is more acceptance of some of my challenges with mobility and strength because of my age.:
Alex:
18:52
And because we live in a very [inaudible] society that equates you with physical strength and physical mobility, which of course it's a totally ablest assumption because many young people do not necessarily have physical strength and mobility. So the intersection of things then make, um, how people perceive what our roles should be around our gender, um, in different ways. And, um, I really think that this idea of self concerned, gender identity and expression really affects all gender identities in different ways. I wherever for Trans and or, and, or nonbinary people, um, it is, it definitely presents unique challenges. And I often feel the transgender or nonbinary people as well as gender expansive people of all gender identities really are kind of at the forefront of what everybody else experiences and is impacted by. But there are unique ways in which this idea of being able to express your gender, um, both in terms of expression and role in whatever way feels most authentic to you, impacts particularly trans and non binary people because it can lead to the complete erasure and invalidation of their gender identity.:
Alex:
20:15
So for example, if we look at the criteria to meet a diagnosis of gender dysphoria in children and we could have a law all at our episode and we were at Blue Hill about, um, this whole idea of diagnosing people with gender dysphoria, but often having a diagnosis of gender dysphoria is essential for people to access services. And so even to meet those grade year, uh, people have to demonstrate that they're into toys. Um, there were not designed for their gender assigned at birth and they're into friends or are of the opposite, uh, that were opposite of their gender assigned at birth. And so on. And so on. But where does that leave people who do not have a stereotypical gender identity and expression? So for example, when I look at my own identity and expression growing up, um, my mom, when I came out as trans and nonbinary at a really hard time understanding that and she kept going back to my gender expression and roll when I was growing up, you know, she kept saying, but you were into barbies and you were doing a lot of choreography and dance and musicals.:
Alex:
21:31
And the way I explained it to her, luckily glee, um, which is a TV show that in the u s made it all the way to easily. And I knew she was watching it. I said, mom, if I'd been a character in glee and I had been born, if I'd been assigned male at birth and you know, in, um, if I had been born a boy just to kind of make it simpler, um, for her to understand, I would not have been thin the quarter back I would have been Kurt kind of the musical geek corps into making his own costume. And it was like Super Gay. Um, and he took me a long time, um, because of that societal and cultural pressure to really have self consent around my own kind of masculine presentation and really embrace and more feminine, fluid, Queer Masculine presentation as a nonbinary person.:
Alex:
22:28
So I do think that transcend or non binary people are impacted because if we present in ways that do not conform to societal and cultural expectations, first of all, our identity might be completely erased and we might be invalidated to the point that we do not get to have access to essential health services. But also we might have people refuse to use our pronouns because we're presenting them in a way that they do not understand or it's not congruent with their expectations or, or understanding on our gender identity. But I'd believe that people of all genders are impacted. So yes, transcend or non binary people are impacted in ways that are core and not okay by the way. Not Okay to invalidate or erase somebodies identity just because of the way they're presenting or because of their role as well. I remember being at a large international conference of experts on gender and presenting some data and somebody actually did ask me, but if a trans masculine person is them insights where men can be, can they really be trans?:
Alex:
23:33
And I said yes because gender and sexuality are two different things and there is no reason why trans masculine people cannot be gay, bisexual or fluid in some way and have sex with cis men. Um, but really this idea so, so embodied what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman and to do impact trans or nonbinary people in some very core way. Like I said, in ways that lead to erasure and invalidation that I think that people of all genders are impacted. For example, if we think about roles, we know that the is a lot of stigma around cis men or do traditionally female like jobs are female dominated like cis man or nurses or stay at home sister dads in other ways. We know there are a lot of initiatives to support cis women in science and engineering because a societal and cultural level, there are many barriers to that and it's the role that's been traditionally seen as male.:
Alex:
24:36
And so cis women engineers might have to overcome kind of stigma and um, systemic barriers to be able to embrace those careers. And in terms of expression, kind of feminine expressing cisgender men, um, are often more targeted for our Rasman and violence and masculine expressing cis women are often a ras for their presentation, including bathrooms are. So everybody is impacted. Um, it's just the kind of often trans and non binary people are at that forefront of the impact so to speak. So as we're kind of coming towards the end of this episode, I really want to reflect about what would a world in which south consent around gender was valued, um, look like. So if we did value kind of south consent around gender expression and gender roles, what would our world look like? Um, and that is really, um, something that I would love to hear about from your listeners.:
Alex:
25:39
And I think many of us are already building that world. I think that world has existed, um, in the past also is storic Lee in, um, cultures and times were kind of a gender diversity and gender expansiveness was completely embraced as fact. And where, um, many indigenous cultures, for example, add several words for gender, not just two words. Um, so those worlds have existed and I believe they can exist again and there are definitely pockets in which this world exists, but I really want to, um, I really want to invite all of your listeners to wonder what would it look like to respect our own needs, desires, and limits around gender expression and gender identity. I do believe eve would open up a beautiful world of possibilities and fluidity for everybody.:
Alex:
26:39
And I believe that world of possibilities and fluidity is particularly important for young people who might want to be playful around gender. And actually, you know what, it's not just for young people and children. Let's face it. Why can't we all be playful and fluid around gender and really express our gender in a, in a range of ways. And unfortunately we can't because of all, we can't always, I was just say because of all the different concerns that talked about earlier, things like you know, safety which might be dependent on our particular intersection or you know, our geographical location, our autonomy, kind of this systemic oppression that we might face and fun, but I would love for us to at least dream of the world where we could have self confident around gender expression, gender roles, and even gender identity. It's okay if our identities change over time.:
Alex:
27:35
I would love to hear from your listeners about your own experiences with self confident and gender. You can contact me@genderstoriespodcastatgmail.com that's [inaudible] stories podcast@gmail.com once again, if you want to learn more about the whole idea of self consent, please check out Sophie Graham's material@loveandcommon.com that's our website, love uncommon.com and of course if you want to learn more about gender in general, please check out the two books now that I have called her when meg, John Barker, how do understand your gender? A practical guide for exploring who you are, which is already out and life is in binary, which is going to be out in May, but you are absolutely able to preorder it. And also like your independent bookstore know that it's coming out so they can order it. And I would also love if you would consider I'm supporting my Patreon, um, as I tried to grow this podcast and kind of show up more consistently at least, uh, you know, every other week I'm doing my best.:
Alex:
28:40
Um, and you can find my patrion at www.patrion.com/gender stories. And I really want to give a shout out to the beautiful folks, um, in my community from all over the world that are supporting my podcasts already. Want to shout out to Laken and Karen and Jen, Leonora, Max, Terry, and root for believing in me and believing in this podcast. I really, really appreciate. I really appreciate you. The podcast is the Labor of love and I hope, um, it brings something to your listeners and if it brings you something, please consider supporting it at www.patrion.com/gender stories, or please consider Dima books. That's another way of supporting me as an independent author. In the meantime, I hope you can have south consent with yourself, around your gender and more, and until then, please take good and gentle care of yourself.:
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