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Gender Stories
New year, new pressure
January 07, 2019 Alex Iantaffi
Gender Stories

New year, new pressure

January 07, 2019

Alex Iantaffi

In this opening episode for season 2, our host, Alex Iantaffi gets vulnerable talking about the pressures they feel around holidays and especially times that mark a new year. They share how some of these pressures are gendered for them and also for other people. Alex talks about the pressures we might experience during these times when we might be expected to come together to celebrate cultural, religious or family holidays. They invite the listeners to consider an approach that privileges intentions over resolutions, kindness over obligation and compassion over trying to do it all. If you have ever felt pressured around the holidays, and especially marking new cycles, such as a new calendar year, this episode is for you. And, if you never have, maybe this episode might help you understand people around you who might feel this way. 

In this opening episode for season 2, our host, Alex Iantaffi gets vulnerable talking about the pressures they feel around holidays and especially times that mark a new year. They share how some of these pressures are gendered for them and also for other people. Alex talks about the pressures we might experience during these times when we might be expected to come together to celebrate cultural, religious or family holidays. They invite the listeners to consider an approach that privileges intentions over resolutions, kindness over obligation and compassion over trying to do it all. If you have ever felt pressured around the holidays, and especially marking new cycles, such as a new calendar year, this episode is for you. And, if you never have, maybe this episode might help you understand people around you who might feel this way. 

Episode Transcript

Singer:0:03Things 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:0:32Everyone has a relationship with gender. What's your story? Hello and welcome to gender stories with your host, Dr Alex Iantaffi.

Alex:0:45Hello and welcome to a new season and a new episode of Gender Stories with your host, Alex Iantaffi. That's me! And today I actually don't have a guest, you're just going to get me talking a little bit about what's new for the second season and also talking about the holidays and the new year, the new Gregorian calendar year that, um, many of us have just celebrated and the pressure that I feel at this time of the year. And maybe some of you, dear listeners, also feel that pressure. Anyway, welcome to the second season. I've decided just like that, that the first season is over. It's been almost a year since I started this podcast and I'm so grateful for all of you who listen to it and apparently one of my partners said that I always say I'm so excited at the beginning of every episode, but I truly am excited.

Alex:1:33This is really the work of my heart and I love talking to people about gender and their gender stories, so I hope you're enjoying it. And um, let me tell you what's new for the second season. What's new is that I'm going to try and release one episode every other week. That is right for 2019, dear Gender Stories listeners, you can look forward to 26 episodes and many of them will be interviews and some of them will be just with me and we'll kind of mix it up a little bit more. If you do have an idea, please do contact me. You can reach me at You can send me a tweet message, a tweet, a twitter message. Oh, I'm showing my age or you can find me on instagram as well. So Do, do, contact me and let me know what your idea for an episode is.

Alex:2:24Ha. Okay. So let's talk about the fact that it's January 3, 2019. It is the new Gregorian calendar year. So many of you, um, have been celebrating New Years' Eve and New Year's Day and many of you have been celebrating new year at a different time for you. Um, letting you into a little secret though. I hate New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. I usually have at least one a meltdown. I know I'm a therapist and I'm almost 50 and I still have meltdowns when New Year's Eve and New Year's day just because I feel much pressure. There is all this pressure to like review what have you done in the past year and what will you do in the new year and what are your resolutions? And I always feel this pressure of have I done enough. And for many of us who really struggle with all the time, with am I enough? This idea of, of have I done enough can be really overwhelming. I remember growing up having big New Year's eve celebrations in Sicily with my family and I would often hide in the bathroom that nobody would use to kind of journal or read or just be by myself because that gave me a little bit of space from that communal pressure and so if you feel pressure as well, this episode might be for you and if you don't feel pressure, you might be curious about other people around you. Maybe partners or family members might feel pressure when there is something that celebrates in New Year, in, uh, in the calendar. I'm one of the things I want to talk about. It's how does gender impact that pressure. I know for me being some of you might know from listening to me or from reading about me in the book or other places that I'm a transmasculine nonbinary person and I was assigned female at birth.

