As a trans nonbinary human and therapist of an all-gender adolescent group, I often spend my time thinking about the intersection of gender and wilderness therapy. I am eager to publish a series of thoughts and questions that arise in my work, and will start with gender affirming environments. How do we move beyond the gender binary? What does a space that accepts people of all genders look like and sound like? How are we contributing to a thriving environment for our trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming (t/nb/gnc) youth?
Creating a gender inclusive environment requires intention and awareness. The environment should provide structure, meaning, safety, and affirmation of existence. We are each responsible for adapting our own language, mindset, and structures to assume that people of all genders are present and in the environment with us:
- Be intentional when using gendered language to describe people and things. Is the use of gendered language even necessary?
- Include name and pronouns in introductions and first meets, creating space for t/nc/gnc folks to share their chosen name or for folks to share a preferred nickname. Include name and pronouns in introductions even when you know most of the people. Names and pronouns can shift over time and this creates a structure that expects exploration of names or pronouns.
- Address moments of misgendering. Notice, apologize, and move on.
- Encourage people to wear clothing and choose haircuts and hair styles that fuels confidence and supports gender expression. Expect people to explore various styles of clothing and hair styles.
- Provide access to single-stall or gender inclusive bathrooms. Encourage people to use the bathroom that aligns with gender identity.
- Adjust your organization’s information systems to include people’s chosen name in records, rosters, IDs, etc.
So, what happens within the environment that we have created? This is where the intersection of gender and wilderness therapy exists. Here is another blog article related to True North All-Gender Programming. Lookout for future writings that spotlight wonderments, learnings, questions, and joys.