Karen Pence and Art Therapy

People who know little about art therapy in 2018 would see in all the publicity about Karen Spence’s so called support for art therapy and picking it as her “cause” something positive, however this is not a simple thing at all. If it were that simple, there wouldn’t have been big fights going on at the most recent Art Therapy Conference of the American Art Therapy Association back in November 2017. I did not attend that conference, but I heard accounts of the actual yelling fights that broke out there. Not to condone such behavior when reasoned discourse would be the ideal, but extraordinary times and the complexity of these issues reveal that this issue is complex. One constant of the current Administration (the Presidential one. I admire Michelle Obama’s ideal of not saying the name of the president, partly because everything he does and stands for goes beyond blaming just him, obviously. )

Many art therapist who work with immigrants, people of color and the LGBTQQI populations are boycotting the American Art Therapy Association’s embracing Karen Pence being a spokesperson for art therapy. I recently decided to NOT renew my professional membership of the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) for the first time ever, after paying for membership since I was a grad student ’97 to ’99.

Intelligence to some degree involves looking further into something and seeing nuances and the real truth. Seeing beyond propaganda, which is defined as “information of a misleading nature used to promote a biased or political point of view” involves seeing through things that are not what they seem. By now, most of us are way more well versed in seeing the real truth between the lines and inside all the invented news and so called truths going on on a daily basis since the Inauguration. Even the attendance record for that was twisted into a pathetic lie.

All this to say that nothing is what you think it is. There is “candy” everywhere that is being offered as wonderful, while really it is poisoned. I believe that to be a proper metaphor for Karen Pence’s so called advocacy of art therapy as a profession. She would be more truthful if she said she was advocating for causes involving PTSD and the military, and Cancer treatment. I would probably not be writing this is if that were the case.

And here is what I think is the most important question: what is Karen Pence using and what are her goals.

For those who have missed this segment of the news due to a host of other real scandals and terrible events associated with this administration, Karen Pence announced she was choosing art therapy advocacy, raising awareness of “art therapy” (as she sees and defines it, not as it really is) as her big cause. Interestingly, in an  interview when someone mentioned Tipper Gore, presumably because of her advocacy of mental health issue and stigma, she made a face and ignored the comment. Who knows what that means, but it is suspect to me that she could not graciously acknowledge her predecessor’s efforts in a cause very connected to art therapy. Nowhere have I seen Pence talk directly of the stigma of mental illness, poverty, affordable care, insurance issues, etc.

You can read The NY Times insulting article about Pence’s so called support of art therapy which insultingly suggests we should be grateful for any support of our field and how art therapy research isn’t extensive or good enough and there needs to be more funding of it, yet another reason we should be jumping for joy that she deigns to choose our field. It shows Karen Pence promoting a program for service people, Creative Forces. Yes, art therapy is useful for people in the armed forces who suffer trauma, but what do we really want from someone promoting art therapy? By now it is quite obvious that when you ally your cause with something to do with veterans and the military, you’re choosing to ignore the other populations that are not so easily cared about by all people of all persuasions. It is a safe bet. Not to knock the importance of health insurance, affordable care, PTSD in the military, stigma etc,. all important causes. But if you are mostly talking about this population and children with cancer, don’t say you’re raising art therapy awareness. Most art therapists work with other populations. What populations? Diverse. You can’t say it’s mostly people with chronic mental health conditions or anything else. You can talk about populations always associated with art therapy, such as the above, and then you can talk about how ubiquitous art therapy is in its uses in 2018.. IF you’re advocating for art therapy.

It’s not 1999. Art therapists needs in terms of raising awareness for art therapy in 2018 have very different focuses in terms of art therapy awareness. There needs to be nationwide licensure, not just a few states licensing art therapists. Is Karen Pence talking about how, if an art therapist moves from NY to California, their license is not accepted, and they gave to get a marriage and family license, costing them hours of classes and a ton of money for classes and state board tests? If an art therapist moved anywhere that isn’t New Mexico, Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey or Oregon, they have to expend a lot of time and money to obtain a license to practice. Most importantly, this would be a license in another associated field. She doesn’t get the most basic concept that universal licensure is what is needed to actually respect our work. She doesn’t understand not just the financial toll but how it is a matter of respect for art therapy. Being told your master’s degree and your credentials are not enough is the worst aspect of being treated as third class citizens by other related fields of social work, psychology, and counseling.

