New Blog Feature: Gender, starting with Gender Activism Presentation

I’m taking the Blogging Fundamentals Class very slowly and not in lesson order (knowing ones learning style is helpful!)

Assignment: Make a feature for your blog to post more regularly on a particular topic!

Challenge Accepted! My Feature will be posts on Gender, Gender Identity, Gender Activism and Related Issues. I hope to try to post weekly and make it on Thursdays but I’ll aim for two posts per month. I may post more than weekly. For example, this post is a many part post as there are many subtopics to it.

Today I’m did a presentation at nearby school PS 234 to a 5th grade class about my activism as an artist and art therapist, especially around gender identity and trans/alternate gender rights. Also to tell them about mental health stigma and activism, being part of the Open Path Collective and LighthouseLGBT affirming website of therapists. Activism in different fronts and through different means, ie. individual personal, making art, then on community level, sharing it on social media platforms for activism, such as this blog, and especially Instagram. I brought in foam door hangers as an art activity for the kids to do at the end. It was a big hit, so I was very excited when I left. I got the kids thinking about guerrilla art and talking about the bathrooms in their schools. One kid said she was only going to use the gender neutral bathroom on the floor below their classroom…

Here are some photos from my solo art show, #BathroomArtOnly, October 2016. I’m going to start the presentation talking about an old art project from the 90s about gender and this more recent one.

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Gratefulness Day 12

The only time I used a ouija board was in 1991 when I was living in Paris on a street named Goethe. I don’t know where we got it. I was asking for something about my recently dead friend James. The answer I got was that he was “pieces-full”. I got this great satisfied feeling I’ll never forget. I was also excited that the ouija board worked of course. I’m not one for talking to dead people or ghosts and spirits. I have conversations in my head with people I know who’ve died. It’s extremely unsatisfying and frustrating. I don’t get dreams where I get to talk to someone dead either. And I don’t get any feelings of excitement like the ouija board answer yay feeling.

Anyway the phrase “pieces-ful” stayed with me because it’s a great feeling you don’t have to be dead to enjoy.

I started a 100 Days of Gratitude on Facebook for my recently dead friend/colleague Benedikte.

Today I was running and at the end of the run, I felt the “pieces-ful” feeling. It doesn’t arise like other feelings. It kind of descends and comes into you head first. Then it’s like you vacuumed your brain and then windexed it. It’s like a mixture of peace, clarity and stillness. The world is just there and you can quietly take it in. It’s a very quiet feeling.

I’m on Day 12 and I posted that I was grateful for that feeling of being pieces-ful.

It’s strange because this pieces-ful thing is where I can really actually be grateful, and not just feel it and get some idea of whatever from the Day that’s simple to post. The 100 Days thing is about the small stuff.

When I’m pieces-ful I can appreciate almost anything.

