Author and gender therapist Dara Hoffman-Fox joins us once again to talk about gender, identity, and the full spectrum that lies outside the traditional binary. We discuss terminology, misconceptions, and the important journey of discovering one's self identity.
You can find Dara's online course by clicking here.
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Multiamory was created by Dedeker Winston, Jase Lindgren, and Emily Matlack.
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Dedeker: We share a publisher also
Jase: Oh really? I didn't realize that.
Dedeker: We didn't actually realize that until quite recently, when we were talking over email.
Emily: That's fantastic, how cool.
Dedeker: I'm really excited that we've got Dara back on the show, after three years, after far too long.
Jase: Yes, it was really great. Definitely a lot of stuff that I learned, even as someone who feels like I have a decent handle on this, I definitely learned a lot in this conversation. I think that, for a lot of people out there, hopefully you'll also get something out of this. Learning never stops, right?
Dedeker: Always, always. Let's get to the interview.
Emily: Let's do it.
Dedeker: Alright, we are here, with Dara Hoffman Fox, thank you so much for coming back on the show.
Dara: Thanks for having me back on the show, and nice to meet you, Emily, since we didn't catch each other the last time.
Emily: I know unfortunately back in 2015. As we all realized, today, it's been a long time.
Dara: I'm so happy your show seems like it's thriving, even more than ever.
Emily: Thank you.
Dedeker: Yes. It's really a miracle [laughter]
Emily: Indeed, it is.
Dedeker: I mean, not to be like -- I don't want to have any negative undercurrent there, or anything like that. It's more a miracle just between scheduling three people's different schedules that we're able to --
Emily: Especially when you all are in Japan.
Dedeker: Yes. Before we started recording we were looking, and Dara was on our show back in 2015. Episode 28, which is baffling to me, because honestly, if it's been two weeks since we recorded something, I don't even remember what we recorded.
Emily: If it's been yesterday, I don't even know.
Dedeker: Yes, exactly. It really feels like 200 years ago. But, I'm so glad that we've been able to stay in touch, and stay in contact, and here we are, again. Dara, we wanted you to come on the show specifically, because we wanted to talk about non-binary identities. Not too long ago, we did an episode specifically about gender identities and gender terminologies, just to help answer some people's questions and help bring some people up to speed. We've done a number of episodes over the course of the show about gender related topics.
I think the way that I wanted to dive into this today was with language and terminology. I've noticed that a lot of people, ourselves included, have sometimes made the mistake of lumping together transgender and non-binary, sometimes using them interchangeably, or sometimes using one as an umbrella term for the other, which is not necessarily correct. I wondered if you could talk about when someone tosses out the term "non-binary," what kind of people are we referring to?
Dara: Well, and just to let you know, the terminology question comes up so often, and it's not easy for anyone, even for myself, as a gender therapist. Certainly, I think on and off, we can address that throughout the interview. But, the most basic way I like to explain it is that, think of it as, when it comes to gender, the binary being male and female, and non-binary is the third option. That's definitely simplifying it, but that's what I want to do for the moment, so that we can begin the conversation there.
If someone does not feel that they are male, and they do not feel they are female, there's this umbrella called "non-binary," that people can fall under. Then within that umbrella, there's all different options, underneath that.
Jase: Okay, got it. And then, just to differentiate that, transgender means that you were assigned one gender at birth, but that you identify with the other one. It's still a binary, but -- is that correct? Am I understanding that correctly?
Dara: You are correct in that it's like, what does transgender actually mean? Because it has, definitely, I've noticed, it's evolved a lot over the years.
Dedeker: Yes, I was going to say.
Dara: Yes, totally. I heard you address that in the other episode about gender, which I thought was really awesome, actually. So, nowadays, I've noticed that a lot of people, not everybody, are reserving the word transgender for those, like you said, Jase, who do not align with their gender assigned at birth, and they identify with, like you said, the other gender, the opposite gender. Additionally, to the extent of taking medical steps to remedy this, through hormone therapy, and surgeries. Again, this is I want to make sure everybody knows this is not for everybody who uses the word transgender.
I've noticed that more people are using the word trans, to take it down a notch in terms of saying -- like, for myself, I would identify myself as trans. I don't feel comfortable saying that I am transgender. It could be just because, through the work that I do, I'm like, no, for me, my definition of transgender is that you are now going through the changes, like with changing your legal name, and like I said, going through medical intervention, that's just my own definition of it. Most important, it's always important to ask the person if you're interacting with somebody, how they identify, but generally speaking, transgender has taken the place of the word transsexual, which is used very seldom anymore.
Some people, especially those who are older still use the word transsexual to mean, "I am not only transitioning from my assigned gender at birth to the opposite gender, but I'm using medical intervention to do this." Kind of, wanting people to know, "This is how serious this is." It can be a very clinical term. I think that's why it's not used as often as it used to be, because it's been used negatively, as well.
Jase: That's really interesting. That's honestly the first time I've ever heard a distinction made between saying trans and transgender. I assumed it was like saying poly and polyamorous, where it's just people do it to save some syllables when they're speaking. [laughter] That's really interesting to make that distinction, though, and that's really valuable for me to know. I'm trying to wrap my head around, like, oh gosh, thinking of all these conversations I've had, of like, which one were they using? What one did they mean? That's really interesting.
