Hi friends! Two weeks in and somehow this is already one of the longest years that has ever existed. Nicole and I have been taking frequent walks and it’s done wonders for my mental health. Of course, I am rarely serious so walking around with me results in stopping to make things like this video:
Anyway, it’s the first resource of the year and I realize that I have been doing an absolute shit job at sharing resources on particular subjects. Let me back up a bit. I used to be on training staff for San Francisco Sex Information (SFSI). SFSI was founded in 1972 and did a couple of things. First, we had a switchboard where people could call in (or email) their questions about human sexuality and get unbiased, non-judgmental, science-based responses. Second, we had a ~60 hour training over the course of 4 weekends where we would train our sex educators for the switchboard. The ~60 hours of human sexuality training was more than what was required in medical school so we would have a wide range of folks taking our training, including medical professionals and psychologists. Yes, I used to teach doctors about sex. It was quite the experience and I met some of my closest friends doing that work.
While absorbing all the info about human sexuality was important, the most invaluable takeaways were first, the communication skills we taught because hey, this all can be really sensitive, fraught, and taboo to talk about and second, the research skills which were taught to you by actual librarians. HAHA I’m super biased because one of my besties and I were the librarians who gave that lecture when I was part of staff (she did it well before I joined staff as well).
All this to say that I have a bunch of resources on gender and orientation and getting people’s pronouns correct that I’m going to start folding in. You cannot agree that Black lives matter without also accepting that queer Black lives matter and trans Black lives matter. This newsletter will continue to be a space where we can grow and learn so that when, if you haven’t already, you meet someone who uses they/them pronouns, you stumble less (or hopefully, not at all).
For those of you not part of my glittery queer bubble of the Bay Area, a lot of this information is both really new and really overwhelming and I’m keeping that in mind with the resources I am sharing. For my fellow unicorns here, feel free to pass these resources on to people in your lives when they ask you to educate them!
Let’s get to it!
The Gender Unicorn is a visualization that helps explain the meanings and differences between Gender Identity, Gender Expression, Sex Assigned at Birth, Sexual Orientation, and Romantic Orientation. Years ago we had used the analogy of a computer, where sex assigned at birth was your hardware, gender was your software/operating system, and orientation was your network. That is a wild (and not super accurate) oversimplification and the Gender Unicorn is also a simplification but is, in my opinion, much closer to the mark while remaining easy to understand.
It’s really important to click through to the website, which has definitions as well as this image in multiple languages. There’s also an interactive version and a coloring book version that can be printed out.
It’s a really great starting point that many people can understand, unlike me trying to teach someone about gender which is basically like this:
“Okay, so, you have a huge room and there are two boxes, one labeled ‘man’ and one labeled ‘woman’ and there are people standing in each of the boxes but there are also people with one foot in each box and there are people running back and forth between the boxes at any given moment and some stay in one box a while and then go to the other box but then there are also some folks in neither box who are doing some kind of aerial suspension acrobatics situation and then there are folks who are roller-blading around while they’re on fire and yodeling and then there are folks in no boxes but sitting on a couch eating popcorn watching everyone else and then there are people who aren’t even in the room at all and are in a completely different neighborhood altogether and then there are people who go to the room, open the door, shudder, and walk away.
And that is gender. Except, like, infinite.”
So most of you might want to start with the gender unicorn is what I’m saying.
This lovely little comic is a super beginner’s guide for both people who are figuring out their own queer and/or trans identity as well as the people who are in their support network who want to learn more about queer and trans identities. By no means is the information in this book exhaustive as it’s small enough to fit into a large pocket. It manages to cover the basics of some really common questions without being overwhelming or academic.
The main characters are snails and some adorable non-humanoid creatures. It’s clear the authors don’t want you to assign gender to the characters, which is a really good thing to practice.
It’s written in a format where each little section is titled by a question, then some discussion about the answer or answers. It begins with “What is queer?” which is wonderful because that’s a question that a lot of people have. Many people who aren’t under the LGBTQ+ umbrella can be confused by it. The truth is that queer can mean different things to different people. Some people are also concerned that it used to be a slur and this book addresses that as well.
The book also offers simplified information on the definitions of and differences between gender, sex, sexual orientation or attraction, and gender expression. There’s also a section in this book that caught me by surprise but not in a bad way because it totally belongs here, and that is a section on relationship basics and what some signs of healthy relationships are and also what are some red flags. The thing is, a lot of us as teens learn about relationships from what is modeled in our life and what we see in the media. It’s rare that any of us, especially those of us in the LGBTQIA+ crowd, are given a resource before mistakes are made.
I love that this book exists. It can help alleviate some of the emotional labor involved in educating people about queer and trans identities and do so in a way that is thoughtful and fun. You can get a copy here in my Bookshop!
That’s it for this week! You can shop any books I’ve mentioned in this newsletter at my affiliate shop, The Infophile’s Bookshop, and support independent bookstores. If you want to send me some snail mail, you can find me at P.O. Box 21481, Oakland, CA 94620-1481. If you want me to send you some happy mail, feel free to give me your address.
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