Yoga Post: Practice

  • I said at beginning of 2018 I want to link my yoga practice and writing.
  • Having a practice involves being in the process of practicing
  • Which mostly involves working on self judgments
  • Going off course from your practice can be a way to witness how you are towards yourself, punishing and judgmental or neutral?
  • This happens with yoga for me as I have an ideal or intention for my home practice:
  • I will go to bed early every night for the purpose of waking up earlier in the morning and developing a morning yoga practice
  • Today for the first time in weeks I followed the morning plan and pulled out the yoga map upon awakening and did yoga for 20 minutes while annoying morning program was on (not my choice)
  • My home yoga practice has always involved accepting whatever is going on in the environment including TV, and doing yoga anyway. There is no zen garden or yoga meditation room. It’s like doing yoga in the subway sometimes, not that I’ve tried that!
  • I am noticing more quickly how yoga can be a reminder and a reset button for the day or the next hours, reminding me to slow down and be in the moment
  • It’s weird that first thing in the morning I can’t easily do Ploughing Pose, for example, reminding me that the asanas are always different and repeating them in a different moment you notice where you’re at which won’t be the same tomorrow on or off the mat
  • I’ve been wanting my daily yoga practice to translate into food choices and struggles and constantly frustrated that it doesn’t “work”.
  • Probably I’ve heard too many yoga experts talk about how doing yoga helps you make healthy food choices
  • It’s not true for me. I want that benefit but it hasn’t magically happened.
  • A lot of food stuff is ADHD. I remember over 20 years ago, when I didn’t know about my ADHD, on starting vegetarianism, I noticed it made food easier because it limited food choices immensely. ADHD means I get overwhelmed by too many choices of food, have struggles planning ahead for it as planning is already difficult… so being able to bypass 20 other menu choices and have 2-5 choices or bypass a lot of stuff in a food market was a great thing I hadn’t thought of til it happened.
  • Self discipline is extremely hard for the ADHD mind, which gets excited by going down irrelevant paths, enjoying them and then feeling lost and unable to come back to whatever it was that the focus was supposed to be.
  • Maybe I should approach the food like my comic strip. Found a daily strip already limits me and makes it easier to do a comic. Then I started having Tuesdays be Affirmations Day and Thursdays be Gender Day. Then I found a theme for Mondays. I’m hoping I can do something for Fridays too.
  • Thus the more specific and structured and limiting, the easier time my ADHD mind has of disciplining itself.
  • Maybe food should work this way too. My daughter has “sushi Thursdays” and “Wednesday special dinner out”; maybe I could have foods on particular days!
  • I’m just figuring this out now, so I will try to figure out a plan and see if the daily comics approach to food works better than the other stuff I’ve tried, and I’ve tried all sorts of things to make my eating more healthy and “mindful”.
  • Perhaps there can be days for healthy stuff and days for “treats”. That way the schedule isn’t associated as much with denial and reward system which wreaks havoc on the ADHD already confused relationship to food…

Short Light Post!

My new writing challenge involves keeping to the point and organizing ideas so I will try that and delete the long disorganized piece I just wrote.

FYI, if you read this blog  you know the fun part of adult ADHD is coming to realize something new, finding it really cool and exciting, and also realizing, EVERYONE ELSE ALREADY KNEW THIS, so they won’t want to hear about it. That means BLOG about it!

  • Issue: Setting the following rules with myself about reading that are no longer useful and that I hardly ever follow!
    • Choose the book with some rational reason for wanting to read it.
    • If you start and get further than a few pages, you must read the whole book.
    • You must read the book in the order it was written, start to finish.
  • Problems:
    • My relationship to reading and books and writing has changed drastically over 45ish years.
    • Thus, this framework is old, not useful, ineffective, and doesn’t fit my current relationship to reading.
    • The rules are now connected erroneously to some idea about ADHD and following those rules meaning you are doing the right thing to address the ADHD, thus resulting in the ADHD trap of feeling like you can’t do things other people do with ease.

Solution:

  • Read plot and content summaries.
  • Look at Table of Contents and Index.
  • Read a small part of a random page in the middle of the book.
  • Choose part of the book and read that only.
  • Don’t read the book in page number sequence. Pick and choose.
  • If appropriate, check out the paper, the font, the layout and the visuals.

Theory:

  • I have a deep reverance for books shaped by my childhood and adolescence, of which books played a huge and extremely positive part.
  • Working with ADHD tendencies instead of against them is a more effective strategy.
  • I can allow myself to apply that to reading.
  • It is more fun to do the above things with a book.
  • It doesn’t mean I don’t read all books start to finish.
  • I only recently discovered audio books and realized I had a bunch on my “BOOKSHELF”, and wasn’t finishing them, so it can apply to audio books as well.
  • Switching from fiction to non fiction is a big switch and obviously involves changing how I read those books.

 

Explore Your Gender(s) with Tarot and Art Therapy: New Workshop Idea

(This blog  post should be about the Idea, not a lot of other related topics.) I haven’t done a workshop in a while at a professional conference or elsewhere; I had done Altered Books several times and was out of ideas so I thought, maybe there are no other workshops I can do right now.

Today, while pondering work with non binary gendered clients, I thought of connecting the Tarot cards with exploring gender. Specifically The Wild Unknown Tarot deck.

I got this deck a month or two ago, inspired by a client brining in  photos of a Tarot reading.

Before this deck, I used the Ryder deck, which is the most common one. It’s got great imagery, but I was ready for something new and more aesthetically pleasing and inspiring. The Wild Unknown Tarot deck is beautiful and made by an artist. As soon as you see the cards, you get an itch to make a drawing! It’s powerful.