Hey guess what, Karen Pence? Indiana doesn’t have a license for art therapists. Have you said anything about that? How disgusting is it that a person with her power thinks she is promoting art therapy but doesn’t even discuss the licensure issue in her own state?

This is not to mention issues around the administration’s racist, and anti LGBTQQI policies and disgusting policies on immigration. There are real issues around diversity in the art therapy profession that she has no interest in addressing.

What I want from someone promoting art therapy awareness is to look beyond the obvious, like programs for the military. How long ago did National Geographic publish a major feature about mask making and art therapy with the military?

The cover of their February 15 issue: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/02/150213-art-therapy-mask-blast-force-trauma-psychology-war/

What she is talking about and highlighting is what’s really important. This where wag the dog and propaganda come in. It’s not unique to Karen Pence. Even Michelle Obama, who would be a million times more preferable as a spokesperson for art therapy, was not immune to the pressures of big Agra business, when her campaign about children needing to change their diets changed to talking uniquely about exercise. At least she got some things done that mattered before the food industry basically shut down her real message. And at least she addressed a controversial topic head on. https://www.google.com/amp/s/thinkprogress.org/how-big-food-corporations-watered-down-michelle-obamas-let-s-move-campaign-85d09b60607b/amp/

Today’s issues about art therapy were there in 2015. The real focus needs to be on other things than veterans and sick children. There are so many important political figures involved in such worthy causes. Karen Pence is choosing to promote art therapy in a way that shows no real understanding about where the field is today and what really needs to be the focus. It’s obvious Pence is only figuring on art therapy in a way that avoids real and controversial issues.

Even her definition and idea of the scope of art therapy is outdated at best. Art therapy is more than an opportunity for patients to express themselves non verbally and creatively. Art therapy is useful in more settings than the now stereotypical. It is more than useful for children, people in chemo, military personnel with PTSD and people on psych wards. Has she mentioned anything about private practice or said that she herself could be a patient with an art therapist? No. Has she talked about work in schools and work with underserved populations and immigrants? Has she talked about the licensure issue in her own state and almost everywhere else? Has she discussed health insurance companies and how only a handful pay art therapists? Has she talked about Medicaid specifically and what it would do politically and financially for art therapists and their patients if Medicaid reimbursed us? Has she discussed a big elephant in the room- the people in urban areas caught in a terrible bind in terms of their mental health- most of my patients- which is young and older adult professionals who can barely pay their rent on their salaries and have health insurance that doesn’t cover mental health? These people have either huge deductibles that mean they have to pay out of pocket for art therapy or any therapy or they have no mental health coverage. Or they have such huge student loan bills that even first to at least third year associates at big law firms can’t afford a regular out of pocket fee for therapy. Has she talked in any real way about art therapists salaries at agencies and hospitals? Does she even know all the actual research published in the American Art Therapy journal that the NYTimes article ignores in their claim that maybe we should be grateful for crumbs/ for anyone in power to deign to try to raise any kind of awareness about the profession of art therapy?Yes the NYTimes seems to be stuck in 2004 when it comes to art therapy.And who else has taken on art therapy as a cause long before it would even be considered sort of cool or cute? Hilary Clinton!Here’s what I call propaganda of the wag the dog kind. Pence and her people say this of who benefits from art therapy:Those who benefit from art therapy include individuals who have survived trauma resulting from combat, abuse, and natural disaster; people with adverse physical health conditions such as cancer, traumatic brain injury, and other health disability; and individuals with autism, dementia, depression, and other disorders.”Would you see this as a description of those who benefit from therapy provided by other fields? No. Of course it’s true but the emphasis is guaranteed to keep the field of art therapy stuck in 1990s. This description does not emphasize private practice and suggests that art therapy benefits people with very extreme diagnoses exclusively. It ignore what really needs to be the primary focus of raising awareness. We want art therapy out of the dark ages. Out of people graduating and not finding any jobs at places with the populations Pence cites. Does she care about the salaries of art therapists at agencies and hospitals? Does she know about the facilities that used to serve the homeless, chronically mentally ill and low income people that have closed and continue to close?She is also irresponsibly encouraging people to go into the field of art therapy with absolutely no understanding of student loans and the unemployment many will face after graduation not to mention the low salaries and terribly disrespectful job titles and job descriptions? Does she care about how many obstacles are faced by people with a masters in art therapy who have the goal of obtaining private practice?With the “Me Too” movement it’s sickening that Pence wouldn’t connect rape and sexual abuse victims as benefitting from art therapy; how can she uphold such values while being associated with the current administration. She may have spoken up during the campaign but then got back in line and currently seems to be unaware of a responsibility to discuss this issue while promoting art therapy.I’ll end on an important statement that summarizes the most important reason for my ending my 20 year membership in the American Art Therapy Asdociation due to their allying with Pence:Ms. Broitman said her clients in Chicago are worried they may lose their health insurance or be deported as a result of the policies supported by the vice president. “You can’t shine a spotlight on art therapy without being accountable to the real danger our clients currently face,” she said.