Dedeker: Well, I think it's interesting, just to have language that belies the fact there is such a spectrum of experience, which I think is always the thing that we run into, with the very limited English language is that there's more human experience than there's labels for it. That comes down to gender, comes down to relationships, comes down to sexuality, all of those things.
Emily: To that point, recently I read an article that talked about how being non-binary doesn't mean that you can't have another gender identity. I wondered if you could discuss that a little bit. Because in the article, they talked about being a non-binary woman, that woman was their way of describing how they were socialized and how they grew up, and non-binary was the descriptor for how they didn't identify with one gender versus the other. That was news to me, because I didn't realize that one could identify with both or multiple genders, or non-binary.
Dara: Yes, I think you make a great point that, again, when it comes down to it, I've noticed that there's so many different options when it comes to identifying as non-binary. For instance, a gender, or there's a word, [French word], it means to feel like as if you are without gender, and I know for myself, I spent some time trying to figure out if that's how I felt about myself, being non-binary. It's still like, even for me, it's like an elusive, "Do I have a gender, or not a gender?" I think I've concluded that I feel like I do have a gender, and I even concluded that my gender is Dara, for right now.
It might always be that, because I feel like that you said, Dedeker, language. How am I going to find the right words to describe it? I think it is that my gender identity feels like me. It is also consistent, so I do not feel like I'm gender fluid. There are those under the non-binary umbrella who do feel like their gender identity tends to be fluid, and it can change, whether it's day to day, or less or more often than that. When it comes to this person that you're talking about, who identifies as a non-binary woman, like you said, for themselves, they say, "This word woman is because of this, and this word non-binary is because of this."
I think it's really neat how you can just really just put together all these words, and make this phrase. Sometimes I throw in the word "queer" for myself, because I feel like queer -- I'm non-binary and queer identified, because queer encapsulates not only my gender identity, but the fact that, for my sexual orientation, I used to identify as lesbian, but now that I know I'm non-binary, it doesn't really make sense for me to say I'm attracted to the same sex. I have not been sure what word to use for that, so I think queer can be an umbrella once again, for both of those.
I think that's one of the bonuses of being non-binary, is that, then, they're just -- pick your words, put them together, then make a sentence and then tell people what that sentence means.
Dedeker: You briefly touched on a little bit of your personal experience, and your personal journey and exploration with this, and I think I'm just curious of your own journey towards realizing like, "Okay, I think this is the word that describes me," or coming to the realization like, "I think my gender is Dara." Can you give us a sense of what that process was like for you? Is it just like, a lot of thought exercises for you, or what were the turning points for you? If you don't mind sharing that.
Dara: Yes, I'd be glad to. I would say that, when I was 30, which was almost 14 years ago, is when I definitely realized that I was, at the time, gay. That was this first layer of unrepressing. I mean, I had been unrepressing for 10 years at that point, but finally saying like, "You know what, this is going on, this is true." Then, it took another 10 years of that, before -- It was 2014, I was already working with a lot of transgender clients at that point, and I had maybe two non-binary clients.
I remember, even with them, I was like, "What is this non-binary? Tell me more," and I kept messing up pronouns, and I was just a hot mess about it, but I went to a conference in Philadelphia, and it was a non-binary workshop, and I went to it as just a clinician, like, "I better learn more about this." I'm still surprised by what happened in that workshop, because they said, "Let's go around the room and introduce yourselves, and also tell us if your cis-gender, meaning that you do align with your gender assigned at birth, or if you're transgender."
Now, looking back on that, that was a weird question because you can-- you don't have to identify just as cis-gender or transgender, but I knew that I did not feel comfortable identifying as cis-gender, and that just blew me away. I was so surprised. My name tag said, "My pronouns are she/her," and when it came to my turn, I just said, "I don't know what just happened, but I'm a little confused, because I feel like I can't answer either way." Of course, it was this amazing space of people, validating and affirming.
I remember that, let's see, it was probably about six months later that I decided it was time to write my book, which specifically is a workbook to help people figure out their gender identity. I did not know, again, that I was writing this book to help myself as well as others. It took me about a year and a half to write the book. That was going on, and I started to, I would say what I started doing, just because I wasn't sure what was going on, was lessen how much femininity I was expressing. For me, that's what was feeling uncomfortable, and it was even like, "I'm going to stop carrying this bag."
Well, actually I was like, "I'm going to start carrying it around like a satchel, like across my shoulder, diagonal." I don't know, I thought that was a big step. And then, eventually I just stopped carrying it, and I'm like, "I'm just going to carry my phone, and this wallet case." Little things that I was just like -- we all label it male or female, masculine or feminine, but over a period of at this point, I would say it was probably about three and a half years, just changing my hairstyle, getting different tattoos, just like moving away from what felt uncomfortable, moving towards what felt comfortable, and that was just the the Dara-nesscoming out.
But still, it felt to me like the more and more I did that, the less comfortable I felt being gendered as female.
