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July 3, 2023

The Nuances of Gender

In a world that is constantly evolving, it is essential that we open our hearts and minds to embrace the beautiful diversity that exists within humanity. One aspect of this diversity is gender, which extends far beyond the traditional binary concept of male and female. It is a spectrum of identities and expressions that encompass a wide range of experiences.

In the following letter, a team member writes openly on their reflections on gender that have manifested over the past year. This letter is a heartfelt invitation to explore the concept of gender expansiveness, to celebrate and honor the individuals who identify beyond the confines of societal norms. It is a call to cultivate empathy and understanding, creating a more inclusive and compassionate world for everyone.

I wanted to share a personal journey that has opened my eyes to the nuances of gender. It’s a story that revolves around love, growth, and the power of embracing our authentic selves.

A while back, I met someone who radiated an energy that was both captivating and comforting. Let’s call them G. I was struck by G’s authenticity and fearlessness in expressing their true self. They identify as non-binary, and as our connection deepened, so did my own understanding of gender.

In the early stages of our relationship, G and I had many heartfelt conversations about gender, identity, and self-expression. They shared their experiences navigating a world that often tries to force us into boxes based on societal expectations. It was eye-opening.

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One particular conversation with G left a lasting impression on me. They talked about the gender binary, its roots in colonization, and how cultures worldwide, pre-colonization, embraced and even revered trans and two-spirit individuals. We discussed the power dynamics at play, and how Western influence sought to erase the rich tapestry of gender identities among people of color that existed for centuries.

G’s words resonated deeply, prompting me to question my own understanding of womanhood. A title that was given to me and that I’ve claimed for 29 years of my life. I found myself pondering,“What does womanhood mean to me, and what are my ties to it?” 

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As people of color, we are aware of how colonization has conditioned us to believe certain (often false) narratives about ourselves and others. 

My conversation with G emboldened me to take a hard look at myself and question certain truths I’ve internalized growing up as a (previously) cis-straight Filipina woman. It was an exploration of my own gender identity and the ways in which it had been shaped by external influences such as culture & societal norms, mainstream media, family & upbringing, religion, education, and many more.. 

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In this journey of self-discovery, I also came across the Babaylan, pre-colonial indigenous priestesses, healers, and spiritual leaders within Filipino society. The Babaylan were known to encompass a range of gender expressions, including those who identified as trans or two-spirit. They held significant influence and were highly regarded for their wisdom, insight, and connection to the spiritual realm.

Learning about the Babaylan and their revered role within my culture opened my eyes to the truth: that there is so much more to gender than what society has conditioned us to believe and that diverse gender identities existed and were valued in many indigenous communities, including mine.

As I embraced this expanded understanding of gender, I began to feel a sense of liberation and freedom. I questioned the limitations placed upon me by society, and I delved into the depths of my own identity. It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

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What I’ve come to realize is that going beyond the gender binary is not only crucial for individual self-discovery but also for mental well-being. It allows us to break free from the constricting molds that society has imposed upon us. It opens up a world of possibility, where everyone can fully embrace their authentic selves without fear of judgment or rejection.

Through my journey with G, I’ve witnessed the transformative power of embracing and honoring diverse gender identities. It has not only enriched our relationship, but it has also sparked a fire within me to advocate for trans rights and challenge the norms that perpetuate harm and exclusion.

As Pride month ends, let’s celebrate the beauty of authenticity and challenge the limitations imposed upon us. Let’s recognize and honor the wisdom of our ancestors, those who revered and respected the expansive spectrum of gender identities. Together, let’s create a world where everyone feels seen, heard, and celebrated for who they truly are.

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  • Name moments when you felt a strong connection to womanhood and femininity as well as moments when you may have questioned or felt distant from those identities.
  • How do you feel about traditionally feminine elements, such as clothing, hairstyles, or mannerisms?
  • Do you feel a strong alignment with being a woman, or do you experience a sense of fluidity or ambiguity?
    • Are there times when you feel a disconnection from both traditional binary genders?
  • Do you feel a deep connection and sense of belonging to womanhood?
  • How have societal expectations, family dynamics, and cultural norms influenced your perception of gender?
  • Are there any pressures or assumptions associated with being a woman that you find restrictive or uncomfortable?
  • Does the idea of being perceived solely as a woman create feelings of unease or dissonance within you?
  • Which identity feels more congruent with your values, aspirations, and personal growth?

At WOC Therapy, we make it our mission to eradicate the stigma around mental health in our communities. We strive to create a welcoming and supportive space, where our clients and families are able to slowly unlearn certain misconceptions about mental health and receive the care they need. If you or someone you know is in need of support, we are here for you. Simply submit an inquiry, and someone from our team will be in touch.