“I don’t see how you can advocate for art therapy if you are not advocating for people to have access to mental health care,” she said. “If these programs are cut, if Medicaid expansion is cut, then there is no art therapy.”


The Magic of Tidying Up: Between the Lines

I started a post about the “irrelevant” part of this very “trendy” trend setting book and ended up a few lines in talking about death. This happened with another draft that was a kind of new artist’s statement. I think it’s more to do with the act of writing than any real experience of death. Writing goes with memory. Writing for someone like me, with a very bad short and long term memory, or a very random memory of the irrelevant, is permission to remember whatever I want and make up the rest.

Writing is kind of its own version of memory. It’s like the title “In Search of Lost Time” or maybe it means a specific “time lost”. The only time capsule I have is to use writing to get to that time period. It’s a time machine that doesn’t really go anywhere but your think you just jumped into 1985.

Painting can be like that but not so specifically. It’s more like an archeological dig and involves the finding of weird rare artifacts, using them in some piece of art, digging something else up, putting back what you thought was rare and was not important, digging down and up at the same time, or just hiding all the artifacts and adding more layers to the dig, which I guess could be digging upwards- the opposite of digging up. Making layers on a painting or using old drawings in collage, all that is much more fun than writing. When I thought I had to choose between being an artist or a writer, I chose artist partly because it was much more unfamiliar. There is not much mystery to writing. The process may be weird, but basically writer’s write. Being an artist is much more like being in a fun house because it’s way more fun, at least for me. Being away from words is a huge relief. I also chose art because of something else, maybe judgment and fear of judgment or freedom. Being an artist means making stuff that is very hard to pin down and judge, figure out what’s wrong or insincere or boring, have to edit out and shape. you just get some materials and play and worry about whether it’s good or not another day. When others see my art, they usually just have interest and aren’t sure why one piece may seem more compelling than another. As an artis, I am aware of competing with myself, whereas as a writer, you’re competing with a high standard and it’s easy to get crushed by judgment. At least for me. Someone can pick up your pages, and read them and tell you they didn’t even read more than the first page. You can’t just see a corner of a painting, but you can read two sentences and decide to put down the book or piece of writing on paper.

Writing is not archeological for me. It feels like playing in the sand box, jumping in excitedly, feeling like everything in there is new and fun, building a weird clumsy looking bizarre sandcastle and enjoying it, then having to leave it and go home to dinner. I come back the next day and sometimes the sandcastle just disappeared; more often I look at it and need to step on it and destroy it; then I get fed up immediately with the sand castle and forget what it even looked like. Then I’ve got sand on me and in my socks and shoes and just want to wash it off as quickly as possible and go find something else to do.