Jase: I feel like based on what you just said, about writing your workbook, and realizing you were writing that for yourself, I would suggest, as part of your marketing, to do like the "hair club for men" thing, like, "I'm not only the CEO and founder of 'Conversations With A Gender Therapist,' I'm also a client."
Dara: Yeah, I’ve totally done that.
Jase: So, for your late night TV infomercials, I definitely recommend putting that on there.
Dara: Yes, I haven't used that phrasality.
Dedeker: You're talking about putting down the things that felt more feminine to you, and maybe picking up things that felt more masculine to you. Then eventually, it's less about feminine-masculine, just what feels more Dara to you. I think that actually that's a great segue into our next question.
Emily: Yes which is, we were recently at a conference, and a person spoke up, and they said that they often felt as though they were, even by people who consider themselves not non-binary, they didn't feel androgynous enough, or like they were on one spectrum, or the other enough, to be taken seriously as non-binary. I wonder, from a standpoint of someone who is cis-gendered, or anyone, how can someone make a person feel as, I guess, open and supported as possible, even in those situations where they feel as though they're not taken seriously, calling themselves non-binary just simply because they don't look a specific way.
Or, they do fall in the spectrum, from societal pressures of looking more sounding or being more feminine or masculine.
Dara: I think this is a huge issue for so many people who are non-binary. Because, I would say for myself, not on purpose, I fall into a typical pattern of non-binariness where I do have a more androgynous appearance, and that's where I'm comfortable. I also know there's almost a privilege to that, like people to a certain extent are like, "You must be queer something, based on what I'm seeing here."
Emily: Based on this situation I'm seeing here.
Dara: Thank you. I'm in the process of creating an online course, to train other therapists how to work with non-binary clients. What I did was, I put out kind of an APB to those who I know on Facebook who are non-binary, to say, "Would you be willing to be profiled in this presentation?" It was awesome, because I got this wide range of people. They're definitely those who are non-binary, and they're like, "Yes, I feel pretty androgynous," but then I had people who were assigned male at birth, and people who were assigned female at birth, who were still, if you looked at them, you're like, "God, you look pretty binary to me," therefore, how invalidating it feels.
Then, they don't feel like they're seen. There's some who are assigned female at birth, who, they want to take hormone therapy that helps them feel less gender dysphoria, but then they grow a beard and their voice drops. They're like, "Great, now I'm being seen as a man, I really, I am non-binary, but now it's like this difficult choice I have to make." You're absolutely right, that non-binary can honestly look like anything, and I've been practicing, especially since I've been getting serious about my pronouns, that I'm reminding myself, as I move through the world, that I don't know what anybody's gender identity is, or their pronouns, until they actually tell me.
I'll even refer to somebody, like, my barista at Starbucks and I'm just like, "They, they, they, they, they/them did this," until I know otherwise. If it's somebody I interact with on a regular basis, I've made sure to have the pronoun conversation with them, and usually I say, "Could you use my name instead of ma'am?" Then they're like "Oh yes, you come in here all the time, like, that's totally cool." Where did that tangent come from? Oh, yes. I think that's a great way for you and your listeners to approach this, is to start, you have to practice it. You have to remind yourself, "I don't know what anybody's gender identity is, or their pronouns, unless I actually ask them."
Jase: Actually, on that subject, something that I just wanted to bring up on the show, because I don't think we've talked about it on here, but this was brought up to us when we, for our Patreon-only Facebook group, one of the things that people do when they're signing up is they read through our guidelines of how to interact in that group. One of the questions that we had on that thing they fill out is your preferred pronouns, and someone pointed out to us, they're like, "Actually saying, 'preferred pronouns' is in itself a little bit invalidating, rather than just asking, what are your pronouns."
As in, saying "preferred" implies that they're not your real pronouns, but you'd like to use these instead or -- anyway, it was something very interesting, so we obviously changed that on our site. I was curious, was that something that you've also encountered people saying that, or that is a --
Dara: It's amazing you brought that up, because I was just thinking about that about an hour ago. It was, because it's been only-- I've only caught wind of it maybe within a couple months ago, that saying "preferred pronouns" -- maybe it was about six months ago, that saying "preferred pronoun" is, like you said, for the reasoning that you mentioned, is falling out of fashion, and let's use new terminology and language for that. I didn't really notice anybody taking it very seriously until maybe the last couple of months, where now people are saying "Hey, by the way, if you say that that's invalidating, to a certain extent." But "preferred pronoun," it was used for several years, on a regular, regular basis.
It is going to be -- it's one of those things where even for myself -- the reason I was thinking about it because I'm making my online course, and I'm recording and I said something like, "Hey, as a therapist, you can have a poster up in your office. My poster says, "My preferred pronoun is she/her," and I was like, oh, no, I just said preferred, and my posters are now out of date, and I need to get-- obviously I can go back and erase that.
I was trying to decide if I should just leave that in there, or take it out, because it does prove the point where it's like, "Yes, this was totally cool at one point in time, but now more dialogue is happening around this." And now, sure, good points are being made about why that's not that's not quite exactly the language that's best to use.
