Content warning: mentions of transphobia in healthcare towards the end of the talk during the Q&A
This is a talk given by Alex Iantaffi at the University of Minnesota for the School of Nursing (co-sponsored by the Office of Equity and Diversity and by the Gender and Sexuality Center for Trans and Queer Life). Here's the description of the talk:
Gender liberation is often viewed as beneficial for trans, nonbinary or gender expansive people. In this talk, Dr. Iantaffi posits how a rigid gender binary is part of the ongoing settler-colonial project and, as such, it is a form of historical, cultural and social trauma that impacts everyone's health, albeit in different ways. Gender liberation, in this context, is then not only desirable for everyone, but also essential to the larger framework of healing justice, within which healing can be viewed as collective, interdependent, and sustainably rooted in community.
I want to tell you everyone has a relationship with gender. What's your story? Hello, and welcome to Gender stories with your host, Dr. Alex Iantaffi. Hello gender stories listeners. This episode was recorded as a special lecture hosted by the School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota, along with co sponsors the Office for Equity and Diversity, and Gender and Sexuality Center for queer and trans life. Special thanks to Dr. Teddy Potter from the School of Nursing who helped convene this.Alex Iantaffi:
Before we get started on covering this very complex topic, oou, in about 40 minutes, I would like to just do some acknowledgments. You know, I'm a somatic practitioner so I always like starting from breath. And at the moment, I'm a little out of breath, because I've been recovering from pneumonia for like six weeks, don't worry, I'm not contagious at all. And so I would invite you to just breathe and just notice where you are, right now maybe when I kind of settle in your sit a little bit more, you want to look around, see where the exits are. So you can get out of here if you need to. Whenever you need to feel a little more comfortable in this moment, just take a moment to breathe. And then I'd like to invite you to take another breath and acknowledge the land that we're standing on the Dakota anishinaabe land that we're standing on, and all that ongoing complex history that we're a part of, in many different ways. So kind of taking a breath into that. And then I made to like take a breath into ancestors. And I know ancestors can be complicated, so they don't have to be ancestors of blood. But they can also be ancestors of activism. So ancestor, gender blessed ancestors, as my colleague, Dr. Penny Moray calls them, but just acknowledging that we're not the first to engage in this work, and hopefully, we will not be the last. And so taking a breath into that kind of lineage of ancestors, whatever that means to you in this moment. And then taking one more breath into the community that is making this possible, we've heard from all this wonderful people or this wonderful services and parts of the university community. And so taking a breath into this larger container, or the University of Minnesota community that is holding the space for this to happen today. And then kind of coming back to yourself and if you close your eyes a little bit to connect internally a little bit more, this is a good time to kind of look around and reorient yourself to the space and kind of see if you notice arriving a little bit more. So I always like to start from just a little presence, a little acknowledgement. And I feel that's particularly important when talking about this topic, because I am not necessarily going to say anything new or that has now been said before. But I think one of my skills is to bring together lots of different threads from lots of different areas and weave them together. And that's one of the things that I'm told I do fairly fairly competently. I don't know you, you get to judge that for yourself. So today, I'm going to try to keep it really simple, because like I said, I always have this beautiful vision and ideas and like a peices, I like connection. And so I'm like, yes, let's talk about gender liberation as Healing Justice. And then I was like, Ooh, in 40 minutes. Okay, thats ambitious. So I'm gonna just talk a little bit about why gender, what is gender liberation, what is healing justice? And why do I believe that gender liberation can be viewed within the framework of Healing Justice, and then we'll have a little bit of time for questions and So with that from my gender, and I will start from like disappointing people immediately if you're expecting like a how answers as well. So I'm gonna try to keep that trajectory. to work with like trans and or non binary clients. This is not Pretty simple today. that talk. This is like a different framework. So just like take a breath into that disappointment if that's what you were expecting. That's okay. That's okay. And I can point you to other resources. I do also talk about that. But today's not that talk. But I do want to talk a little bit about why gender. You know, I was brought up in the 1970s in Italy. And I was mostly brought up by second wave feminist and many of my mentors, for my doctoral programs were also second wave feminists. And in part I was in the field of women's studies, there was no gender studies quite yet, at least in the institution I was part of at the time, and yes, that is me looking very stylish in a little like carousel car when I was about five years old. I think that picture. And the, I want to still locate how the personal is political. And so I want to talk about why gender from both a personal and political perspective, because that was kind of the first lens I looked at, gender through. And so the 1970s was the time when lots of people were coming into consciousness around gender race, some of you might remember So we all have those gender stories, right, which is pretty that time, some of you are too young by your parents might have been part of that time or other family members. And I was coming into a country that didn't have divorce until 1971, which had a very specific gender aspect. I remember when we add legislation about the legality of abortion