Day Before Workshop!

All blog posts related to this workshop will have the category that you can search, “Altered Books Gender Identity Workshop”.

I am excited for tomorrow’s Altered Books and Gender Identity/Gender Diversity Workshop that I am fascilitating at the Expressive Arts Therapies Summit Conference from 2-5pm.

I will be posting materials for the workshop, used in the workshop, and for workshop participants and others to have that have not been fully covered or to continue any topics about altered books as art therapy and gender identity and diversity.

I am going to be “showing” more than telling, in terms of directives that are useful with clients using altered books and directives about gender identity and both.

 

 

The main focus of the workshop can be summed up as:

Let’s play with gender, and let’s acknowledge and celebrate the gender spectrum. Your altered book in progress is your personal gender story unfolding.

I will try to post photos and images to these posts when I have time and hope to post photos from the workshop itself, which I will be writing up to submit to the new Trans Bodies Trans Selves book…

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New Post: Feature, Altered Books

Today is my first day back from vacation. I kept up a lot of daily habits while on break, but did not keep up my writing daily at least 15 minutes habit, so I’m starting up again.

The last assignment in the WordPress Blogging Fundamentals class was about having a Feature topic.

 

  • First, think of the type of regular feature you can commit to — something you’ll publish weekly, biweekly, or monthly.
  • Next, start your new post by clicking the button below. This can be the first installment, or an announcement of what’s coming.
  • Finally, give your post a few tags, including bloggingfundamentals, and publish it.

 

My Feature for this assigment is going to be Altered Books, no surprise, which I hope to post at least weekly about in order to have it be helfpful for preparing for my looming upcoming workshop on Altered Books and Gender Identity.

Last time my Feature was Gender Identity, which should continue to be a Feature and at some point  the two, Altered Books and Gender Identity, will of course come together in some way.

Anyway, I haven’t really approached altered books in terms of writing about what makes me interested in them and topics connected to that. Things have to have a starting point.

Some ideas for separate topics for this Altered Books Feature include:

How did I get interested in Altered Books as an art form.

What was my first altered book that I made.

What led to my using altered books in sessions with clients and supervisees and even for peer supervision.

Some nuts and bolts about altered books, how to make them, the important stages of making them, the materials used.

How altered books involve a great way to use almost anything as an material from paper clips to coffee filters to coins as some odd examples.

What it means to finish an altered book vs. abandon one in some stage of the process, especially with clients in art therapy.

More specifics about the workshop and using altered books to explore gender identity.

I had started writing about the first topic, but I think introducing the Feature is best for this post and I will focus on beginnings in my next Feature post.

 

Learning the Fundamentals, Day 3: Visit the Neighbors

I’m going back to Day 3 to fully complete the assignment for the WordPress Blogging Class, Learning the Fundamentals. As I edit this post, I can sthat this Fundamentals Day 3 did not disappoint in terms of learning and discovery and going deeper into blogging through going back to Fundamentals. And discovering other random surprises.

Assignment: “Visit the Neighbors”, and find five blogs to follow. I follow 540 blogs and can sort them in different ways. Given that I’m trying to redo this blog, I was hoping to start over with following blogs, but I can’t really do that. I can go through the blogs I follow and reacquaint myself with them, but 540 blogs is too much to try to go through and check out.

I’m following the tips in the assignment and trying out specific tags in the Reader as a way to get to see unfamiliar blogs. I am starting with the tag, “Altered Books”, since that is my focus for now in order to get ready for my workshop and not suck the fun out of it stressing out about it in October.

The first one I visit is https://catseatdogs.com, by Clare. It’s a great title. The tagline is: Fabulous. Friendly. Homemade. Then I found all their social media and follow/liked it; this is a way to be more aware of when they post on her blog, and a way to get to know them more and what it’s about, which seems to be making art and journaling. There is also reference to the “Get Messy” community, intriguing and could lead me down a whole other distracting path. This blogger is using altered books in a specific way, as “found books” to transform into art journals; the post I looked at involved choosing what book/format to alter.