Also, this deck, instead of using Page, Knight, Queen and King for the Minor Arcana, uses Daughter, Son, Mother and Father, which is very useful for art therapy and using symbols and archetypes; the Ryder deck images can get crowded and thus complicated with a lot in one card, whereas Kim Krans, the Wild Tarot artist, has made simpler drawings that help me to focus on the Central Image of the card. Plus, she uses lines and mark making for the “background” that makes it evocative. With Tarot, you don’t just look at the central images of the card, you look at the card as a whole. In her deck, each card has a strong tone or environment, which adds to how one can imaginatively use Tarot.

Tarot is for me a road to open the imagination, and art therapy is in a big part, about the imagination, and as the art therapist, knowing how to use my imagination to further whatever my client is focused on or working through at the moment.

Tarot in Art Therapy: In art therapy, the cards are not about fortune telling and big spreads. I use the cards in a very specific way, as with any art “material”, depending on the client. Most of the time I don’t use them. Sometimes someone is talking about something and a Tarot image connected to their words comes to mind. I might not even show the client the card. I might describe it or not. First it helps me to crystalize what is going on in the session through an image. I have a few clients who know the deck and bring cards up directly in the session. Examples of using Tarot would be another blog post.

Tarot and Gender: I have said that you can treat your relationship with your own gender and with gender as you might with a dream you have and wake up from. Imagine you are everyone and everything in the dream. Some characters in your dream may be people with specific genders. There may be animals or other creatures in the dream that have no gender or have a feminine or masculine energy. The environment of the dream can be considered the environment of your psyche at this point in your life or this moment. Even if you don’t think the other people in the dream are you, you can still imagine that they are, to see how it is for you to inhabit other genders than the one you identify as. Some people find this to be a useful tool as a conduit to exploring their relationship to gender and with their own gender(s) or non gender.

The workshop will be aimed at therapists and other healers who are working with clients with a diversity of gender and gender identity. It needs to first be established that when a client tells you about their gender, they are alone the expert on it. They are only confused if they tell you they are. If they have discovered something new, you need to honor their discovery, whatever it may be. You have to look at whether you yourself are confused by your client’s identity and learn how to unconfused yourself, especially if your own confusion or judgments are getting in the way of working with your client. For example, the pronouns client prefers are what they prefer and are extremely important. If you’re having trouble switching to “they” or from “she” to “he” or “ze”, that’s yours to examine. It may be that if the client is introducing new information about their gender identity, you got used to one pronoun and have to now get used to a different one, as you may also be required to get used to the client’s new name, if it has changed during this process. Or you may be getting in your own way, distracted by your own ideas/point of view/judgments, and the pronoun can help steer you back in the client’s direction.

You as therapist function as a witness to the client’s process about their gender identity. Each person has a unique process, so staying in the learning more zone is the place to be for quite a long time. When a client switches from a “NOT ME” gender to a “YES ME” gender, it is a rebirth you are witnessing. It is a big switch from a cruel invalidating environment that kept this person in the wrong gender to being born again as they know they really are and can now more fully be who they are, not who they are told to be, not who they have to be to keep themselves safe from real dangers in the outside environment, but who they really are. It is very important the your client have a lot of validating support from others, and they may built themselves a wonderfully tolerant accepting and non judgment environment already. You as their therapist need to be part of this, so you need to notice when you’re going into the judgment and invalidating ideas in your mind.

Speaking of learning more, we as therapists need to examine our own relationship to gender before even examining our “YES ME” gender. What kinds of messages based on the rigid Binary construct of gender have you gotten in your life about the male/female genders? Have you felt limited by your gender? Are you able to imagine yourself as the “opposite” gender if you identify as cisfemale or cismale? What associations do you have with the concepts of masculine, masculinity, feminine, femininity?

In the workshop, participants will write down answers to these questions and bring up any other questions that arise in the process.

Then the magic of Tarot! We will use the cards to further our knowledge of our own gender identity or identities through using the cards and the images on the cards. If the workshop is 5-10 people, we can use one or two decks, if bigger each table will need a deck.

People will have an opportunity to pick three cards, one representing masculinity inside you, one femininity inside you or yin yang energy if that expresses it more accurately. The third card is kind of the Synthesis of the Thesis and Antithesis in your gender identity process. Art and images are inherently transformative, so these Tarot cards will be markers for you personally and will aid in your own transformation in terms of your attitudes towards gender and your gender identity.