go through when I was around elementary school age, which also, it's about reproductive health, and about gender. And I was doing gender as a five year old, even though I didn't know what that meant. What I knew was, the clothes I felt comfortable wearing, and who I liked to play with, and that sometimes people thought I was a boy. And I would go along with that, because that felt fun. But there also other things felt fun, like making clothes for my Barbie and fun. So I've always been fascinated by gender, because I've always found that found it very confusing. One of the things that I remember growing up is like all this gender, the expectations, right, and you might have some of this memories for yourself. One of the exercises we developed at the transgender commission, when I used to be at the University of Minnesota was actually a questionnaire asking people, when did you first become aware of your gender? You know, how you know, and all those other questions like, Are there aspects of your gender identity expression that feel comfortable or less comfortable? much part of my work more and more. Every time I talk about gender, I found that people had a story that was connected to pain and trauma, as well as joy and expansiveness. And we'll talk a little bit more about that in a moment. So I was so fascinated by gender that I went and got a whole PhD in women's studies. I wrote two books about it and I have a podcast. So obviously, I'm a little bit obsessed with gender. So that tells you a little bit about the personal aspect. And there's so much more to say. But I think it's important to locate that because often people think, Oh, you talk about gender, because you're trans and I was like, No, I did a PhD on women in disability in higher education. And I didn't even know trans people existed when I did that in the early 90s, because I hadn't been exposed to the community. And I knew our felt about myself. But I didn't know there was the community, I didn't know there was language, I was still very much entrenched into that second wave, kind of feminist movement, which was very empowering in many ways. And we'll look at that in a moment. But it was also not expansive enough for other aspects of my identity and experiences. And then there was also the political right? I referenced some very political historical markers in my own countries that have a lot to do with gender. But when we think about being here in Turtle Island, and what we currently know, in the United States, we can think about a lot of different gender stories, we can think about the gender stories of indigenous communities, where Indigenous women are much more likely to be murdered and missing and not be covered in the media at all, for example. So that's a pretty macro kind of gender story that doesn't get told enough, right? And I'm going to talk about some some painful stuff as we talk about this topic and so just take care of yourself as you need to. And I really want to acknowledge that some of the things I talk about will impact some bodies more than others in this room. And so to just do what you need to do to take care of yourself both during the talk and afterwards. So that's, that's a pretty macro political aspect of the ongoing settler colonial project, which we'll talk about a little bit more in a moment. And then if we think about just patriarchy in general, right, that's been a big uncovering a bit, you know, the, the marches and the pink hats, which are really problematic and we could do a whole talk about it and also really empowering all at the same time right, because nothing is simple when it comes to gender. So this is not a simple topic. This is not you know, the patriarchy is not a simple topic definitely to break down and it has impacted people for a long time. And it does connect to the ongoing settler colonial project, right? And then we can think about black women in this country. And we can think all the, all the different ways in which black women are impacted, you know, more likely to be murdered, which is unfortunately, generally a reality for black and brown bodies, including through system, not just like the police, but also through systems such as healthcare providers, right, there are lots of different inequalities. And again, that could be a whole lecture in its own right. So the could be a lecture in its own right on all this different kind of macro political aspects of how gender is institutionalized, and how gender is performed on a social and cultural level, I think one of the things that happens is we tend to think of gender and gender identity and experiences very much as individual experiences. But they happen within a macro system, they happen within a cultural system, within a linguistic system, within an educational system within an architectural system, you know, thinking even bathrooms like that, that's an architecture feature, right? So there is so ingrained in all of our systems. So when we can when we talk about gender, we can also talk about disability justice, and the way that disabled feminists, for example, really uncovered, how a social model of disability wasn't enough, right, because what about the body? What about embodiment? What about balancing both the social aspects and the individual experience of disability? So even if we say, just within the realm of feminism, there are decades or I would say, actually, there are centuries of struggle, right, there are centuries of gender stories, there are centuries of struggles, you know, there are centuries of movements and who is included and who's excluded. And I remember, even in the 80s, and 90s, within the kind of the feminist movement, you know, all the struggle around the working class women resonate with some of the struggles, the middle class women were promoting, you know, in a kind of European context, did Black women feel included, were lesbian included by all of these different struggles, and trans women kind of all along, right. So decades, and then when we take that bigger picture, centuries, and then more imagine, almost as if we were able to kind of take a bird's eye view and go like higher and higher and higher and be able to see just how complex this topic is. So when