Alex:4:18And so some of the pressure was old expectations around holidays and celebrations of kind of cater to the needs of people around me as somebody who was assigned female at birth was expected to kind of help out more, um, to make sure that everybody was happy. But there was also this kind of pressure that it was more subtle, not just of doing but of being being nice to relatives, being palatable to people around me, whether I liked them or not. And that is a pressure that can often be very gendered. There's something about people who are assigned female at birth, being expected to be nice and specific ways and not that there isn't pressures on people are assigned male at birth too. There are pressures for example, of behaving in a certain way, so maybe participating in certain kinds of conversations that are deemed to be more masculine or interactions with relatives that are very gendered and may be more or less comfortable for different people. And of course regardless of how we are assigned at birth, all of us have such a beautiful landscape of different gender identities and expressions. And we might be interacting with relatives for example, that we don't see all the time or don't know us very well. And that might expect from us a performance of gender that is not really who we are. So they all it is can be a really stressful time, not just for those of us who may be transgender or nonbinary and or and slash or non gender nonconforming or the term I prefer gender expansive. I think they can kind of be a mess for everybody. Honestly, as a therapist, I know that I often see people in my practice who are really struggling with this idea of the holidays and the new year and then there are other intersections to consider, right.

Alex:6:10For those of us who may be don't celebrate the same holidays that are celebrated in a dominant culture, that can be a sense of isolation or alienation for younger people that might even be a yearning of celebrating the same traditions the other people celebrate. In our household for example, we celebrate winter solstice really but mty kid is just really in love with Christmas. So we celebrate Christmas in a cultural way but not a spiritual way. And then there are other intersections to consider as somebody who's kind of chronically ill and, um, has an invisible disability. I often feel this pressure during the holidays to be my best, to be social, to go beyond what I can and what happens is actually that I get sick as soon as I take some time off for the holidays. And this is why this episode, this late dear listeners, I just got so sick and you might even hear it in my voice now that I'm still recovering from this terrible cold bronchitis.

Alex:7:12And um, and so there is like, I'm sick and I'm letting people know I'm sick, don't come to my house if you don't want to get my germs. But everybody's like, it's great. We can come over. And, and the reality is that I love it. I love being with my folks, but I'm also like really struggling with what does it mean to keep showing up? Um, when I do have a chronic illness, when I do have a disability, I would do. I balance my responsibility towards my family and my community for showing up and also the responsibility to myself of kind of taking care of my health and um, and that can be such a dance and I know there's that beautiful episode with now Mary is talking about self care, sustainability and social justice. I really invite you to check it out. It's in season one.

Alex:7:59It's a beautiful interview, but I know during the holidays and especially this year because I've been in a flare up of my fibromyalgia since March of 2018 and this is one of the longest flare ups I've had. Is this just this pressure of keep showing up and then when you add the new year, this pressure of looking back and what have I done in 2018 while a lot less than I want it to never mind that I've written a whole new book LIfe isn't Bnary coming out in May, I hope you'e going to really enjoy IIt's coauthored with Meg John Barker. Nevermind that. I've secured a contract for a new book to write by myself about gender for counselors and therapists and educators. Nevermind that I've launched a podcast, nevermind the appearance and Iran, kind of a small group practice that is successful and is expanding. It can feel like it's never enough and I know that some of you might relate to this feeling of never enough and, and I think gender has a lot to do, uh, whether it's never enough because you're expected to be a provider because of your gender, whether it's never enough because you're expected to be the caring, nurturing person in your family , kind of what are the gendered expectations in your life that might intersects with other aspects of your identities and experiences that just feel like a lot of pressures.

Alex:9:16Um, I know I have my own and I just really invite you to reflect what yours might be and then how do we negotiate those with all the demands that we have on ourselves. And other people might also have on us because let's face it, um, we do, we are relational beings. We, we do, um, have, uh, people do have expectations of us. We do have relationships and holiday traditions to live up to and families to take care of. And usually and often jobs because we live in a capitalist society and all of that. And I know that growing up for me there was this kind of paradoxical pressure where because I was considered to be fairly smart, there was all this pressure coming from a working class family of kind of being the first female assigned at birth person that would go straight to college, you know, rather than my mom did get a college degree but much later in life when I was already in elementary school for example.