Jase: Yes I appreciate that, and I would recommend leaving it in, to have that conversation. Because I know that, for myself, it never even occurred to me that that would be a thing and if I went to a site or a workshop, and they said, "Ask someone, 'What are your pronouns?'," I might still go into my practice and say, "What are your preferred pronouns?" Because I've heard that somewhere, and that's rattling around in there, and not even realize that that's a distinction worth making.
Dara: Same here, I need to practice in stop using them. There's a Facebook group I'm in, it's really awesome but, sorry, it's just for therapists who work with LGBT clients, but that conversation comes up all the time in there, and all the therapists are freaking out, like, "Oh my gosh, I have to go change my paperwork, I've got to change my website," but everyone is taking you really seriously, once the conversation started about that.
Dedeker: Yes, gosh, I'm sorry to keep coming back around to the language thing, but -- I don't know because it's like, on the one hand I think I see a lot of people get frustrated, and not just around this particular topic. I see people get frustrated of like, "Oh, what words can I say? What words can't I say?" But then, I feel like there's this other side of it that's actually really exciting, about the fact that like, we're in a time where people are talking, and things are changing. It is just these building blocks that continue to evolve.
Jase: Yes it reminds me, actually, we talked with someone, gosh, this was quite a while ago, but someone who, at their workplace were trying to educate other people that they worked with. It was in sales, and it was like a fairly conservative work space, but this person, she identified as polyamorous, but wasn't out at work, because it was a fairly conservative place, but was still in charge of the department of HR, about educating people about these things, about how to be more respectful.
In talking to her, one of the things we came to was this idea that, when you're talking to these people at work, their answer will often be something like, "Well, whatever, it's fine, like no one here is bothered by that, like, no one said anything." To say, "Well--"
Emily: That's an assumption, entirely.
Jase: Right. It's to bring up that, "Yes, but, if even if that were true,: and maybe it's not, people might be hurt by it, and just not say anything, because they don't want to get made fun of more, or be made more uncomfortable, because they don't feel safe to do it, number one. Even number two, when dealing with your clients, they're trying to please you the same way you're trying to please them, and they might laugh along with something that makes them very uncomfortable, and then, you're losing business. Even though you won't even know why, because they'll say it's for some other reason.
To bring this up of just having these conversations about language, I think is very related, where people might be like, "Oh, now we have to go to all this trouble," and it's like, "You might have actually been hurting yourself in the way that you were speaking beforehand, not even realizing that you were making connections not possible for yourself, or losing out on business or offending potential clients without even realizing it." That was about about sexual orientation specifically, but I feel like it applies with this, too.
Dara: Yes, 100%. Like in the course I'm creating, there's a whole section about micro-aggressions. And we all-- I'm guilty as well. I'm sure I commit them all the time, when it comes to marginalized groups that I'm not a part of. I know that I'm like, "I wish, I hope somebody tells me, if I say something," whether it's a client, or a friend, or anybody, but I know how hard that is on my side, when I'm-- I'm sure you all experience it too where I'm like, "That thing just happened, that person just said" -- like, I have a friend who, every time he Facebook messages me, he's like, "Hey, girl, what's up?"
I'm like, "When am I going to tell him to stop doing that?" I've known him for over 10 years, it's like, because I've known him for long, I'm like, "I know you've been used to that," and then I just feel like a pain in the butt, so then I'm like, "I get it." I know what it feels like to, then, like you said, Jase just say, "All right, maybe later, or I'll just move past it or I'll chuckle about it." It's difficult, because you want everybody to be paying attention, and not commit the micro aggression, but then, for the person who it happens to, there is this burden of responsibility to then say, like, "Well, if I don't say something, how are they going to know about it?" Unless they're really woke, then.
Dedeker: Well, but then, at the same time, I feel like sometimes it comes down to an energy and emotional labor thing, because, Dara, I'm sure in your position, this is your job and this is the stuff you talk about and think about all day, every day, and write about all the time. Then, sometimes you get at the end of the day, and someone messages you, "Hey, girl," and I imagine maybe you're kind of like --
Emily: You're just like, "Fuck it."
Dara: That's an awesome point.
Dedeker: I mean, I know that's honestly -- I don't know if this is necessarily a micro aggression thing, but that's how I end up feeling in talking about polyamory, or non monogamy or things like that. I spend all day writing about it or coaching, and then on the internet, someone makes it dumb comment about non-traditional relationships. I just want to be like, "Oh god, I just can't right now."
Jase: I just don't have the energy for it.
Dara: For sure, or they make an assumption about monogamy, and just saying something, and you're like, "You totally just assumed I'm monogamous," and knowing how -- yes, that's a great example of it. It's like, anybody listening to the show, they probably experienced a micro aggression about that, on a regular basis, and then, could depend on, did you get enough sleep that night? Are you hungry? You've got to check in, and be like, "God, this is going to take bit of energy for me to actually step up and say something about this."
Jase: In our conversation about, gosh, I'm blanking on his name right now, about studies about polyamory. Do you remember his name?
Emily: Ryan Weatherspoon.
Jase: He talked about that, in the studies that he's been doing, about non-monogamous people. The the way that having to do that constant, mental arithmetic of like, "Is it worth it right now for me to bring up this thing, to spend that energy to address this, or do I just not, and let it go?" Like you were saying, "Do I want to take the time to do this right now?" and he was talking about just how that quality, itself, is a mentally tiring thing, that definitely affects us on a day-to-day basis.