we talk about gender, it is personal, and it is political for me. And that could be like a lecture, I could go into much more depth into any one of those aspects. But today, I really want to talk about gender liberation. Because there is there is a lot of evidence, we know a lot about the trauma of a rigid gender binary. You know, we know how that impacts health, we know how that impacts health for different populations, but somehow the different populations are kept in kind of tiny little boxes, right? These are the health disparities between men and women. These are the health disparities between white people, black people, between black men and black women, between indigenous folks and non indigenous folks within Latin X communities, within immigrant communities, between sis people and trans people and cis people. All that it means that Latin prefix that you identify on the same side of the like the, the gender you were assigned at birth whereas trans, it just means that you identify somewhere else than the gender you were assigned at birth. So there are kind of all these binaries or this boxes. And as you might have guessed, I'm not a big fan of binaries, in any way. And so we have a lot of data about this. But what I want to do is what happens when we take a lens of gender liberation, because in some ways, the trauma of gender and the way we've been approaching it is rooted in the same framework. And if it is true, that we cannot dismantle the Masters House with Masters tools, then I believe it is true. I am a really old school feminist in lots of ways and those things are like deep in my bones, from you know, black scholars, black feminists, those were the people that made sense to me when I started studying this topic because they were talking from a liberation framework. And that's why I was really looking for and I remember coming into that second wave feminism and and really wanting to embrace it, of course, you know, and I'm the parent of a girl or young girl who's becoming a young woman now. And so I do believe there is a lot of power in messages like we can do it right. I remember being brought up and thinking yes, I can be anybody I want to, I can do all the things and then I was also looking around me and thinking about what is the cost of doing all the things and who really gets to do all the things? And actually, what is the hidden labor behind this? What women who I'm seeing doing all the things and what is the cost on their health? You know, I remember being a PhD student and every woman faculty I knew was sick. There were either getting sick with cancer, they were getting sick with chronic health issues. This is not an accident, you know, and we were talking about sexual harassment in higher education. We're still talking about it a couple of decades later. So is it liberation, if it's still binary? Was the question that I didn't have words for yet, but that we're starting to touch into isn't enough to just tell girls and boys so they don't have to stay within a very confined box. You know, is it not? Is it enough to tell boys that it's okay to cry, it's okay to be vulnerable. It's okay to have kind of a softer masculinity for one of a better word and two girls that can be strong, they can be capable? And also, how much pressure is it to tell girls that they can be strong? And also what happens when we actually look at the experiences of girls and women from an intersectional perspective? Right? How can kind of Indigenous women kind of be strong in the face of ongoing settler colonialism? What is the cost of asking black women to be strong when there is already a trope of the strong black woman, which is not really conducive to many people's health? And so the more I thought about it, the more that it's not enough to kind of just say, yes, if you are a woman, or if you're a man, the box is much more expansive. You know, it just didn't feel like that would be an enough of a liberatory framework. And so if generally, liberation is not just about making the two boxes bigger, if we assume that there are two boxes, is it about a third box? Is it about androgyny? Right? Sometimes people are like when you talk about gender liberation, are you talking about doing away with gender all together, and as somebody who actually enjoys kind of a more masculine expression of gender, even though it's a very kind of queer, masculine aesthetic, that is now what I'm talking about. Even though androgyny is really awesome, as you can see in those pictures like androgynous, beautiful, and then people like Prince did something for like black male queer sexuality that no other performer have ever done talking about ancestors, right? And so every time that box gets a little bigger, there is a little bit more possibility for everyone. But what does gender liberation actually look like? So what I'm gonna propose is that we really look at gender as a landscape, and kind of break that down a little bit more. And that's not again, this is not new, and not something I haven't talked about before. But when we think about gender as a landscape, what I like about landscape is that they don't have to be fixed. Think about the fact that you might have gone somewhere as a child, and then you revisit that place five years later, 10 years later, 20 years later, even if nothing has changed in the landscape, your relationship to the landscape might be different. So what I like about the metaphor of the landscape, is that we can revisit the same place and be in different relationship to them. Also, with with the landscape, you might not have seen everything in the world, right? I've just about managed to catch the Northern Lights. When I was in Iceland last year, I've been like chasing them for years. You know, but just because I didn't see them, it didn't mean that didn't exist, right? Just because I have not personally experienced them. It doesn't mean they don't exist, or it doesn't mean they're not beautiful, right. And when I saw them, they weren't that impressive, because it wasn't a great time to see the the Northern Lights. Well, this is not what I expected, but it exists. And that's how it exists in this moment. And when I see the northern lights and another place at