Lastly, people will get to spend some amount of time in pairs, one as therapist, one as client, and then switch places. In this example, as a client you choose any gender that does not match your own and imagine you are that gender as the client. The therapist role means you stay with what you are. Then you switch places. During this part of the workshop, the client may choose to look for a card they like in the deck or to choose randomly. Then therapist facilitates client’s exploration of the cards imagery in connection to their own gender identity or relationship to gender.

Thus, the Main Goal of this workshop is to aid therapists to work more non judgmentally with their client’s expression of and gender identity, and also to get more acquainted with their judgments and attitudes that could become counter transference if not brought to the therapist’s awareness. It also aims to expand participant’s ideas about and concepts of gender and to demonstrate how art and imagination and images can help us to learn more about gender identity and move away from any rigid old ideas or attitudes that invalidate the client and could get in the way of the therapeutic process.

Karen Pence and Art Therapy

Karen Pence has “chosen” promoting Art Therapy Awareness as her cause du jour in her role as spouse of vice president.

This is not a good fit for Art Therapy for many reasons. IT IS A BAD FIT FOR US.

Number 1: You are doing this as the vice president’s spouse, Second Lady, the sexist antiquated term. (FYI, Why don’t you start with getting rid of the First Lady Second Lady insulting labels?) Thus, we cannot separate you from the Vice President or the Administration and its policies. You as Second Lady, are representing people who want to build more barriers to all kinds of rights for minorities of every kind. As a Gender Non Conforming art therapist who works with people personally negatively affected by your administration’s racism, sexism, anti LGBTQ policies, I vote that you pick a different cause involving the healing power of art,.

Number 2: You don’t know enough or maybe you know nothing about current 2018 trends in art therapy and needs of art therapists. You haven’t even lobbied for a License for Art Therapists in the state you were Governor’s Wife Lady of. You haven’t mentioned the License Issue. You don’t seem aware that we need to have the same kind of licenses as LCSW in terms of EVERY STATE should have an “LCAT”. Make that happen and then at least you’ve actually done something very extremely important for us. And Medicaid should include us as providers.

Number 3: Put your money where your mouth is: Picking Causes to Raise Awareness equals the cause, what ever it is, needs more money. Art Therapists are not paid what they’re worth. Why don’t you spend time investigating pay discrimination at hospitals, schools and agencies towards art therapists? Do something to change that. That’s what Art Therapy Awareness is a lot about.

Number 4: Population. Yes, you’ve picked worthy but safe populations to promote the wonderful things art therapy has done specifically for such people. The wrong populations to FOCUS on. Read 2015 National Geographic that had art therapy with military personnel on their cover, AROUND 3 YEARS AGO. You have not done your homework and you have not CAUGHT UP. You are pointing your focus to the wrong issues and the wrong populations. You are not fit to promote art therapy with LGBTQQI and Alternate Lifestyle Choices, for example.

In sum that last sentence says it all for all four points.

KAREN PENCE HAS NOT DONE HER HOMEWORK ON ART THERAPY IN 2018 AND WHAT TO RAISE AWARENESS OF. SHE HAS NOT CAUGHT UP. SHE IS NOT IN 2018. KAREN: Go pick a different art related cause and don’t forget to raise money for whatever it is while yapping about its benefits.

And I stand with Art Therapists BOYCOTTING the American Art Therapy Association’s acceptance and linkage with Pence. After 20 years of membership, I refuse to pay membership dues and will not be a member of AATA until something is done about the above.

Phew. Done!

Topics

Here are the topics I came up with for posts, based on the overwritten drafts of the week:

Karen Pence and Art Therapy

Gender Identity and Invalidating Environments

Symptoms Caused by Invalidating Environments vs other Symptoms

Russian Language reBOOT after 30 years

Being Jewish

Neuro diversity

Mental Illness as Disability?

Short Posts, for Real!

In the past week, I’ve written several unfinished blog posts. I unpublished the one about Karen Pence and Art Therapy.

Since my ADHD really gets in the way of me writing coherent brief and well written posts, I’m making a rule to make very short posts.

This one is just to say that maybe it will help me focus and feel confident people understand my writing, as it is often too disorganized and wordy.