Sex and Gender Diversity

I am a member of the Australian and New Zealand Professional Association for Transgender Health (ANZPATH) and the Word Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).

Dichotomous notions of sex and gender have led us to believe that there are only 2 biological sexes, male and female, and only 2 genders, man and women. However, there is and has always been existence of people with a mixture of both male and female biological sex characteristics, which is termed intersex, and people who show inconsistency between their biological sex and gender identity, which is termed transgender. 

Terminology Intersex 

Terminology Transgender

Inclusive Language

Resources Trans*

Resources Intersex

My approach to therapy

 

Terminology: Intersex

Intersex

This refers to the diversity of physical characteristics between the stereotypical male and female characteristics. Intersex people have reproductive organs, chromosomes or other physical sex characteristics that are neither wholly female nor wholly male. Intersex is a description of biological diversity and may or may not be the identity used by an intersex person.Click here for historical information on Intersex persons.


Terminology: Gender identity

Trans (Transgender)

This refers to a person whose gender identity, gender expression or behaviour does not align with their sex assigned at birth. In Australia, at birth children are assigned male or female. Male children are raised as boys and female children are raised as girls. A person classified as female at birth who identifies as a man may use the label trans, transman or man. Similarly, a person classified as male at birth who identifies as a woman may use the label trans, transwoman or woman.

 

Gender diverse and non-binary

This refers to people who do not identify as a woman or a man. In the same way that sexual orientation and gender expression are not binaries, gender identity is not a binary either. It is important to challenge our thinking beyond the binary constructs of male and female.

Some people may identify as agender (having no gender), bigender (both a woman and a man) or non-binary (neither woman nor man). There is a diverse range of non-binary gender identities such as genderqueer, gender neutral, genderfluid and third gendered. It is important to be aware that language in this space is still evolving and people may have their own preferred gender identities that are not listed here. Click here for historical information on transgendered persons.


Brotherboys and Sistergirls

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may use these terms to refer to transgender people. Brotherboy typically refers to masculine spirited people who are born female, and Sistergirl typically refers to feminine spirited people who are born male.

 

Cisgender

This refers to people whose gender identity is in line with the social expectations of their sex assigned at birth. It is a term used to describe people who are not transgender.

 

How to use inclusive language

Use appropriate terminology

Only use appropriate terms to refer to people's sexual orientation or gender identity with the appropriate terms. Although terms such as 'dyke' and 'fag' may be used by LGBTI people themselves, this terminology is likely to be seen as derogatory if used by someone who is not part of the subgroup. Furthermore, "thats so gay" or using the word 'gay' to refer to negative situations or phenomenon unrelated to sexual orientation is offensive and unacceptable.

Handy guide to trans and gender diverse inclusive language ACON 

 

Avoid heteronormativity/heterosexism

Heteronormativity is the assumption that everyone is heterosexual (straight), and that this is the norm. Heterosexism is the belief that non-heteronormative sexual orientations or gender identities are unnatural. Avoid using language which assumes all relationships are heterosexual, as this denies the experiences of same sex couples. It is better to use the word 'partner' than 'wife/husband' where the gender, sexual orientation or relationship status of a person is unknown. When someone mentions their children, remind yourself that this doesn't necessarily mean they are in a heterosexual relationship, and avoid making assumptions.


Avoid misgendering

Misgendering is using language to refer to a person that is not aligned with how that person identifies their own gender or body. Most but not all intersex and trans people who identify as male prefer to be referred to as 'he'. Most but not all intersex and trans people who identify as female prefer to be referred to as 'she'. Some people prefer to be described with their first name only or a non-binary pronoun such as 'they' rather than a gendered pronoun. Others prefer no pronoun at all.

Other gender neutral pronouns exist, such as 'zie' and 'hir'. If unsure, you can ask someone directly what their preferred pronoun is in a respectful manner. Where possible, check privately to reduce discomfort. If you do make a mistake, apologise promptly and move on, it will likely make the person feel more uncomfortable if you dwell on the mistake. Try to avoid making the same mistake again.

 

Avoid offensive questions

Most people would find it inappropriate to be asked questions about their genitals or breasts. It is therefore not appropriate to ask questions about whether a trans person has had surgery. Similarly, most people would find it inappropriate to be referred to with reference to their anatomical or medical history. In the same way trans people should not be referred to with reference to whether or not they have had surgery.

 

Respect people's experiences

A trans or gender diverse person may refer to their gender affirmation rather than transition. They may prefer the phrase gender affirmation as it aligns with how they have always identified. Transitioning implies that they are changing from one gender to another. It is important to use respectful language in line with the person's own experiences. Some refer to 'aligning' their body and gender rather than transitioning.

 

There can be diversity within diversity

People who identify as LGBTI may also identify with other diversity groups such as ethnic, cultural  or disabled. Language used should not assume primacy of one dimension. The diversity within any one element of L,G,B,T or I needs to be respected.