another time, there might be a standing or all this as all these photos that keep seeing and keep they've been very frustrated at so when we think about gender as a landscape, just because we haven't experienced certain identities, certain experiences certain expressions of gender, doesn't mean that doesn't exist or doesn't mean they're not valid. It just means that are unfamiliar, just as a landscape can be unfamiliar. So when I'm inviting you to think about gender liberation, how I'm inviting you to think about what would it take to completely change our framework to completely not just make those boxes bigger, but to make the boxes disappear, basically. Because if you think about the landscape, you know, there are mountains, there are rivers, or lakes. There are no mountains in Minnesota. But you know what I mean? I miss them. There are many other things. There's a lot of water that lakes, you have lots of lakes, not as many as Alaska, but a lot of lakes. So there are lakes or rivers, there are cities, there are different components, but they're not necessarily in boxes. Right? And and there is a liminal space where they're all touching each other. And so what would it look like to just kind of bypass this concept of gender wide open? Well we don't have to imagine a lot because actually, that is that is something that has existed. And I think one of the things that happens with history, you know, history, what is that expression where history is told by the conquerors, right? By the people who kind of win the wars and, and write the history books, right. And so one of the things that we believe is that this rigid gender binary of like, if you're born with this body, you're assigned this gender and you're expected to perform this gender, is actually a very specific historical incarnation of what gender means. And it is not an absolute, and even the medical, the medicalization, and the way that certain chromosomes, for example, are seen as belonging to a certain gender. That is not inherently true. That is a So for example, recently in the news there was this whole like specific choice that scientists have made, right? We could have Viking warrior, was it a man? Was it a woman? I was like, or you could just actually talk to an historian who knows that paid attention to other differences between us but we actually gender was very different in Norse communities, paid attention through that lens. At some point, somebody such as it was very different in lots of different kind of made that choice, right? And I mean, people who specialize in, historical communities, and in indigenous communities all over for example, in sexuality, there's a lot of like, why is it the globe, right? So when I'm talking about gender liberation, that we know a lot more about certain types of bodies than and I'll go back to that point in a moment, but when I'm others? Right? Because patriarchy and racism and talking about gender liberation from this lens, hobbylink ableism, and all those things, many of you in this room already Justice, what I really want you to think about is gender liberation as a form of neuro decolonization. And that is not know, right? So just because this is how we think about a term I've coined, the Dr. Michael Yellowbird is the person gender as something that aligns maybe with chromosomes, maybe I've seen use consistently. I don't know if that the person with our brain is the psychology what is it? Don't worry, I will who coined the term, but that's the person who has consistent have some answers for you. I'm not going to leave you totally literature about it. And what neuro decolonization means is to confused. But just because that's how we think about look at gender through an entirely different lens, to kind gender. Now, it doesn't mean that that's how we've always of unlearn what we've learned about gender, and to look at it thought about gender. through a different perspective. Making sense so far? You're still with me? I see some nods. And, and, and some not nods. And that's okay. I was like whats a neutral way of life describing that. And that's very short version. But I want to make sure that And why am I inviting you to think about gender as a form of that message comes across. So this is a reclaim of something that has been lost through this ongoing settler colonial neuro decolonization? Because in reality, gender diversity, process. And so near decolonization is really acknowledging that this happened that there was an erasure of creativity, expansiveness, whatever we want to call it, has gender expansiveness, through the arrival of settler colonial folks. And I say settler colonialism and not just always existed. This is a picture of the fission goddess colonialism because settler colonialism is actually a very specific type of colonialism where the settlers goal is to ballet was very popular in the Mediterranean, which is the eventually to replace the local indigenous population. And I area I originally come from. And then the statue is the statue of the Galilee, where the Jezreel priestesses were traditionally think it's definitely one that applies when we're talking about but not exclusively, what we would now call assigned male at North America, specifically. So what about healing justice? If that's gender liberation, birth and would wear kind of feminine clothing and would have then what is the piece that it's Healing Justice. How Healing a specific role actually, during the decay of the Roman Empire, Justice starts, it's a framework that identifies basically how we which was mostly to call truth to power and they had ecstatic can respond to and intervene on generational historical trauma rituals, where they might also perform types of body and violence to bring collective practices that can impact and modification that we would now connect maybe more when like transform the consequences of oppression on our bodies, right? trans communities. And on this very land, gender expansiveness So it's on our bodies, hearts and minds, how we think our is part of this lands past and present. So there's a picture hearts and minds as part of our body, you know, we are our body, We'Wha, what was the famous Zuni person is like the most famous there isn't that