And, being a straight, polyamorous person, you might experience a little bit of that, especially being a straight, polyamorous, white person, I should say, you would experience a tiny taste of that, but then, the more minorities or more disenfranchised groups that you're a part of, that can really add up to be this mentally exhausting thing every day, that even yourself might not be aware that that's going on. I found that really interesting when he was mentioning that.
Emily: We just wanted to take a quick break from the interview to talk about some ways that you can support our show. One of those amazing ways is to become a Patreon supporter. We have such an incredible group of people who are our Patreon supporters, and they give a donation to us every single month, and it really helps us. It helps fund basically our tours, we would not have gone on tour without this, and also, all of our costs every month, for putting this podcast on. In addition, we have created this amazing community, it's just sprung up around us, through our $5 level, which will enable you to be come a part of the Patreon Facebook group, a member of that.
It's amazing, because the people that are on there can talk about what's going on in their relationships, if they need help with anything, also, all of the amazing things that are occurring in their relationships, stuff like that.
Jase: Yes, having that space to talk about stuff is so cool.
Emily: Yes, absolutely. It's a really, really important thing for us, and for them. Also, at the $7 level, you do not have to listen to us do ads. You can get ad-free episodes a day early, at the $7 level.
Jase: They also have bonus content, in them.
Emily: And they have bonus content, that also is super amazing. Then, at the $9 level, we just had one of these, but you get to be a part of the exclusive video discussion group. We are on that every month, and again, it's like a polyamory processing group, for everyone involved. It's, again, another really, really amazing community of people that we get to discuss things in person almost there, every month. Again, if you can contribute something, every little bit helps. You can even contribute $1. Go to patreon.com/multiamory and become a Patreon supporter today.
Jase: Yes, the next thing you can do if you don't want to join the Patreon community right now, is to just take a moment and leave us review on iTunes, or on Stitcher. I know people might think that reviews don't really matter, but they actually do. They help us to show up higher in search results. They help other people decide if this is a podcast worth listening to. If you're going to invest like an hour of your time in something, you're more likely to do it if you see that there are other people talking about what they got out of this and what it means to them.
If you do get value from this show, we'd really appreciate you taking a moment to go write us a review on iTunes or on Stitcher. It also helps us know what it is we're doing that is meaningful to you, and what keeps you listening to this. Also, at multiamory.com/store, we have some fun much like t-shirts. I'm wearing one right now, if you're watching the YouTube video you can see me wearing the Multiamory shirt. We also have some that just have our logo, that don't say Multiamory on it. While that might not be the best marketing for us, it's a really cool way to be able to wear that.
It's kind of a secret way to be a Multiamory fan if you don't want people asking questions about, "Multiamory, what's that?" They can just see the symbol, and if they know what it means they'll be like, "Hey, wait a minute, are you?" "Oh, you too." And then, you have a new best friend.
Emily: Me, as well.
Jase: Yes, and it's awesome. You can get those at multiamory.com/store.
Dedeker: Another way that you can support our show, you can support our show while doing your weekly sexual shopping.
Emily: Your what? Wow.
Jase: Your weekly sexual shopping?
Dedeker: You don't know.
Emily: We have no idea.
Dedeker: Don't sexual-shopping shame people.
Jase: No, I'm more like sexual-shop impressed.
Dedeker: Yes. Anyway, if you go to adamandeve.com, you can use our special promo code, which is MULTI, M-U-L-T-I. If you use that code, then you can get 50% off on almost any one item. You get free shipping, and a free gift. It helps support our show, as well. And, you can use the promo code multiple times, which is arguably the best part.
Jase: For your weekly sexual shopping.
Dedeker: Like I said, your weekly sexual shopping.
Emily: Every week. Get on there.
Dedeker: You don't know.
Jase: I just love the idea of calling it sexual shopping. It's just --
Emily: Hashtag sexual shopping.
Dedeker: If you need to go to an online sexual shop, Adam and Eve is the one for you. Again, go to adamandeve.com and use promo code MULTI at checkout.
Jase: Actually, I have a question. I'll give you some context. The other day, I was playing a board game.
Dedeker: This is the naughty section of the show.
Jase: This is the nerdy section of the show.
Emily: Oh my God. That's fine.
Jase: I was playing a board game called Gloomhaven, but, for our listeners out there, it's essentially like Dungeons and Dragons, if you're familiar with that type of a game. Where you have a character that you're going to live with for quite a while, and play through multiple sessions. And there's all sorts of different races of people, not just elves and gnomes, but things you haven't heard of in other games. I was playing this one particular one, where we learned that there was a race in the game that doesn't have gender. All of their gender pronouns are "they." I was like, "Oh, that's really neat."
That that's a part actually written into the game, and I decided that I wanted my character to be like that, even though it wasn't of that race. I was like, based on how I feel this character, I was like, I would also want to be "they." I was explaining this to one of the people I was playing with. I was like, "My character is non-gender conforming." He was like, "But, they have a gender, though. What is their gender?" I was like, "No, it doesn't matter. The point is that they don't identify with either one and are probably 'they.'" He's like, "Yes, but they have a gender. What's that?"
