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Page published on 2nd June 2023
Page last modified on 2nd June 2023

 

On 11 May 2023 we hosted an IP Out webinar entitled “Introduction to Gender Identity and Expression”. It aimed to provide a deeper understanding of gender identity, expression and presentation and how these differ from sexual orientation. It included background information alongside practical advice about things like use of pronouns.

Speakers Jae Sloan (they/them) from the Proud Science Alliance and EDI consultant and trainer Magda Stęga (she/her) provided useful insights into some tricky concepts, their historical and biological context and their importance in society today. Many myths were debunked, questions answered and personal stories generously shared.

Read on for our report of the webinar. You can also access a recording here. In both contexts, though, please respect the personal experiences which Jae and Magda were kind enough to share with us: their stories reflect their own experiences, and were told with the aim of bringing the webinar content to life, but each trans person will have their own – often very different – story to tell.

 

The speakers

Our speakers for this webinar were:

Jae Sloan (they/them), who is an organisational development consultant, executive coach and mentor. They have 20 years’ experience working in a multinational pharma organisation as well as more than 5 years of professional experience working in education/non-profit community organisations. As an out queer (non-binary, gay) person Jae has nearly 10 years of leadership in inclusion and diversity with an emphasis on LGBTQ+. They are a co-founder and current co-chair of the Proud Science Alliance, a collective of healthcare and life sciences sector LGBTQ+ networks and partners who work together to raise the bar on LGBTQ+ inclusion within their organisations and the sector as a whole.

Magda Stęga (she/her), who is a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant and trainer with a focus on safety, empathy and trust. Magda is a transgender advocate and inspirational speaker and her goal is to empower people from marginalised groups, in particular LGBTQ+ individuals and female leaders. She talks openly about her experiences as a trans woman.

The webinar was chaired by IP Out Committee member Isobel Barry.

 

Historical context

Being gender queer is not new – many ethnicities from all over the world have recognised genders in addition to male and female for centuries. For example:

  • The Chukchi people in Siberia identified seven genders in addition to male and female.
  • Native American Great Plains tribes have traditionally viewed gender on a spectrum from male to female, including transgender and intersex persons who were considered to have special spiritual significance.

 

Some definitions

Jae provided us with some helpful definitions in the context of gender:

Sex – a social, legal, medical designation assigned at birth based on a medical assessment of the body. Typically defined as male (assigned male at birth = AMAB) or female (assigned female at birth = AFAB). In reality, there are many naturally-occurring biological variances in chromosomes, gonads, our physical and genital structures, hormones and biological responsiveness that mean we cannot limit sex to just male or female.

Gender – the cultural meanings assigned to biological sexes within a specific relational, hierarchical, historical, political and institutional context. Gender is a construct that is often described in a limited way using words such as feminine or masculine. However, the range of gender identifications is, in reality, unlimited.

Gender identity – our personal sense of what our own gender is. There are many terms that people may use to describe their gender identity, eg transgender, cisgender, non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid and polygender.

Gender expression – the way someone expresses gender through their behaviour, mannerisms, interests, physical characteristics and/or appearance.

Gender presentation – how the world sees and understands your gender.

Sexual orientation – a person’s identity in relation to the gender or genders to which they are sexually attracted.

 

The basic principles

Jae presented three “foundational principles”:

  • “I am who I say I am” – I have the right to define my own gender identity and how I express my gender identity.
  • Gender identity can change over time. It can be fluid and that’s OK.
  • Don’t assume someone’s gender based on their appearance. Just because they look feminine (or masculine), it doesn’t mean that they identify as a woman (or man). If it’s contextually appropriate, ask them what pronouns they use.

Both Magda and Jae shared their own stories and what stood out was how important it was for them to feel seen and accepted for who they are. When people use their correct pronouns they feel seen and heard…and they recognise that it can be really hard to remember to use the correct pronouns. From their point of view, they say it can be exhausting to constantly justify yourself, so often they might not remind you – but if you correct yourself then that’s highly appreciated.

 

Tips for individuals

  • Introduce yourself using your pronouns and use pronouns in your email signature and on your business cards – this signals that you are supportive and accepting of others’ choice of pronouns.
  • Get used to using pronouns – practise in a safe environment with friends, pets, etc.
  • Continue to educate yourself – see the resources below.

 

Tips for managers

 Recognise that small actions can have a big impact.

  • Respect and listen to your staff – they want to feel respected and heard.
  • Don’t say that something is impossible. Work together to look for a solution. For example, if someone asks to change their email address to correspond to a name change, how can you facilitate this?
  • Affinity groups can be so helpful in making people feel accepted, safe and supported.

 

Further resources

A recording of the webinar can be accessed here. Please note that it includes personal experiences which both Jae and Magda were kind enough to share with us, so please respect their stories as lived experiences, which were told with the aim of bringing the content shared to life. Jae’s and Magda’s stories are representative of their own experiences, but each trans person will have their own – often very different – story to tell.

Jae’s slides can be accessed here; they provide a comprehensive summary of the factual information discussed in the webinar, including historical context, definitions, tips and resources.

Jae has also recommended the following gender identity and expression resources:

You may also be interested in this post written by our IP Out committee recently, as an allies’ guide to trans rights and issues.

 

Have a bit more time?

In a conversation filled with wisdom, historical insight and radical mercy, ALOK talks openly about their story and their movement to #DeGenderFashion. They challenge us to get to know who we are outside of who we have been told we should be.

In this documentary, leading trans creatives and thinkers share heartfelt perspectives and analysis about Hollywood’s impact on the trans community.

Lynne Parker seeks wisdom from organisational development consultant and business strategist Jae Sloan, and comedian Abby Wambaugh, finalist in the 2021 Funny Women Stage Award. Both guests identify as non-binary but from different and surprising perspectives. This frank and revealing discussion challenges us to reconsider gender in terms of identity, expression, sexuality, upbringing and more. From “wearing a baby” to playing with Barbie, why are we restricted by traditional male/female binary “norms”? We can change the world one non-binary step at a time once we accept that the only boundaries are the ones we impose on ourselves.

 

Please get in touch

We would love to hear your thoughts, comments and suggestions in response to this article. Please get in touch with us by commenting below or via email to [email protected] or [email protected].

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