separation. And this is a definition by Kara Page. And there is a whole movement for healing justice. And if you are interested in healing justice, I very much picture of Two Spirit folks that you will see out there. And also encourage you to check out resources such as the Healing a picture of the documentary two spirits which is about a Two Justice podcast, and locally, there are folks like Suzanne Spirit, Navajo Two Spirit person, Fred Martinez, who was Raffo, is doing a lot of work in the Healing Justice Movement. murdered as 16 and then a picture from the pride. They're And that's one of the quotes from one of the Healing Justice podcast that talks about access. And so when we're talking about very American Indian to spirit pride and to spirit is a word Healing Justice, we're really looking at how does oppression that kind of emerges in the 1980s across kind of tribal and injustice impact our well being? And how can we transform nations, to reclaim something that has been lost through the practices, systems, ways of thinking, ways of being so that we increase well being rather than keep reproducing the same ongoing settler colonial process, which is reclaiming systems that keep reproducing health disparities, keep reproducing pain, keep reproducing trauma, if that makes sense? So one of the conversation we have a lot in the mental health field, for example is how can we be healing practitioner when our language and identity. And so to spirit is not easy to substitute very field pathologize us and stigmatizes specific bodies? Right? The very, you know, on one hand, I accept insurance so with another word like trans or gender expansive, because that I can see clients who are medical assistance and wouldn't be able to access healing practitioners. Without that, but actually operates within a different framework of our at the same time, I'm giving labels that are inherently oppressive, right? So it's not an easy framework, it is not a framework of absolutes, and it cannot be a framework of absolutes. Because if, if trauma is about all or nothing, you understanding of gender and sexuality. know, Healing Justice has to be about complexity. So if we're moving towards liberation, and we're moving towards healing justice, we need to move about complexity. And I want to acknowledge again, you know, this is like a refrain in everything I write or talk about is the roots of the healing justice movement. This is not something that's new, you know, healers have been doing healing at kitchen tables and in homes forever, right? And the healing justice movement is very much rooted in the work of indigenous folks, but black and brown folks and especially black femmes and so on. And so, you know, Leola Lakshmi, people are summary talks about the roots of like acupuncture clinics ran by Black Panthers in North America in the 60s and 70s, right? Percussion European traditions of healing with herbs. Chinese medicine, such as acupuncture, right? All of those things are part of the Healing Justice Movement and you can see how all of those things. So many of those things are crafted through a more kind of Western medical industrial complex lens and nursing in specifically, I think, has a long history of knowing how that interaction is complicated, right? I was just listening the other day to NPR talking about the licensing of midwives, for example, in our state, right. So historically, there is this dance who gets to do the healing, who gets to certify the healing, who gets to be in control? Once you look at who gets to be in control, there's a theme there. I'm pretty sure you know this, like even in very what we would call women dominated fields. Look whos at the top right, it's often not the people who are doing the healing work. It's often the folks who are most favored by the system, which tend to be cis white men, by and large, still. So what does healing liberation within the framework of Healing Justice look like? This could be another two hours, but I'm gonna do this in 10 minutes. So now that we've kind of created some of the framework. First of all, it looks like acknowledging the rigid gender binary is traumatic. We see this in the psychological literature, people who adhere to more rigid gender binaries, actually tend to have poor health outcomes in terms of mental health. We also see it as a side effect. Even if you just look in a very binary way to kind of what happens to men and women, right? Men are less likely to seek access to health care, which has a certain impact, right? Boys are more likely to be exposed and die of violence at a younger age, because of toxic masculinity. Women are also more impacted in different ways, right? And all those different, you know, there could be a litany of health disparities and of trauma that could go along with that slide, which I will not go through for today. But suffice to say, and I can give you a handout, which is about six pages of references, because I'm writing a book about rigid gender binary is traumatic and how to work with it in the mental health field. There is a lot of literature that tells us again, and again, that rigid gender binaries are not good for our health. This is not which to me, what it says is, this is never how we were meant to live. This is an artificial construct that has been imposed on us in many ways through the ongoing settler colonial project, not just in North America, but also in Europe and so on. If we look there, take that bigger circle view. And if we look at the work of Dr. Maria, Maria Yellow Horace Braveheart, who is the person who coined the term historical trauma, what is the impact of historical trauma right? Higher rates of depression, anxiety, substance use, alcoholism, higher rates of suicide, intimate partner violence, and abuse. These rates applies to almost every marginalized populations. If you think about the literature on health and marginalized population, you will see some of this realities again and again, different numbers, slightly different proportions, but you will see these numbers repeated again and again, in the literature. And so to me, and you see it when you look at look at gender as well, if you look at it for a binary way you find it. If you look at it through