Second blog I’ve chosen: https://ravendustblog.wordpress.com The blog has 10 followers but has posts since 2014, and the fact that the About Page has nothing on it and the widgets and social media links are not filled, tells me this person, Dusty Corvid, is very specifically using the blog as a kind of “Log”, for classes in Foundation Textiles, “OCA”, Open College of the Arts, which sounds like a cool place for learning all kinds of arts.So it’s not a blog intended to have a large audience…the posts on altered books involve the blogger making an altered book as a work of art and not a journal, which is refreshing. Also the technique of putting a white wash over pages of writing is an interesting way to “undo” the original book in preparation for painting.The blogger had reservations about drawing in a book, another really great topic to discuss when talking about altered books. In addition, it turns out this blogger is a fan of Cy Twombly whose work I love. I had no idea Twombly was a cryptographer. Then I stumbled on a post where the blogger went to an exhibit of drawings of Alice in Wonderland, my favorite book ever, so I am excited to explore more posts.

Third blog is: https://orangemarmeladepress.wordpress.com This artist makes all kinds of books which you can see on their blog/website, but the post I really got excited about was the one where the blogger was helping clean up after an altered books class at a local library (I had no idea libraries offer altered book classes!), and finds a book in the trash that got started and was abandoned.

That is a whole other post I will have to use this link for. Lately I have been thinking about the altered book as a project that is just as interesting when it gets neglected, destroyed, abandoned or put in what I call The Art Box, a kind of limbo for art therapy projects.

I next made a new tag in my reader, “Art Materials”, and visited a blog post about getting rid of old art materials and deciding to keep some. This is the blog, entitled “Exploring the Magic that is the Right Brain: Writings, reflections, and a log on art practiceand specific post: https://encodey.wordpress.com/2018/07/12/judgment-befalls-the-art-supplies/ What do you do with art materials you “never” use or have developed resistance to? I love reading what other artists say about their materials and how they use them, and am writing more about it anyway.

Number 5, in the tag, “Gender Identity”, I struck gold again, and found a blog called janitorqueer about a person who is a janitor and genderqueer. I have always been interested in the job of a janitor as I am interested in a lot of unusual jobs people don’t think about or talk about to kids as something to do when they grow up.

 

And that makes five. This assignment was a treasure trove rabbit hall to go down. I think limiting it to five blogs is important, so you can really get to know five blogs and bloggers more than surface level…

 

Favorite Video Of Last Week: “Raised Without Gender”

A 10 year old showed me this video last week.  It was really great to see how schools of the future may eventually evolve to adopt a philosophy of not inculcating gender norms and gender roles on young 4 and 5 year olds. Maybe in about 50 years, most schools will just be like this. The family in it is really great. My favorite part is when the parent is sort of accused of inculcating their views of gender and forcing them on their children. The parent replies, Yes I am doing that. So does every other parent. I’m just not doing it the way many others do, but I’m doing the same thing all parents do. So true.

Gender Feature Story 1: The Shoes Review

In writing my other Gender post, I was reminded of the day I was on the Payless Shoes Website and saw a very cool review because it was a self described “gentleman” wearing “ladies shoes.” I then went back to the website just now and hunted down the review to quote it here. I posted it on something when I first saw it a year ago. It bears reposting just because it’s so great how gender and gender identity are not some side topic but are part of everywhere. I proposed my Gender Identity Altered Books Workshop and the person in charge said it may be too specific a population to do a workshop on, so I explained that it is extremely relevant to every clinician and ubiquitous and in fact everyone needs to be trained in gender identity sensitivity.

Anyway here is the review in all its glory. Thank you to this person who bravely put himself out there! And FYI, while they should be “unisex”, they are Mary Janes and look like non fancy practical shoes but have that element that makes you think of little kids (female) shoes.

“I just received my “Geanette” Mary Jane shoes today and have been wearing them most of the day. I could not be more pleased with them. My new “Mary Janes” are very comfortable and nice looking. I am a gentleman who enjoys wearing women`s shoes exclusively and find these to be very suitable for around the house or street wear. This shoe would be excellent for women as well as men, as it is a true “unisex” shoe. I am a red-blooded male and have already received a few compliments on this attractive looking shoe. I heartily recommend these well made nice looking shoes for anyone. I think I`ll order another pair just in case they are discontinued.”

Here are the shoes if you’re curious or want a pair, whatever your gender!

https://www.payless.com/womens-comfort-plus-geanette-mary-jane-shoe/77840.html?dwvar_77840_color=black#q=mary%20jane&prefn1=gender&prefv1=Women&start=3

 

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.