Then maybe the loss part is, you kind of remember the sand castle but it’s hazy, you suddenly remember that particular sand box and that sand, you miss it and try to find it but it’s gone, so you make another sandbox that you’re trying to make it like the lost dead one; the whole thing just doesn’t work out and you’re left with a feeling of Fuck it so you just  sit in the sandbox you made that doesn’t look like the really great one you lost, throw sand around and cover yourself up in sand or dig a huge hole.

Writing in one probably cliche metaphor. Doing that repeatedly can be downright torturous and exhausting.

I can clearly remember the writer’s notebook I found during my first Kondo “Tidying Up” frenzy two years ago. It was a regular Meade notebook with a green cover, spiral bound. There was a short poem or paragraph in there somewhere written on the left side of the page as I wrote on both sides, where I’m comparing writing to something and the teacher has written something like yes, interesting or some encouraging phrase. I was in 11th grade in a writing class.

Unfortunately soon after the excitement of finding that notebook in the late fall of 2016, I had the brilliant idea to bring it to my therapist, which worked out fine, kind of a show and tell session. I did hear an outside person say to me, “what possessed you to bring that to therapy anyway?” clearly not a let’s play show and tell in therapy kind of person, which a lot of people are. Not everyone is still in first grade or 7 in the session. Of course I had very good reasons as a writer to want to bring it to therapy. I was coming out of yet another weird writer identity “closet”. It seems that coming out of the writer closet is a bizarre thing for me of going into other closets and weird rooms and thinking I’ve come out only to see another door  to open. It’s like a fifth dimension closet.

The notebook also had my best photo taken in high school, black and white of course and developed in the dark room my sister made at our house, of my kitchen clock which was backwards in the photo. Stupidly I left it in there. Then I went to Home Depot, got some paint and heavy stuff and left the bag with the notebook and my special Zojirushi coffee thermos in the bag. I tried desperately to retrace steps and do all the stuff you do, call the MTA Lost and Found, run to the next station. Both it and the thermos and the Tote Bag had vanished. I hope a housless person sleeping on the subway had an enjoyable read and now has very hot coffee that stays hot for 7 hours at least.

Writing and coffee go together. How fitting to lose both. Over a few cans of paint.

I wouldn’t have cared if it was just a diary type of journal, but it was a time capsule specifically giving me a window into my teenage self as a developing writer with the comments of my English and writing teacher sprinkled throughout. Your reader is always important but really super Important if you’re really young and just discovering your voice or writing as a process. She was encouraging throughout and also stepped into therapist territory when I wrote some more real stuff that probably disturbed her.

I remember a bunch of stuff I wrote in there, but I want to remember the poem I wrote about writing as a process because writing is such a strange monster haunted house torture chamber process for me and because, as a writer I like to read about what writing is like for other writers. This 1984/85 me was a different writer from me now but connected to it. I think I wrote a poem repeating the phrase “Writing is like…” over and over and putting something in it but I can’t remember what. It may have had something to do with leaves and raining. Something very different from a sandbox.




Journal Images, Part 2!

I actually used an image from the art therapy coloring book of a glass jar to make a little bottle of favorite things, inspired by Bullet Journal ideas…

I love drawing cactuses and copying drawings of them.

This is one of those doodles that just got left at the top of the page. You can see the back of the page, scores for Gin Rummy game…

These were all black pen drawings, simple. The rest of the art in the journal is collage made with tape and drawing in it…


Journal Art

This is the front of my last journal recently completed. And below is the back. I was making a lot of signs at that time, November 2017.

Something I wrote on the inner cover that I like to keep in mind, sort of  the yoga of speech. Does it have to be said? Does it have to be said now? Does it have to be said now by me? I would add, Does it have to be said now by me in these words in this way…

Another sign. above. This was when I tried to make this a “Bullet Journal” and numbered the pages and had an index! Of course I didn’t complete it…

This was my December page for the bullet journal, which I quite like. I will post more groups of images from this journal soon!