a racialized identities way, you find it, if you look at the difference between trans and cis, folks, you find that so you keep finding kind of this health disparities. And to me that says, this is about historical trauma. This is just another manifestation of this ongoing settler colonial project. So what happens to gender within that framework? If a rigid gender binary is unhealthy, if a rigid gender binary is not conducive to a framework of healing justice and gender liberation? What are we left with? A lot of questions, I would say. One way to look at it, which has been slightly more complex, but I think we will go even beyond this model. We know we've gone from many models in my lifetime, and I'm pretty sure we're gonna leave this model behind too, which is great. Is to look at gender as a large bio psychosocial construct, which includes aspects of identity expressions, role and experience. So gender is really complicated. There might be a part of this biological part that psychological and social and I say might, because this is just a model, and a model that's probably going to be limiting. And you know, my hope is that I live long enough to see what's the beautiful next thing, but the moment that that's what we got as a more complex model that can go alongside that gender as the landscape metaphor. I find the metaphors don't work so well in public health, or medical fields, as somebody who's done public health research. So we need something a little more concrete, and I would say that biopsychosocial model is that something a little bit more concrete, something that we can operationalize to keep that academic language in healthcare. So what I want to do before I finish is just a few words about what does it mean in practice? I love some of the things that were being said in in the introduction about what is the one thing right, that we can change collectively? What is the one thing that we can change in individually? So if we look at kind of gender liberation as a form of Healing Justice, what can we do? Because it is such it's so complex, and it can feel really overwhelming and if it's everywhere, right? How can we even start tackling it when it permeates all the different ways in which we practice? And if you are in healthcare, and if you're not, I think this still applies and lots of different ways. Think about what happens before you even come into contact with somebody, come into contact with the patient, or with a colleague or with a student, if you work in Student Affairs and so on? Those interactions do not happen outside of culture, we are having all these interactions, even this interaction today are happening in what I would consider a cloud of that historical intergenerational trauma, right? So those interactions are not neutral, this is not neutral, our interactions are not neutral, it doesn't have to be overwhelming, you know, the, the first step of the healing process is acknowledging a wound is there, right? And this is the wound. And so if the wound is there, let's acknowledge that our intrigued interactions are not going to happen in this neutral space. And there's some identities and experiences have the long history of being pathologized or be marginalized. So if it's higher education, in other words, the reason why in the early 90s, I was doing a PhD on the experiences of disabled women in higher education is because they were invisible. And at the time, in the UK, there wasn't even any legislation around disability and access in higher education. And so there was there was no data, there was no information, right. Black and brown bodies, trans bodies, non binary bodies, we are all impacted in different ways. But again, you know, if we want to go back to those roots of kind of black feminism, you know, I think it's Audrey Lorde, who talks about the the roots of our oppression are interwoven, right? They are in the soil of the ongoing settler colonial product process. So let's acknowledge that our roots, my might be similar, but the fruits are different, what it looks like, whose body gets impacted whose bodies get left out whose bodies get told they don't belong, or they don't fit into an electronic health record, or into a form, right, is different. And that because of that, people have a lot of anxiety about relationships, relationships with other people in relationship to the system, right? In health care, we talk about things like stereotype threat, what are you know, and even recently, I had a client who was like, I am anxious about a medical procedure. I was like, of course, you're anxious about a medical procedure, a lot of people are, and they were like, I don't want to be a bad trans person. Like I wanna like, we all want to be the poster children, right? marginalized folks, this burden sometimes to feel like I need to do things, right. Because then it doesn't impact just me and impacts my whole community. Right? And this is also an experience that you see across different types of marginalization and different experiences but this idea that you're not coming into a space neutral, and there can be that anticipatory anxiety, or stereotype threat. And also that there are a ton of micro and macro aggressions that happen without anybody even trying to do something or intending to do something, right? So that's kind of very baseline. And then to finish, I kind of want to end with a place to begin, because binaries, and I don't like them. That's the thing. So, you know, at the end of the talk, I want to talk about so if, if we acknowledge all of that, what can we do? Again, so easy to be overwhelmed? Let's start from kind of, you know, from the ground up, what does it look to establish a welcome space? What does it look to establish some level of safety? Some level of brave space where people can come and be vulnerable and open up? And that will look in a lot of different ways I was having a conversation just earlier with it's good to have policies and it's good to have training and then what happens, right? So this is the what happens kind of the images that you have around the you even you know, there was a reason why the trans visibility campaign happened several years ago. Right? What are the images? Who is in