The Therapist Profile: Reflections

Writing my profile for websites for therapists, such as psychologytoday.com, has always been a challenge for me. With each new website, I’ve discovered new clearer ways to answer the questions about my work. It’s hard to put into words my practice and approach and how I might be the kind of therapist you would work well with. I definitely look at other people’s profiles for inspiration, more to see how they word things, if they start with questions, what kinds of phrases they use that seem to be really clear  than to paraphrase. My profile is unique and I explain art therapy in the way I think of it from how I experience working as an art therapist, but I’m still not too satisfied with it. It’s an ever evolving process for me, so I’ve often changed my profile on psychologytoday.com (the Main Encyclopedia of psychotherapsits), when I am in the process of putting it on it  other websites.

I’ve recently joined the relatively new website and community of healers/doctors/providers, lighthouselgbt: Safe Space for LGBTQ + Wellness. The first part of the Lighthouse Profile defines the space and providers in this way: “We are a group of NYC based providers who have devoted our careers to caring for LGBTQ+ patients.” This is the link if you’d like to check out the website: https://www.lighthouse.lgbt

I am very excited to be part of the Lighthouse community, especially right now with the political climate we are forced to endure. It is more than ever important to find your “tribe(s)”, no matter whether virtual or “real world”. As an extreme introvert, I need meaningful soul to soul  person to person connections with other like minded open tolerant curious and out of the box people, including in my work as an art therapist. (I have yet to find a group of artists/writers/galleries/publishers/creative professionals that feeds me. Here I am in NYC and the NY Art World is not for me at all, but I’ve never quite found something. I do have plenty of friends whose careers involve creativity and the “arts”, and social media places to share my work, but it is not quite a real community of people for me. I’m hopeful I will find this eventually. I put this in parentheses because it is a whole other topic to explore that is on my mind lately.)

Identity: “Who am I and what am I about?” is a lifelong voyage of discovery. I’m a work in progress. The longer I live, the clearer I am at articulating who I am in whatever sphere of life, and then I’m able to look back and see how I’ve always been this way and are just in process of becoming more fully who I am, constantly evolving. I am passionate about evolving and becoming increasingly aware of ways that I want to present myself to the world more accurately. Whenever I have an “Ah ha” moment, I realize this was who I was even back when I was a 7 year old just being me, without as many barriers to being able to be myself. I understand when my clients report that they have bravely forayed into proclaiming their discovery of their gender or something else and gotten reactions of “you never said this before. You’re not this and that so how is it you say you are this (gender, career, creative mode of expression.) It can be as simple as “But you’re a performer, youre not a visual artist.” “You’ve always been “xyz”. Even, “You should talk to your parent. They are so nice or they are your family.” Someone has gotten to the point of taking a brave stand and boundary with an abuser and doesn’t always get this validated; in fact often people devalue whatever you’re proclaiming. I recently read someone’s essay about their identity as an asexual person and what it is about for them. The comments were downright nasty, some insinuating that you can’t say you’re asexual because you had sex in that relationship or you’re talking about having sex, so you’re not asexual. I’m happy that now there is a phrase, “the asexual spectrum”, which was invented to explain especially to such limited bullying individuals that being asexual is not that simple and only works when not a label slapped on someone.

I can say that most of the barriers I have had to being myself have been self created, but maybe I woulnd’t have created these barriers to radical full self acceptance and standing fully in the light if the world were a lot safer and more openminded and accepting.

“Be yourself. Everybody else is taken.”As I wrote that I think of Oscar Wilde’s words in a way I haven’t before. The two sentences are kind of a dialectic in the sense that being yourself involves having to define yourself in relation to other humans because we use language, verbal and non verbal, to express or hold back who we are. We can’t get out of the aspect of self acceptance that involves negating a sort of “norm” communicated to us by society and their constructs and clarifying taking space as unique and beyond the norm. There should be no “box” to be inside of or outside of in any arena of life; of course that is a fantasy. Imagine being born into a world where gender was a spectrum, where polyamory, monogamy and a romantic approaches and of were all just choices like the color of a t shirt and that your shape, size and color of your skin were seen like a box of magic markers. You wouldn’t need to focus on what you are not and what does not resonate with you as who you are. There would be freedom to be and freedom to play. My challenge: “What gender are you today?” which was the main focus of my last art show, “#Bathroom Art Only” would be like deciding on a cereal for breakfast. Some people want the same breakfast every day; others want different things or no breakfast, or have the same breakfast for years and at age 37 decide to have a completely new breakfast. It would be the ideal of “live and let live”, “whatever floats your boat” and the maxim would be “Be yourself. Be free to be yourself. Be free to evolve and change in your concept of yourself.” with no need to refer to others.