More on Yoga

“We know what we are now, but not what we may become.” -William Shakespeare

Writing equals ass in chair. Stephen King

I am reading a book called Meditations from the Mat: Daily Selections on the Path of Yoga, by Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison. Rather, I am being read to, as it’s in the form of an audio book.

I’m able to do my yoga practice while listening to the book. This is not what you’re supposed to do if you’re working on mindfulness. The first idea is to try to do or focus on only one thing at a time. As an art therapist I work with people who often talk while they are making something. There are lots of reasons for it.

Anyway, the thing I like about listening to the book while doing my yoga practice is that it feels like I’m being reminded what is going on that can’t be seen, whether in body, mind or spirit. Also, today I was doing seated head to knee posture right when he started talking about the posture; that was cool. It’s a male voice reading the book, which doesn’t lend itself to remembering that two people wrote it, one seems to be female. They start each daily reflection with a quote, and they quote from a wide range of sources, from Shakespeare in the above quote to scriptures of all religions to poetry to Tom Petty and yoga students.

Both the quotes above kind of go together and to the practice of yoga and writing. In order to do yoga, I have to make the time and get the mat out and get going. In order to write I have to put my ass in the chair and write. Showing up to your life is a concept that we all recognize, easier said than done.

Today I’m not sure what I’m writing about. Maybe this is my reflection on today’s practice. When in my studio, I use the floor and walls. The yoga mat is usually dusty and little pieces of paper or glitter or whatever collects on the floor gets on the yoga mat. My feet and hands get dirty from touching the floor. I shake this stuff off when rolling up my mat.

Actually rolling up the yoga mat has been a constant struggle since I started doing yoga about 18 years ago. It seems so impossible to get the mat to roll up properly the way everyone else does it, so that one side isn’t bulging out. I’ve tried doing it slowly and other things, but often I give up and leave it rolled up but not even. The other day someone said, “Just hold both sides at the same time.” I’m sure I have tried that many times; this isn’t rocket science. For some reason, being reminded or told that, I was able to focus on holding both ends and got the mat rolled up quite evenly. It is still not a guarantee that the mat gets rolled up properly. I have never been a symmetrical person in any way, so I start off balance. My body isn’t balanced; neither is my mind. One of the most important things I learned in yoga is to attend to both sides equally. If you do something on the left side, then you do it on the right side. If you do a headstand, you counter it at some point with a shoulder stand. Even walking down the street with a bag on my shoulder, I hear my yoga teacher Liza telling me to hold it on the other side as well. When she came last week, I found out my left hand doesn’t stay even with my right hand in child’s pose. I felt like I was putting my left hand way in front when she corrected me even though it was now even.

Yoga evens me out is the message. Balance and equilibrium are hard won. Every action having an equal and opposite reaction. Very basic. Most of the stuff I get excited about that I learn from my yoga practice is very simple stuff I seem to never have really known or completely forgotten. Just getting back acquainted with the hands and feet is a revelation!

That is it for today.


Yoga and Comics

I just wrote a post that as usual felt too long and rambling. Here’s the short version.

The practice of yoga has strangely been about building a practice and proving to myself that I have the self discipline to keep something up on a daily basis consistently. Concentration, discipline, commitment and showing up in whatever shape or mood to the mat. Doing yoga for 20-30 minutes in not ideal situations, with the TV on or music, with other people talking or doing things, in small corners of places, in the dark outdoors or indoors, at work, even in regular clothes when there’s no time to change into “yoga clothes”.

Other forms of self care and exercise have not worked out, whether adding exercises, going running, changing nutrition to eat really healthy, all have been taken up and given up after a while, but through it all, I’ve kept up my yoga on my own.