I realized, in having that conversation that, I didn't have a lot of great, succinct ways of putting things, to explain to someone, because it's not my lived experience, every day. It's not something that I have to explain every day. Whereas, I find with polyamory, I've gotten to the point after several years now, where in that situation, I don't want to have a whole conversation about it, I have like short things I can say, that people kind of get, that are somewhat accessible. They go, "Huh, okay. All right. I guess I can take that." That bare minimum thing, and I realized when it came to gender, I didn't have that.
I was like, "Shit. I don't know how to have this conversation." The thing that I finally came back to, and luckily, someone else playing was also on board. The way that she put it was, she's like, "Why would you need to know, unless you're going to have sex with them."
Dedeker: Even then.
Jase: Even then, yes, I guess. That kind of like, "Why do you need to know that?" was the question. That's the best we could do. I was curious if you found any better short-hands or little statements to bring up, to help people understand in a way that is succinct, to not have to --
Dara: I think that's really neat, that you have that. You had to, for a minute, be like, "This must be what it's like to be non-binary." I put myself in your shoes. If somebody said to me, "What is your gender?" I still feel like, I don't know, like, "My gender's Dara." That's my answer, but I still feel like that's a "Go away" answer, kind of thing. I think the answer of, "Why does it matter?" I think that's a great response. You have to be ready for a further discussion with that, because that person might be like, "Well, here's why it matters." And then, you would want to follow on with that.
Kind of like what we were talking about earlier, you could be like, "Well, just to let you know, that if you're non-binary, which means you don't feel like you're male or female, it's possible that you could feel like you have no gender." That could be the answer. That person's like, "No, what is your gender?" You're like, "No, it's okay. That exists, that somebody can feel like they have no gender." That could be a short answer for that, because, like I said, there's the category of feeling like you have no gender, there's a category of feeling like you have a fluid gender, there's a category where you feel like you are multiple genders. All of that is a possibility, underneath that. Does that help?
Dedeker: No, I think that makes total sense. I feel like in that context, my question is like, "Is that person just trying to ask what body parts does this person have?" Do they just want to know, how do they physically imagine this person, in their brain?
Jase: Well, yes. And I feel like that's part of what I was getting at. When he kept insisting like, "No, but they have a gender." What I think he meant by that, and we didn't go into a whole conversation, because we wanted to actually play the game.
Emily: It's like, "What genitalia do you have?"
Jase: I think that's what he meant, was that. What biological sex did this character have?
Dara: Oh, yes. Right. I think you're right, that it really depends on the situation, and the person you're talking to, and how much you want to delve in, and be like, "What are you really trying to ask here? Why does it matter?" If they go there, when it comes to the genitalia, then that's -- depending on how far you want to take the conversation. Again, it's like, "Why does it matter, unless you want to know this person intimately?" That would be its own conversation, separately, for itself.
Emily: Right. Unless you have good reason to--
Dara: Sounds like they had a beef.
Jase: Well, yes.
Emily: He did, for no good reason. That's stupid.
Dara: I don't know this person.
Jase: I guess, that's the thing that I find is sometimes difficult, to have this conversation about gender, with people who haven't already spent some time reading about it, and thinking about it, and discussing it. Because there is this confusion between gender and sex, for one, and this conflagration, if I'll be all wordy here, between gender and body parts.
Those are inherently linked, rather than, "They're linked because we're raised a certain way." It's more of how we've been identified to the world, and how the world identifies us.
That conversation is hard, because it's just like, "No, I am who I am because I have this genitalia, or I have a beard, or whatever it is, like that I present with these features."
Whereas, in reality, it's the way that society has treated you, because of those features you have. It's like getting that bridge, there. I wondered if you had any kind of ways of like -- how do you intro people this who've never even thought about it before? Does that come up very often for you?
Dara: I would say if I dabble on the social media in the areas that I usually don't dabble. I stay in my safe zone a lot of times, but you never know, if somebody will pop up, like a friend of a friend of a cousin, or something like that. It's good practice, because then I'm like, "I got to bring in my 101 skills, maybe even like, pre-101." I think it's important to be able to, again, figure out like -- I think it really is important just for even like an emotional safety thing. Can you figure out, "Where's this person coming from? Why do they want to know this, and how willing are they to listen?"
Personally, I'm not into getting into a debate where I can tell it's going to get caustic, and nasty, because I just don't have time for that. I put them over here on the side. "You are not going to change. You just want to be argumentative. You have your own repressed projections that you're doing right now." For those who are like, " I don't get it, I'm ignorant. This is what I've learned, but I'm willing to listen to what you have to say," then totally, I'd be happy to have that conversation, to talk about how these secondary sex characteristics that we know about, that are quote "male and female" that the separation between that and gender identity needs to --
That's just the first step, is to be able to separate that from one another, knowing that each person who doesn't feel aligned with their gender assigned at birth, is going to be different when it comes to their comfort level, with either genitalia, or their chest, or their hormone make up, and that it could change over time, as well, the more that they learn and discover about themselves.