There is a therapy phrase, “ego syntonic” and another one “ego distonic”. I like these phrases because they get to the heart of self acceptanc, self worth and learning how to navigate an unsafe unpredictable world we all have to live in. Something is ego syntonic if it is in sync with who you are and your values and aspirations, like when you put on a t shirt and it fits you in size as well as what it looks like and what kind of t shirt it is. Jobs can be seen in this way. If you are working at a job that is deadening you and feels like it’s not what you want to do or the people you work with are people you would not choose to be around, the job is ego distonic. When I worked cleaning the house of a science fiction writer in the summer during college, it was ego syntonic because he was nice and weird and non critical and paid me cash and the job was temporary; a job doesn’t have to be on your career path to be ego syntonic; it just needs to match who you are and your wants and needs. Same with any relationship. Therapy for example. If you feel comfortable with your therapist for whatever reasons and that there are minimal blocks in the way of your accomplishing your therapy goals created by the therapist, or even if the therapist has done so and you are able to address it, then the therapeutic realtinoship is ego syntonic; at certain points in therapy, it can be very therapeutic for you to notice and tell your therapist that they have said or done something that was not ok with you. Then you have an opportunity for the therapist to adjust/correct and you are improving your communication in important relationships and growth occurs. Often we discover what is ego syntonic by experiencing something as ego distonic. That’s the “everybody else is taken.” part of the dialectic. It means asking “Is this for me or for the other person?” “Am I ok with this or am I now not ok with it even if I was in the past?” “Is this something I want now in my life or not?” “How does this serve my growth or impede it?” The more you can clarify what is ego distonic, you also clarify what is ego syntonic. The process is unique for each person.

As an artist and person who has a deep need to approach life creatively and express myself creatively, I have always been someone who tries many of the t shirts on, or has different breakfasts every day. I like to shape shift and morph and copy and try on things; I learn best by watching how someone does something and trying it out, but reshaping it to do it my way. I don’t learn well by being told what to do in a rigid way or being told what I did wrong. My college was ego syntonic to the way I learn and the kinds of people I needed to find for my life, so I was able to grow as a person during thpse important years. I like seeing diversity and experiencing diversity, as I am easily bored and like the new. At the same time I don’t gravitate towards situations involving meeting new people in a social context. As a therapist I enjoy meeting new clients because I am curious and interested in how unque and fascinating each person’s inner life, identity and approach to life is. As an artist, I often try out new things and then in that process, keep repeating something I’ve stumbled upon. With drawing especially, it involves looking at other people’s drawings or images; to draw musical instruments for my Warrior Series, I looked up musical instruments from other cultures, especially middle eastern and African.

Using the line from Annie Hall comparing relationships to sharks, as an artist I need to be like a shark, constantly moving. The dialect between me the artist and me the art therapist is being the shark and the snail. As a therapist I slow down and stay with whatever the client brings in to explore and process.

“Trans Bodies, Trans Selves”: new book

“Trans Bodies, Trans Selves”
is a website and a book published this past spring by Oxford University Press. It is also, from my point of view, a great starting point for looking at “gender” and people who identify as gender non conforming from a healthy affirming, and validating model, rather than society’s traditional model of pathology. This is most likely the definitive book on this subject and covers all aspects, including health and well being, which I aim to discuss in another post.

We tend to assume that the word “transgender” covers a lot of definitions, but interestingly there are individuals who don’t like the term. The term “transgender” can be both affirming and useful to some and not to others in this community. The interesting thing is that over the years the need to define oneself though it has mostly arisen from being treated abusively or marginalized; luckily it has also resulted in a diversity of terms and self identity.

Now at least all of society can start to understand the people who inhabit “trans bodies” and “trans selves”.