Alex:10:15Um, so there was all this pressure to go and succeed and have a really beautiful career. But there was also this pressure of kind of having a family, having children and kind of doing it all. I remember when I got my phd, I was so proud visiting my great aunt in Sicily and it was Day of the Dead there and we were walking around the cemetery and saying hi to different families because that's kind of what you do there. And I was, we were talking about me getting my phd and how excited I was about it. And she said, great, when are you going to have a child? And I was like, hang on, I've just finished, finished this huge project, just birthed this thesis into the world. Something that nobody in my family had ever done before. Go onto graduate school and get a doctorate and there was this new pressure and she kept pointing out all the people who were my age already, maybe having their second child, let alone the fact that I had not given a great grandchild yet.

Alex:11:14And so this pressure wasn't specifically around the holidays, although we were celebrating a holiday the Day of the Dead holiday, but it was literally this pressure of kind of a can you do it all? Can you be this person who is the first person in our family to go to graduate school and get a Phd and can you also be this person who does all the other things we expect of you because of your sex assigned at birth, which is to provide children and to have a family and to do all this nurturing thing. So it's a lot. It's a lot of pressures and I wonder what pressures you're feeling at the beginning of 2019 and whether those pressures are internal or external or a mixture of both. I know for me often they're really a mixture of both. Um, and one of the things I've been thinking about is how do I do better?

Alex:12:08Uh, which of course it's another pressure, right? I will do, I take care of myself better. It can be this really paradoxical thing that in, in an attempt to do better and take care of myself, I'm going to push myself some more right at the time where I have so few spoons, so little energy, so little capacity. Um, but yes, how do I do better by myself and for myself. Um, and I've been thinking a lot about what are the qualities that I've been trying to cultivate over the past several years and those are qualities that often I work with, I work on with my clients as well. Qualities such as compassion or kindness or kind of nurturing ourselves maybe in ways that we've never nurtured, never been nurtured, um, by the grownups around us. Because they didn't know how to, not because they weren't necessarily mean.

Alex:13:06I mean sometimes because they were mean and abusive and other times also because they didn't know any better because intergenerational trauma is real. It gets passed on and so I've been really thinking a lot about what does it mean to nurture myself and what does it mean to be kind and compassionate and of course all of these qualities are kind of gendered and I've been thinking about how much those qualities are so necessary for everybody I know and definitely all the clients I work with, but also the folks I'm in community with and my family that does have people of different gender identities and expressions and what would happen if those qualities that we need in our lives were liberated from being gendered. If there wasn't shame associated with being kind and compassionate and nurturing. For example, for people who are assigned male at birth and might be expected to behave in ways that are not kind, compassionate, and nurturing towards themselves, but also how hard it is for folks who are assigned female at birth to show those qualities towards ourselves.

Alex:14:17We're really brought up too often, at least in my experience, to put other people's needs ahead of our own. And that's one thing I really, really struggle with over the holidays. I want to create this beautiful experience for everybody else. And often I find myself, I'm not meeting my own basic needs. I might get up and go, oh, I better start baking, I better start cooking this thing. I better make sure the tree is decorated. Any that's taken years for me to let go of some of those things and make sure I put my own air mask first as they say on the airlines, right? That I meet my own needs. So how can we be kinder? How can we be more nurturing? How can we be more compassionate towards ourselves, especially when that might not be the way that we were educated or brought up to do.

Alex:15:12And of course we can't do this in isolation, right? I said earlier on that we are relational beings and Naomi and I in the episode I mentioned earlier that I truly invite you to check out, um, talked a lot about interdependence, for example. And the disability justice movement has done such an amazing job of really bringing into to the fore the fact that this myth of rugged individualism, doesn't really work for anybody. We are all interdependent being which of course any indigenous culture already knows and has always known, but unfortunately through the wound of settler colonialism and the wound of the patriarchy, we often feel that we have to do it all by ourselves, for ourselves, and we are isolated by others. But what does kind of kindness, nurturing and compassion look like when we truly look at it from this kind of interdependent, relational way.