Dedeker: Yes. I think that's so interesting that you talked about finding that distinction between -- I guess, especially we're talking about this in an online context, which is where so many of us live these days. But the distinction between telling who's the person who, again is not going to change their mind, and is out to get me, or is out to make a scene, or whatever, versus who's the person who could learn something, maybe even wants to learn something, and is just ignorant, or using the wrong language, or something that.
I think it's so important to be able to tell that difference, and I think the sad thing is, I feel what I see a lot online around topics like this is a lot of people, I guess, either wasting energy on the people who are definitely not going to change, wasting energy and arguing with people who are not going to change, or it's wasting energy on attacking the people who are just uneducated, but who do want to learn. We see a lot of that too and that's so hard. Like, a newbie pops into a group, and uses the wrong pronoun, or uses the wrong language, like says "transsexual" when they should have said "trans," or something, and that person gets dogpiled on, as it were.
This just comes up because the fact that we've been talking about this, in online communities, a lot. I just, yes, I'm not sure how to get us all culturally more on that bandwagon of being able to tell the difference between those two things.
Dara: I'm so cognizant of that, because it makes me so sad when it's like, it is a person who really just made a mistake, and they didn't know. I've done that with other marginalized groups, by mistake.
Dara: I know the difference between being like, "Oh, by the way," -- I said something ablest the other day on Facebook and I didn't -- I said something about turning a blind eye to something, and someone is like, "By the way" -- that's all they said, and I was like, "Oh, crap, I'm so sorry." That was all, but I have also been told in other ways, when I've said something, and I know how it feels when I'm scolded.
Even when I apologize, and I say I'll change it, and I'm going to learn about this, and still being told, "Wow, I'm really surprised that you did that," and just being able to feel what that feels like, I don't want to make anyone feel like that. If it turns out that they are open to hearing the feedback -- I had a good example last week, there was a podcast I did and it's a therapist who runs this podcast. It's a really popular podcast. He accidentally misgendered me, in the introduction, the outro, and in all the publicity, using she/her pronouns, and I had already let him know that I use Dara, or they/them and that ended up --
But, the conversation we had after that was amazing, and he's going to take my course, and he's going to subscribe to my newsletter. He was just, "Oh my gosh. This has been really humbling." Re rerecorded the intro, and explained what happened in it. There were other therapists that chimed in, and were like, "Hey, you misgendered Dara. We noticed that, we know that Dara uses they/them pronouns." But, that was a good example of like, I wanted to be sure I needed to be compassionate, as I let this person know that this happened, because this is going to be a public thing, that everyone's going to see in this group.
It worked out really well, I'm really grateful. I'm not surprised, because this person, he's really a kind and compassionate soul. I knew that, going into it. But otherwise, it really is tricky to navigate this, and I'm sure you've experienced it, too, at times. You're like, "How do I say this to somebody who just made an assumption about monogamy?" And knowing, as you said, how much energy -- I was just exhausted, the next couple of days after having this conversation, as important as they were. Like you said, I'm like, "This is my personal life, and my professional life, and let's just take a break from it." But, that's what we do as activists, and in the roles that we are. We're on 24/7.
Dedeker: Yes, right. Being on 24/7, combined with social media, that's also on 24/7 kind of sucks.
Emily: Never mind, I never should have.
Dedeker: You talked about mostly being is in a safe zone, most of the time, and I know that definitely what the three of us have experienced, for those of us that generally spend most of our time living in more liberal areas, geographically, or even spending time online in safe spaces online, that are more aligned with our values, and use the same language and things like that. It can be easy to lose sight of how much blow-back people who are non cis-gendered get, in our culture at large, and that's not just with having to do with genders.
It's also people who are gay, or non-white, or non-Christian, or non-monogamous, all these thing, that we can create our little safe space, and then start to forget like, "Oh gosh, there is this big, much less forgiving, world out there." Right now, I have a friend who lives on the East Coast, who's non cis-gender, and she's just having a hell of time with people doxing her, and having a hard time at job interviews, and just getting a lot of blowback. I'm guess I'm wondering is, for people in these situations who aren't living, geographically, in a place that's very supportive, or very safe, are there any specific resources that you might recommend for people to take advantage of, outside of just telling people, "Move to a safer city," which is not an option for everyone.
Dara: Right. Yes. Wow, that's a great question, because I get a lot of messages from people who absolutely live in areas like that. I guess, not to have it as a cop-out, but definitely finding support online, again, is really, nowadays, can be really, really helpful. I mean, people write to me from all over the world, and I recently had a new client in Colorado, but she had moved from Puerto Rico, and said while she was living there, she was like, "Your YouTube channel just really got me through a lot of hard times, and just feeling there's somebody who's keep me company, who understands." I was, "Wow, that's amazing."
Sometimes I don't realize the reach that this sort of information can have. Being able to find people, not only who you don't know, on YouTube, for instance, but then connecting. I use Facebook, a lot, so that's why I use it as an example, but you can use Reddit, and Instagram, and finding people you know that you can connect with, and talk to, throughout the day, when it's been difficult, or maybe even make plans to like get together with. I think, if there's any way possible that you can locate some sort of queer-friendly or trans-friendly place in your state, even if it takes two or three hours to drive to it, and you know, "Once every two months, I'm going to go to that place."
