When a baby is born, what is the first thing asked? Pink or blue?
In a world where people gender each other and make assumptions, there is a chance that mental health and emotional wellbeing are affected. Unfortunately, gender conditioning starts before a child is even born and stereotyping happens both consciously and unconsciously. There are so many reasons why adopting a binary approach to gender has a negative impact on wellbeing and the impact on health is well researched.
“The highest rate of suicide was recorded as 21.4 deaths per 100,000 population in 1988. Male suicides have consistently accounted for approximately three-quarters of all suicides in the UK since the mid-1990s. 6,507 people died by suicide in 2018, significantly more than in 2017.” 1
This data begs the question, why are so many men killing themselves? Research shows that there are several reasons for this and mental health is a huge part of it. Some men are unwilling to talk about their feelings and unwilling to feel their emotions and this accounts for some of the problems our society faces. Attitudes such as ‘boys don’t cry’ and ‘man up’ or ‘grow some balls’ are some of the social stories we hear. Physical health issues are not addressed early on as men are reluctant to visit the GP, seek medical interventions or ask for help and so often tolerate symptoms which can lead to worsening conditions, both mentally and physically.
For women, other assumptions and challenges are true. There are too many to mention here, but just for example, the ‘career glass ceiling’ that women are known to hit in their work, less pay, more home care responsibilities alongside child rearing, as well as an increased risk of abuse and so it goes on. These are all as a result of our society’s approach to gender stereotyping and social conditioning.
So as Light workers, Healers and Spiritually Conscious People, what can we do?
I would urge you to notice when you gender people. How often do you assume a person’s gender or think that it matters if they are male or female? Do you address people differently based on your gender conditioning?
I am genderqueer which means that I take a non-binary approach and do not conform to gender stereotyping. I was assigned female at birth (AFAB) and I present as ‘female’ physically, so I often get mis-gendered by people who make assumptions. As a non-binary identified person, this doesn’t mean I’m gender-neutral. This is a common mis-conception too. I am non-conforming. This is different.
In our culture, a gender binary approach has been created as it is socially constructed in our society – it is assumed that there are two biological sexes, male and female.
I urge everyone, especially healers, therapists, teachers and spiritual people to think of gender as a spectrum, with male one end and female the other, within that spectrum there are a range of other perspectives, feelings and approaches within that non-binary landscape. Gender-fluidity means that people can move around within that spectrum.
Across this landscape, there are a variety of ‘transgendered people’ identifying as a range of genders. Transgender means that a person doesn’t feel like the gender they were assigned at birth. A person doesn’t need to have had medical intervention to identify as ‘trans’. Some non-binary people identify as transgender because they are not the gender they were assigned.
Also, within the non-binary spectrum, there are people born intersex. This is not as rare as assumed. According to experts, around 1.7% of the population are born intersex and that’s the ones known about. It’s likely to be higher as intersex characteristics are often not identified until after puberty due to internal organs such as ovaries not being discovered until later on. For perspective, this is the same percentage as the number of people born with red hair.
To say that there are only male and female people and to make assumptions based on how a person looks, is a limiting belief and one that is often detrimental to wellbeing.
As a healer and coach working predominantly within the LGBTQ+ community, I see, so often, the negative impact that gendering has on individuals. So many things are unnecessarily gendered and the conditioning starts early. Baby’s clothes and toys, for example, are obvious ones. A stroll through a supermarket or toy shop immediately highlights gender stereotyping. Pink dresses with “Daddy’s Little Princess”; Blue T-shirts declaring “Little Man”; Labels declaring “girls’ toys” and “boys’ toys”; gendering dolls for girls and cars for boys. We realise how crazy this story is but the conditioning continues and for some reason, we accept it rather than challenge it.
Children at school having to wear different styles of uniforms or being gendered by teachers when being invited to line up or get into groups, ‘boys here and girls here’ is an example of such a binary impact.
This labelling leads to unconscious gender stereotyping. I recently heard a young open-minded teacher say to the year 1 class, “You boys carry those chairs to the hall and you girls wash up the paint”.
These five-year-old kids have no physical strength difference biologically for lifting chairs. The teacher unconsciously allocated jobs, asking girls to wash up and boys to carry. When I mentioned this to the teacher at the end of the session, she was unaware that she had done that and was keen to be more conscious.
She asked me how to approach job allocation in the future and I suggested that she tell the class there are several things which need to be done, list them and ask “Who would like to wash up paint pots?” Then, see who offers and pick the kids randomly if they volunteer.
If children get these kinds of messages from teachers that jobs are gendered, this may restrict their beliefs about gender roles – all of which are socially constructed anyway!
Gender Pronoun Use
I would love to live in a ‘beyond-gendered world’ where assumptions are not made based on how a person presents physically. As a genderqueer person, I ask people to use the pronouns they/them, when referring to me. I know this isn’t always easy for people for several reasons. One because they judge me as female (which I am not) and two because they are used to using ‘they’ as plural not singular. And yet, when we refer to someone whose gender we don’t know, we are happy to use ‘they’. You may hear other non-gendered pronouns too such as Ze/Zir.
If you’ve ever seen someone who is androgenous physically you might find yourself wondering if they are a ‘girl or boy’. There may be a curious need within us to know the gender of a person. What are we really asking? What genitals do they have? If you have experienced this, then I urge you to let go of the need to know the gender of the people you are struggling to label. If you need to know for some reason, perhaps because you are working with them for example, then ask which pronoun they use and be sure to refer to them by the name and pronoun they ask for.
Imagine a world where gender constructs were dismantled and people could wear whatever they wanted, any clothes, shoes, make-up, hair and so on and express themselves without the need of a binary label. How very different the state of our society would be. If children could wear what they wanted and play with all kinds of toys, or enjoy any colour and express their emotions freely without judgement, how different adult mental health would be.
We are Spiritual Beings
We all have masculine and feminine aspects within us regardless of gender labels. We all have qualities, characteristics and feelings which are actually not about gender. We are spiritual beings incarnated into a physical body.
I am very happy to open up discussions and answer questions about gender, spirituality and wellbeing. Feel free to contact me by email email@example.com.
Let’s be the kind of healers who open our arms lovingly to all people, of ALL genders on the spectrum and avoid making assumptions about those we meet.
Pip Lee Meer
Further Reading and Useful Resources:
Barker, MJ. & Iantaffi, A. Life isn’t Binary: on being both, beyond and in-between. 2019
Iantaffi, A. & Barker, MJ. How to Understand your Gender: a practical guide for exploring who you are. 2018
Twist, J. (Ed.) Non-Binary Lives: An anthology of intersecting identities. 2020