Alex:16:07And of course then that kindness and nurturing and compassion is also balanced with accountability and responsibility we have with one another. But if I am accountable and responsible to and for my family, my clients, my community, I also need to take care of myself. I need to have that kindness, compassion, and nurturing for myself because if I don't, I will not be able to keep showing up. For example, burnout is very real in my profession as a, as a therapist and at a conference recently, one of the presenter was talking about how in some ways therapists, especially therapists work with trauma quite a bit, which is what I do need to be super heroes of self care and I fall. I thought I was a superhero self care until I talked to one of my partners was like, oh, you know that just kind of eating breakfast and going to bed at a good time and brushing your teeth is kind of basic care. It's not like being a superhero self care. And I was like, what? But I really struggled to get to the point where I can take good basic care of myself and I know other people do too because I work on a weekly basis with people who also struggle to take care of themselves. But we're also so dedicated to taking care of other people. And so interdependence reminds us that we. Because we have a duty to others because we have responsibility to others and accountability to others we do need to take care of ourselves because if we do not, we cannot show up in our families, in our community, in our job, in the way we need to. But that is really hard to do, dear listeners. I am a therapist with over a decade of experience and I really struggled with it even though I work, um, with this, um, like I said on a regular weekly basis and I feel like I've developed so many tools, so especially when we live in a culture where we are invited to have bigger visions, bigger dreams to do bigger, better, more.

Alex:18:16It can be so hard to kind of just take a moment to pause and appreciate that we're enough just for being, no matter what we do or no matter what we produce, just being, just breathing, just leaving is worthwhile. We are worthwhile because we are alive. We are worthwhile because we are, we are enough. But it can be so, so hard to remember. Especially at this time of the year when we're invited to kind of evaluate what we have done, not who we are and to then set goals for doing more, not for being more necessarily. So I've been thinking a lot about what to do at this time of the year to feel less pressure. And uh, one of the things I'm really cultivating this year and I'll let you know how it goes, is a deeper connection to myself and others. And so I really invite you to think about what would it be like if the holidays were really not about doing more, um producing more bigger, better gifts, bigger, better food, um, bigger, better holidays, whatever it is that you do to celebrate. But what if they were really about deeper connection with ourselves and the people around us, no matter what the holidays are that you celebrate. And then for times where we celebrate a new year like this time where we celebrate a new Gregorian calendar year in 2019, what if instead of resolutions, we had intentions? What is my intention for this year? For me, my intention this year is to nurture my wellbeing and my creativity, but that is not a resolution of doing. It's an intention of these are the things I want to cultivate. There will be some doing involved, but I want that intention to be broad so that no matter what my health does, I can show up even if it is in a smaller way than I might have initially imagined, and then of course balancing those intentions with compassion.

Alex:20:32What happens when I don't have the capacity to show up the way I want to, how can I be compassionate to myself and compassionate with others. How can I just be with myself and with others exactly where they're at, not where I think I should be or where they should be. That's compassion, the capacity to feel with people regardless of where they're at and the capacity to be with ourselves regardless of where we're at, and to have that radical acceptance that this is where I am, this is what I can do and maybe I can't do anything right now and so I'm just going to live and know that is enough. So I don't know what the New Year is like for you and I don't even know if this is the new year that you celebrate by hope that some of the things I've talked about are applicable to you even if the time you celebrate a new year is different from the Gregorian calendar year and I invite you to consider how can you appreciate deeper connection to yourself and to others.

Alex:21:35What is the intention, not the resolution, but the intention that you want to set for yourself and you might want to have an intention for yourself even every day or with the season or the specific time of the year and how can we be in deeper compassion with ourselves and with others. How can we be more compassionate with ourselves and with others? So thank you so much for listening to this opening episode for season two. I am indeed so excited as I am every episode to share it all new season with you to share 25 more episodes after this one in 2019. And yes, I am committing and I will do my best to compassionately and creatively show up to this promise. And in the meantime ways in which you can support this podcast is to subscribe on your favorite platform and please even leave a review if you want to, if there is that option on the platform on which you listen.

Alex:22:37If you want me to get some paid listens you can use radio public, you'll listen for free, but I get paid for every listen so you could do that or you can just listen on your favorite platform. You can follow me on twitter and on instagram and of course you can like I said subscribe and um, watch out for an announcement about a way to kind of financially sustain the podcast. I've kind of been self supporting for the first year, but I really would like to open up the opportunity to listeners to be a bigger part of this. So there will be announcement about my patreon in the next episode. And then if you want to learn more about gender, I really invite you to check out the book. I've authored with Meg-John Barker called How to Understand your Gender: A practical guide for exploring who you are. I know it has the longest title, How to Understand your Gender. You can get it from your favorite independent bookseller or online. It's published by Jessica Kingsley and there will be a new book this year, so Life Isn't Binary. Watch out for that or you can preorder it as well, and I really look forward to talking with you more. In the meantime, I hope you can be gentle and kind to yourself and if you celebrate it, happy new year.

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