 

Include non-binary options on forms and databases

Sex and gender-restrictive forms and databases with only 'male' and 'female' may exclude trans, intersex and gender diverse people from participating. Identify ways to change systems so they are more inclusive of non-binary people.

For the majority of people (around 98%), there is a correlation between their sex and gender (eg. their sex is female and their gender is female). The conceptual difference between the two concepts is therefore not well understood by the general public, and they are often used interchangeably in legislation and the media.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has introduced a new Standard for Sex and Gender Variables with the following standard tick box question module for sex. The 'Male' response option is shown first due to tradition in the ABS and alignment with other collections.

terminology referenced Victorian Government Inclusive Language Guide.

 

Resources Trans*

Snaps shot of transgender diversity in Australia

OMG Im trans*:

Trans* information for youth and those interested in coming out. Resources on use of pronouns and non-binary gender.

Transgender Radio:

TgR launched on-line in 1997, and has over 700 members. The aim of TgR is to foster understanding, awareness and friendship within the Australian/New Zealand gender diverse community. Online, TgR hosts resources on many aspects of transgender life and a variety of tools to facilitate communication and networking amongst its members. Offline. TgR organises or promote events for the community throughout Australia. This includes Australia's premier transgender weekend TransFormal each May in Katoomba.

Kids of Trans* resource guide.

COLAGErs are people with one or more LGBTQ+ parent or caregiver—they are skilled, self-confident, and just leaders in our collective communities. Our stories are important, and so is yours.

Gender Centre

The Gender Centre is committed to developing and providing services and activities, which enhance the ability of people with gender issues to make informed choices. We offer a wide range of services to people with gender issues, their partners, family members and friends in New South Wales. We are an accommodation service and also act as an education, support, training and referral resource centre to other organisations and service providers. The Gender Centre is committed to educating the public and service providers about the needs of people with gender issues. We specifically aim to provide a high quality service, which acknowledges human rights and ensures respect and confidentiality.

>>Gender Centre:Support for family & Friends

#Support_for_Family_and_Friends.pdf 

#Support_for_Family_and_Friends.pdf

>>Gender Centre:Employment

#GenderCentre: guidelines for Employers and Service Providers

#Transgender-descrimination--guidelines-for-employers-and-service-providers.pdf

#Human_Recources_Transgender_Policy_1.pdf

#Concerns_For_Service_Providers.pdf

#Anti-Discrimination_Law_and_Employment.pdf

#Model_Document_for_Informing_Staff.pdf

#Model_Policy_for_Employment_Transition.pdf

  >>Gender Centre: Alignment: Gender Affirmation

F2M: Fact Kits, hysterectomy, Oopherectomy, masculine hormones, identity documents

M2F: Facial feministaion, breast augmentation, electrolysis, feminising hormones, identity documents

 

Resources Intersex

Out of the shadows: SBS Documentary

OIIOrganisation Intersex Australia.

#OII:Demographics

#For parents

#Employers guide

#Service providers guide

#Identity documents X:passport

Gender Centre: Ambiguous_Genitalia.pdf

 

My approach to therapy

Intersex and transgender people are a diverse group. However, due to the invisibility of both intersex and transgender existence, they may similarly struggle with the ramifications of living within a rigidly gendered culture or the internalised shame of societies judgements about cross-gendered behaviour and identity. My counselling philosophy is based on 3 notions:

  1. Everyone has the right to his/her/their own gender expression.
  2. Everyone has the right to make informed and educated decisions about his/her/their own body and gender expression.
  3. Strength based empowerment and advocacy treatment models are best to support client's authentic sexual and gender identity development.

Goals of therapy are dependent on the individual but they often include:

  • Provision of a safe environment with accurate information on sex and gender diversity, in which the client can question his/her/their gender identity or intersexuality without having to make decisions.
  • Assistance with greater self-knowledge so he/she/they can make informed decisons about his/her/their gender expression and self-identity.
  • Assitance with disclosures and ‘coming out' for those who are experiencing transgender emergence, want to vary their gender expression, or who are transitioning to another gender.
  • Assisting with family and relationship stability pre and post disclosure of gender and sex variance.
  • Exploring ideas, choices and consequences of body configuration and modification.
  • Making connections with transgendered or intersex communities if desired.
  • Helping clients understand, articulate and have comfort with their gender identity, sex, sexual identity/orientation, self labelling, and or navigate sexual and gender fluidity.
  • Provision of treatment for mental health problems if present.
  • Provison of treatment for sexual function and improved sexual satisfaction if required.
  • Assistance with couple sexuality and possible challenges to partner's sexual orientation and sexual identity.
  • Finally, validation of the diversity of choices in gender expression. Although, for many people, it is desirable to transition from from female to male or male to female, some people my wish to transition to a no-binary gender.

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