The beginning point for this book is to explain certain terms and give definitions and portray the variety of terms that have become choices for self definition. Even the need for self definition through gender is up for question. Why do we need it at all? What would the world be like now if humans had never come up with binary gender at all? This post just touches on some of these points to introduce the topic.

Most people are used to the terms MTF (male to female) and (FTM/F2M) female to male describing a transgendered individual in terms of assigned gender versus affirmed gender. There is assigned female or male at birth, ASFB or ASMB, as well as transgender and “trans”, however over the years many more varied descriptors have arisen often in direct response to people being misunderstood.

The term cisgender used a lot in this book refers to people whose sex and gender match, via meaning “in the same side” while “trans” means on the opposite side (p6) also trans is connected to words like transformation… And I believe it comes from a root meaning of “crossing over” , used in common words like transport and transition. The idea of transitioning is actually important for part of the trams gender community. Some people want to include Gender Affirming Surgery in their transition and others do not. The term Gender Affirming Surgery was new to me and a welcome replacement to the old phrase “Gender Reassignment Surgery”.

I am still confused by the term Transexual versus a Trans gendered individual, as well as use of the word “sex” as indistinguishable from “gender”, as sex in this context seems to be an older more antiquated term. I believe there used to be a distinction between a “transvestite”, a male or female who presents him or herself as the opposite gender through makeup , clothing and other means, often but not always connected to performance and not for the purpose of expressing their Affirmed gender. The term transsexual used to refer to someone who is not a transvestite, someone whose assigned gender at birth does not match their gender identity, which is the main aspect of the concept of transgender versus cisgender.

There are, however, many subsets of people who identify as gender non conforming but are not transitioning through hormones and surgery. For example, some ASFBs who are not heterosexual do not like the term lesbian because it defines that person as female. There is a growing acceptance of people who don’t like labels, whether binary gender or as a definition of their sexual orientation. Unfortunately mainstream society is miles behind; there is a growing understanding of homosexuality, but less of bisexuality and asexuality, much less transgender and non gender.

Some of those who refuse to identify as GLor B use the term “queer” to refer to their sexual orientation and/or gender. Queer is a term that has been reappropriated and transformed from something insulting to an affirming way to define oneself.

What of others who challenge the terms under the GLBTQ umbrella, who engage with none of these terms to define themselves or use different terms, new to mainstream society?

Younger populations sometimes use the terms trans boys or trans girls.

Most have rejected the term hermaphrodite instead using “intersex” to define being born with bodies that don’t “fit” as male or female.

There are many who reject all these classifications and identifications as too narrow, even insulting, and prefer to be male or female or affirmed male affirmed female.

The term Boi is an interesting term as it is used by a diverse group of people to identify as “young carefree and sexually explorative”.

Neutrois means having a gender neutral identity, a non binary gender, neither strictly male or female.
Gender fluid and non gender conforming tend to express someone who sees themselves as having qualities of different maybe not defined genders and/or sees gender binary as limiting and.

An interesting aside: I believe that the concept and activity of interpreting dreams or even tarot cards is one way that people loosen their view of only seeing gender as binary gender. When you are everyone in your dream, you can easily see visually that there are parts of you that are not your birth assigned gender, as well as non genderd parts of you that come in all forms, animals, alien creatures, objects and settings. When people are able to identify with these parts of their dreams, they are engaging in what I would call gender opening, not just “gender bending”. When you read tarot cards, it’s the same thing. A man could get the Empress card in some important place where she embodies some part of himself just as anyone could get the Hanged Man card, a major arcana card that has multiple meanings about spirituality, and so the images on the cards, especially the classic Rider deck, may be gendered and the “querent” the person asking the cards something, will learn about different types of energies within him or herself that are stuck, need attending to, or are helping in some way. These energies within us may be represented by a gendered image but go beyond gender, and this is the relm of the Self. I guess I am suggesting that we all have “Trans selves” within us. This is this a book for everybody to learn from and find enlightenment about what it is to be human and a being…

My Post is On The Communicated Stereotype Blog!

The Communicated Stereotype Blog, a really great source on diversity, multiculturalism and common and uncommon forms of stereotyping, has reposted my recent post about an article on women and masturbation, which I found to be interesting and informative but not thorough enough.

http://thecommunicatedstereotype.com/stereotypes-and-masturbation/