In July I started doing a comic strip that I decided was a daily comic; I was fed up with the graphic novel that I’d started in 2000 and turned into a failure monster and decided to do the comic while trying to get back into the graphic novel. I then gave up on the graphic novel and decided to leave it and be ok if I never picked it up again, but to commit to the comic strip instead.

Now, about six months into the comic strip, I noticed a lot of similarities to the practice of yoga. You commit to do it daily and it’s something you can get done quickly but have to keep up regularly, even if you skip it here or there. Basically, I have done a comic for each weekday and one comic for the weekend since July.

I noticed how you show up to it and follow some structures and rules. Like having the mat and doing some kind of sequence and focusing on it. The comic involves fitting something into few panels, writing the name of the comic strip and the date. I’ve tried different characters and types of drawing. I also got into the habit of making Tuesdays a day to focus on affirmations and Thursdays to focus on “Gender”. Some days I like the comic and feel good about it. Other days, I’m very bored with it and feel like I don’t have much to put in it, but I do it anyway. Other days I get really inspired and come up with ideas for several comics. Every once in a while I have a great breakthrough and feel really good about it, but most days it’s just, got to do today’s comic, scan it and post it on Instagram.

It’s a practice and a consistent commitment to show up and have enough faith in yourself to do something and then move on. The feeling of community and support of others is the icing on the cake from posting the comic on Instagram. As I do it for my personal life, it’s not something anyone has access to so there’s a good boundary there. The comic is like self care and doing it may enhance my doing my job but it is separate from my other life. Family members do not see it, but many friends do. Mostly it’s people I do not know. There is inspiration from others the way some people feel from going to a yoga class. While my yoga practice is mostly done alone and sometimes with one or two other people, my comic is something I put out there and get support from others.

These two practices can sustain me when I feel unproductive and unsuccessful in other areas of life. It feels good to know I’ve kept up the comic for 6 months more than thinking about the comic being really great or good enough or not that great. It’s the process that matters more than the product. The comic even can feel like a spiritual practice in an odd way.


New Year, Yoga and Writing

This year I have avoided the usual obsession with new year’s resolutions versus intentions and turning over new leaves, etc. Usually I get excited to start new habits, make all kinds of exciting changes and feel like I’m going to accomplish all these goals, then, like most people, run out of steam and keep very little going or follow through.

A while ago, as a way to look at the new year differently, I started picking words for the year. Last year was “Abundance”. It really turned into a year of abundance, which required patience and trust because abundance doesn’t just pour into your life on day one or month one or two! This year the first word I came up with was “AWESOME”. Then I picked two other words, “Quiet” and “Concentration” as intentions/motivation to continue things I’m already doing, especially my yoga practice.

My yoga practice has been the one thing I’ve kept up regularly for the last 3 and a half years. I already wrote two very long disorganized posts about it and realized I do want to write about it, but I need it to be organized and as usual, much shorter.

So this year, to add to my 6-7 times weekly 25-40 minute home yoga practice, I decided to link yoga with writing, as my intuition was that the two will go together well.

So this post is just a short post about my new year’s intention to link my yoga with writing. Since the new year, I have read a bunch of blog posts about different aspects of yoga, found some books, and started writing about my yoga practice.

Yesterday I wrote a long draft for a post on this blog, journaled a bunch before doing yoga, and then attempted to write in my journal a little while doing yoga and filled a page after my daily yoga in the evening. I decided to try to write immediately after doing yoga at least 3 times a week.

It’s going to be an experiment to see what comes up that I feel like writing about and how I am thinking about my practice, or what comes up specifically in any sequences or poses or other things that come up that may have little to do with yoga or seem to have little to do with it.

The words “Quiet” and “Concentration” can be connected to my writing and yoga. Sometimes doing yoga on my own is for the goal of getting quiet and working on disciplining the mind and body and learning how to be able to really focus and concentrate, which is definitely challenging with an undisciplined disorganized and full ADHD mind. I also associate these concepts with a story that I read a few years ago with my daughter that we’ve read several times and is one of both her and my favorite stories,  “The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar”, by Roal Dahl. It’s written long ago but the basic concepts are very universal and the story is about the use and misuse of yoga/training the mind. It’s a great transformation story in the category of stories like A Christmas Carol and the movie Groundhog Day. A selfish self involved character full of flaws, who goes through a spiritual transformation and becomes an enlightened evolved person who gives of themselves to the world, very uplifting. Everyone loves a sinner to “saint” type of story!

