Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Developing Gender Inclusive Facilitation

Chapter 4

Hi folks. I'm back again. As you can see, this week we read chapter 4, Developing Gender-Inclusive Facilitation. I picked this because it's an area where I'm shaky. When I grew up, you were male or female, and you lived with it. Period, end of statement. If someone had asked to be called ze and zim, they would have been laughed out of the building. So this is an area where my knowledge is shaky. I don't know the definitions to all the words used when having this conversation, and I know I need to learn more. It seemed like this chapter would be the perfect place to start.

It has been brought forcibly home to me over the last few years that people don't always feel like we think they "should." I hope you notice the quotes around the word should. How you feel is entirely for you to own. How I think you feel is something for me to find out. I can ask you questions about how you feel about something, or try to intuit it from your body language. But how you feel is not right nor wrong. It just is. How you ACT on those feelings can be right or wrong for you or for others, but the feelings themselves just are. If you and I feel differently, neither of us is right or wrong. We simply have a difference of opinion. We can talk about the situation, try to compromise our actions based on how we feel, but at the end of the day, those are our feelings and our opinions. And we're ENTITLED to them.

(That was the build up. This is the real what I learned from Chapter 4.) This leaves me in a strange place. I don't know enough about how a trans person feels, because I only know one trans person and that relationship is still fairly new. On the plus side, I do know a couple of things. The first thing is that it's hard to be a trans person in todays world. Some trans people have been traumatized by their treatment at the hands of society at large. People who are trans have been heckeled, pushed, shoved, punched, etc... There are even people who have been murdered for being Trans. So it's a really hard way to be. And how to tell the people that you love? And will they still love you? Will they still want to be your friend/family? What if they don't accept you? What will you do if they refuse to have further contact with you? These are all good questions to ask if you're a trans person. At the base of it, it comes down to doing the work (thinking, reflecting, imagining) and doing what's best for you. To all of those in the thinking stages, try to do the best thing for you. To all those in the initiating phases or coming out phases, good luck. And to all those who decide the best thing for them is to hide it, I wish you the best. It's a difficult decision to make, and I can't imagine having to make it. Some of the quotes in this chapter just made me want to cry. Especially, one student study participant said, "I knew that the office staff were looking at me. They all stopped what they were doing... They tried to be unobtrusive,but I could obviously tell that they had handled my records and they wanted to look at the freak..."1 I could just cry for that person. The transition and surgery are traumatic experiences, even if they take you where you want to go. And to have to go through that after all that work... It's just tough.

Another thing that I think is important is that there is NOTHING wrong with trans people. They are what they are. Male, female, undefined... Whatever they are, that's what they are. They can't help the way they feel. They weren't born wrong or crooked. They don't have a mental or physical illness (despite the DSM IV classifications of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and Transvestic Fetishism (TF)2). They weren't born wrong, they don't feel wrong, and they're not the ones that have the problem. WE'RE the ones that have the problem if we can't accept them for who they are. I think this point, that there's nothing wrong with trans people, is very much in the minority. So as facilitators, how do we get the point out that we ALL need to be inclusive? We can, of course, lead by example. And that's just to start. We can also talk honestly about the issues that trans people face in today's world. We can talk honestly about what we know, AND what we don't know. We can ask questions to find out what makes each trans person feel included and safe. These are all things we can do to help ourselves understand and empower those we facilitate who are trans. I feel I'm blessed to know my trans acquaintence. From what I've seen so far, he's an amazing person, and so strong to claim his true feelings. I'm sure it will be a rough road for him, but I'd like to learn as much as I can so I can support him on his journey.

1: The Art of Effective Facilitation page 72.
2: The Art of Effective Facilitation page 70.

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