leadership? What is happening, you know, what is the language that's used, and how people can overreact. Orient yourself to the person in front of you if you're a provider, but also orient to the environment? And like what we did earlier, right, let's take a moment to arrive, let's take a moment to be in relationship, not just with each other, but with what's happening, right? And then on a very basic level, just respect, one of my good friends and elder sibling always says, you know, it's just about manners. You know, it's just good manners just respect people's names and pronouns, this doesn't, you don't even have to agree or understand them, or accept them. Just basic respect that good manner. We're, we're a community and so we're going to have good manners with each other. But if you want to go beyond good manners, I would really like to invite you to very actively challenge those rigid gender binaries in your own life. And believe me, this is the work of a lifetime. I'm obsessed with gender. I spent most of my professional life researching gender. And I have a 15 years old, who calls me on my crap, I was about to swear and I realized I was being livestreamed and recorded. Like, all the time, I mean, I'm a gender scholar, and there I am raising a girl. And she's like, 'I think that's a little misogynistic'. And I was like, 'What did I do?' Being on shows like 'well this is what I noticed, you commented on my look, and you don't comment on my little brother's look'. And I was like, 'Oh, my God, I did that'. And she's like, 'it's okay. Don't go into shame. That's not helpful. Just, you know, better do better'. You know, I was like, Yeah, that's what happens when you raise smart children, they remind you what you've taught them. And I say, 'That's right. We don't go into shame, shame is not helpful. So know better do better'. You know, this is lifetime work. If we're truly talking about gender liberation as a form of neuro decolonization, we are not just talking about changing hearts and minds, right? We're talking about unlearning history, we're talking about unlearning science, and creating something And I believe I've been mildly well behaved and we have about that better serves the health and well being of all of our communities, and create environments that are both healing and just so that we can move forward together. Thank you. seven minutes for questions and answers. I've gone three minutes over the one oh five, but we have about seven minutes for questions and answers. So if you have a question, or a comment, this is your time to raise your hand if you have to go back to like class or work. I totally understand also at this time. If not, I can talk at you for another seven minutes.Narrator:
This was wonderful. Thank you so much. We talked about creating healing spaces. A lot of the people in the audience here are nurses or health providers. Two simple things, they can go back and look at their clinic and say, Oh, this is not safe.Alex Iantaffi:
Absolutely. That is a great question. So the question is, like, what are some simple thing for people who are like nurses or health care providers that can happen? And I think, you know, some of the things that had on that slide is like, respecting that people's names and pronouns is so simple. And you can do that for everybody. I remember going to a new clinic, and somebody going. I was like, what is happening right now to the nurse. And she was like, we just had a training and I'm trying to ask you something. And I'm like, that's okay. I'm here for you. I mean, I'm here as a patient, but I'm also here for you right now. And I was like, are you? Are you trying to ask me my pronouns? And she's like, yes. And I said, here's how I do it as a provider. I say 'Hi, my name is Alex Iantaffi. I use they/them or him pronouns, what, what are your names and pronouns?' And I do that for all my clients. And she was like, Oh, its that simple? And I was like, yes. You should also like, maybe hire me for your next training, because whoever trained you obviously sent you in, like a crisis. So I was like, there's no need to be afraid. And I think you'll find also that a lot of people don't use names that are given at birth for lots of different reasons. So just have somebody, what's the name and the pronoun you want me to use for you on your notes? And if people are like, I don't understand what you're saying, I'd be like, well, if I'm writing about you, so and so she or he or they and they're like, oh, yeah, everybody can get that. Like, it's not that difficult. That is one thing. Think about things. Like, if you can have all gender restrooms in your clinics, I think that's super helpful for everybody. Again, this is not just for trans or non binary folks, but for people who come in with their kids, and they're not the same gender as their kid and maybe their kid is like neurodivergent and doesn't want to go in the bathroom by themselves, or maybe they're little. So it kind of very basic aspects. And then I think there's a bigger project that many nurses getting involved in, which is to change gendered language where it's not necessary. Like it's okay to say reproductive health and not women's health, for example, it's okay to talk about reproductive justice, right? Like we all need their reproductive justice. So think about the like, it's okay to to talk about a lactation room. That's what it is. And it's also like calling something what it is, and being specific, which is actually helpful to all other bunch of folks. So I think and that's often what happens when healing justice, when you do something that creates access for one group of people, you're really creating access for many more people than you can ever imagine, if that makes sense. So those are kind of some smaller things, bigger things. Any other questions? In a couple of minutes? Oh, see, it always takes that first question.Audience:
So I'm asking for a little help with language and it wouldn't exactly be an elevator speech necessarily. But I know several people who are just beyond tolerant to welcoming of people who are in same sex relationships, or have same sex drives, and also transgender people. They hit the wall when it comes to being binary. It's something that's just beyond them. But obviously, they're open to considering certain differences, or they wouldn't be as tolerant as they are. Can you give us some simple language to converse with people about the whole concept of non binary?Alex Iantaffi:
That's great. Yes, I'm very familiar with that, like. So I think sometimes the non binary is really confusing, because it's a really large umbrella. So the first thing I would say it's like, validate, yes, this can be very complex to understand this, right? Because you can just tell about a person just by looking at them. There are like a million different ways of being non binary, I would say. But overall, it just means that you don't fit in one box or another. And I remember when my mom was like, uh, I just don't get your gender. And I was like, that's fair. You know, she's in her 70s. And, and there's not as many resources in Italian. And I said, Do you watch Glee? Because Glee has actually been dubbed in Italian? And she's like, Yeah, so watch Glee. Do you know, this, like, the football quarterback? I don't understand football. So whatever, the the football player over here, and then this, like, the other super queer kid who likes to make costumes and is very effeminate. And she's like, Yes, I was like, I'm that kind of boy, not that kind of boy. And she's just like, Oh, I get that. Like, if I'd been born a boy, that's what I would be, like so a little bit breaking it down. And I will say a little bit about what is it that you don't understand? You know, I've had people kind of get pretty bogged down like, well, if somebody doesn't make an effort to appear in the gender that they want me to address them as, why should I respect them? And I was like, Well, I feel like, it goes back to your code of ethics. If you're a nurse, which was being cited earlier, about treating people with like compassion, and respect, right. You don't have to understand somebody to treat them with compassion and respect. So you might not understand them. You might not agree with their gender expression, all you have to do is use their name and pronouns and maybe not look to discuss it when you're dealing with them and their body as a nurse. I've heard like some terrible stories of people being asked to take out their own catheters, for example, when they were found to be transgender, every trans person knows of stories of EMTs arrive on the scene, and people die or are much more sick than they need to be because there is that factor. So I would say that ultimately is about do recognize a human being that doesn't have the same experiences as you as valid and worthy of care. And if you do, then everything else you can learn. But if you don't, there's nothing I can say to persuade you. And that often, that's where I come to, because if people are genuinely wanting to understand, they'll get it. And honestly, if people don't want to understand, then I'm just like, that's fine. But then just say that you don't see some people as worthy of your respect on your end of your care, and that's okay. And then maybe you shouldn't be a healthcare provider. It's my next step in that and I say that in my field to kind of know if that's an elevator speech, but there you go. Right on time, I know there's a question. I'm okay with taking one more question and then I'll be out there for a little bit. There's books, if you want to sell.Audience:
Hi, thank you. I'm wondering if you can talk about how you use somatics in this work and I also know there are people who are researchers, clinicians, and academics, so you choose to go across that social ecology and in the amount of time that you have, because I think a lot of people here in academic spaces, and in this culture, we learn to privilege. If I just know the right answers, then this will work and you work with the body. So I'd love if you could talk more.Alex Iantaffi:
Absolutely, that, yeah, that I wish we had like another hour or two hours. Just recently, actually did a webinar for the somatic experiencing Training Institute around uses somatic approaches, specifically with trans and non binary folks. But on a much more basic level, I think for me, let me see what I want to say about that. Because there are lots of complex answers but I want to keep it simple. Okay, I think for me, on a very basic level is working somatically it's a way of first of all, challenging that first one wound of settler colonialism, that tells us that we're separate from land and the land can be owned. So that's a very first layer for me of somatic work, I am not separate from the environment, which actually very helpful in healthcare too because there are a lot of environmental factors that we know impact well being. So I think for me, the first layer is recognizing that I'm not separate, or other than and then another level is to... I'm a whole person, you know, the medical industrial model wants to cut us off into pieces from a Western perspective and often that doesn't work so well for folks. So I'm a whole person, and when I'm working with clients, or patients, that would be in a more medical context, their whole people, which are part of systems and culture, and so that social ecology model, you know, and, and they're kind of going from there, and acknowledging that when I'm in the room, I'm bringing my own nervous system, and the other person is bringing their own nervous system. So let's take a moment to settle, which is not very conducive, and enough care system where you're in and out in five minutes, right. But even just I heard, I think a breath like we haven't met before, it's weird to be with a new provider that can already like de escalate the body quite a bit. So I think it's just always be mindful of not running away with my prefrontal cortex, which is something I'm really good at doing. And just like staying here, which is also why I start every talk now with acknowledgments, not only because it reconnects with the literally with the ground underneath my feet, but also like this idea of like queer people in relationship and relationship to each other, to culture, to history, to time and space. And I think for me, that's the very foundation of a somatic approach. So I know we need to be done. Thank you so much.