Sometimes getting quiet while doing yoga involves just noticing how not quiet my mind is and how distracted I am or how I am focused on what the next yoga pose will be or getting over with each pose. The challenge of concentration involves a lot of mindfulness/DBT “Radical Acceptance”.

Other topics I’d like to write about that go with yoga/writing are:

-how I got going with my home practice after 7 year hiatus of not doing yoga

-what my home yoga practice actually involves and how I learned to sequence from an intuitive approach in the moment

-the role of my yoga “coach” and teacher Liza in helping me learn about the physical, mental, and spiritual practice and deepen my practice

-yoga in everyday life and ways to use yoga to live life from a more accepting and moment to moment awareness

-yoga and “failure”

-the yoga of speech

-my specific challenges with my writing process

-yoga and ADHD and other issues like anxiety



Journal Images


Sketchbook Project 2018! Process…

I of course started a longwinded New Year’s post on vacation before the new year and never finished it.

So this year, I want to post more but not have any kinds of expectations. I am happy to start off with my newest series of  “Inner Landscapes” that I’ve been working on in drawings and mixed media, and started doing concurrently in my “Sketchbook” for The Sketchbook Project, a huge traveling show I’ve been participating in for about 5 years.

These are photos of the first several pages in process. I don’t know which ones are finished or how it’s going to end up looking yet, but that is part of the fun of the sketchbook project anyway!



No Gender/All Genders

I used to think that in an ideal world, there would be no such thing as gender at all. People would just be people; you’d be seen as a unique person. gender would not only be irrelevant; it wouldn’t exist, the way some diseases have been eradicated. Gender construction is a kind of disease; it certainly can be dangerous and cause a lot more harm than good. It may be that if I come from another planet, as I sometimes fantasize about, on that planet there never was any gender.

But I’ve realized something that opens up things more rather than seeming to close it down. Gender is still here; but it’s now like: genders are here; they’re more plentiful and “confusing”. Get used to it. Non binary gender, gender fluidity, and all other variations of gender are revealing themselves rather than hiding. It’s changing in terms of how we view it and use it.

So: gender, like many other things humans do and use, is a tool. It is neither good nor bad, how you use it and behave with it are the issues. If we were using the tool better, there just would be more room for any and all genders, and nobody would assume your gender just based on a gender marker, like a suit and tie or dress. It would only be relevant as a tool in situations that are productive, and otherwise diverse and irrelevant. Like on the internet, which has contributed hugely to more widespread acceptance of gender diversity, most of the time gender is not relevant. At other times, such as a support group for a specific gender, or a dating site where to use it, you need to have gender as part of it, at least for now. Or, if you’re exploring and questioning your gender assigned at birth, the internet is a safer place to go to find support and information.

We are moving towards gender being less charged with expectations and judgments but it still is used terribly in hurtful ways because of people’s fears, lack of imagination and attachment to know,ing rather than not knowing and finding not knowing to be interesting, an opportunity to find out more.

I don’t know all the proper ways to use gender as a tool in an effective productive manner. I heard about a conference where the name tags had room for putting what pronoun you identify as; that’s using it well. Forms that don’t just give you the M or F box can be an example.

People being cast in roles not based on their identifiable gender can be powerful, even at fashion runway shows. In fact, the fashion industry has a unique opportunity to use gender in a much more effective way, being based on appearance. Makeup ads could feature various genders, as of course could clothing ads. Some designers have caught on to making gender non conforming lines of clothing, and some designers are being more inclusive in their choice of models and gender.

What happens when we think of gender as a tool that needs to be used appropriately and properly? Do new opportunities open up?