That's where the support group is, that's where this center is, just some place that you know, that you can just sometimes take this respite, and be in a place where you can feel very safe and accepted. You can Google that kind of stuff, to see if there's any place in your state. Even finding a therapist in your area, who can maybe help you out. I do have a video on my YouTube channel called "How To Find a Gender Therapist," there's a lot of different ways you can even find somebody who's trans-friendly, to be able to talk to about this, and get their support to try to help you get through all of this, and just knowing, again, that there's somebody there who can be able to help you through that.
Jase: That's great. How important that is, even if it's something you can only get to, not that often, just how restoring that can be, to have space for a little while, where you're not constantly having to do that evaluating of like, "Who can I bring this up to? What can I say? Who should I call out on things?"
Dedeker: "How much energy to I have to answer questions?"
Dara: I think it's important to have that space, where you can feel validated, and seen, and affirmed, and a lot of times, that can even maybe take you further on your journey, when you're like "Okay, that felt really good. I would like to be that more often. How can I take that next step?" Because that happens with my clients, a lot. I have clients who, they come to see me and they'll change their outfit in the bathroom. Let's say that they are a woman inside, but everybody sees them as a man, and they'll change into clothes that they feel more comfortable in, and they'll just sit during session with me, and then, they'll go back to the bathroom and change again, before they leave.
Even if that's their one time every two weeks, where they can feel like that. The hope is that, they want to be able to make it more often, but they could come in like that for several months, before they even think like -- I had one client where she was like, "I think today, I want to actually go to my car dressed like this, and would you" -- I was like, "I'll go with you, if you want." We walked out together to her car, and then, after that she was like, "You know what, that was, a lot less difficult than I thought it was. I think I'm ready to go pump gas like this, and go to Starbucks like this."
Those are those little -- just being able to start with one place, where you can feel safe, and affirmed. It can really make a big difference.
Jase: You mentioned earlier that you have this course that you're creating, that's for therapists, and counselors, and professionals, but you mentioned to us earlier that it's also something that anyone could also sign up for as well. Is that correct? Can you tell us a little more about that course?
Dara: Yes, for sure. You don't have to prove your therapist to sign up for the course or anything like that. The thing is that the content in this is very non-binary 101. There's discussion about, "Here's why there are so many non-binary identities." "Here's the different ways people who are non-binary will use pronouns, and names," and, "Here's different ways you can practice this in your life, every day, to make sure you're being more aware of the fact that there are non-binary people in the world."
The reason the advice is given for therapists, very specifically, like you said, Jase because it's in the therapist's best interest, for business, besides just being a nice human being, to makes me sure they're doing this right. I put out a survey, and asked a lot of non-binary people how comfortable that they feel, that maybe they could find a therapist that would be non-binary aware, and it was at about 50%, or a little bit less, understandably. And I polled therapists, and they said, they felt like around 50% confident in themselves, to be able to provide that service.
There's definitely a gap there, that's needed. I would say a lot of the information in this course is just general non-binary 101 stuff that almost anybody could really pay attention to, and get to know.
Jase: That's an online course, then, that they can sign up for through your site? How would they find that?
Dara: The link that I'm going to provide to you is through teachable.com. This is first time I'm trying out that platform, but I've heard a lot of good things about it. Basically, you can go to this page, and sign up for the course. You go at it at your own pace, you pretty much can watch this one segment of the video, and if you're like, "Oh, that's great, that's good for today," and check back again in a few days. It's not something you have to make sure you set aside a chunk of time to do. It's definitely self directed.
Jase: And that link we will have on our write-up for this episode. You mentioned that there's an early bird price right now, too, right? For about a week before the course comes out, is they can still get the early bird price?
Dara: On June 11, is officially when the course will be launched, and so, at that point, it's going to go up to $40. But, the early bird prices $30. Based on when this episode's being aired, you'll have a little less than a week to get in at that early bird price, but you won't have to wait very long to then have the course arrive in your email box.
Jase: Awesome. Thank you so much. And, if you could just leave our listeners with where they can find more of your work. Obviously, we'll have those links in our show notes, but real quick, your website and your YouTube channel, maybe.
Dara: I have this umbrella called "Conversations with A Gender Therapist," and underneath that, I have a Facebook page by that name, I have a YouTube channel by that name. My website is darahoffmanfox.com, but I also have put that underneath that umbrella. If you're interested in my book, you can buy it directly from me, which is at discoveryourgenderidentity.com, and if you order it through that website, then I will sign the book, and you'll also get a free copy of the eBook, which is like a PDF. By all means, I know a lot of people buy these things through Amazon, because it could be a little cheaper and also free shipping.
However you want to acquire the book, I would be happy for you to do so.
Dedeker: Excellent, awesome. This is great. I feel like we could talk about this for hours, and hours, and hours, but thank you, as always, for coming back, thank you for sharing your wisdom.
Jase: I feel like I learned so much today.
Dedeker: I know.
Emily: Yes, for sure.
Dara: I'm so happy to hear that. It's been great to talk to you.
Jase: Bye bye, thank you.