Gendered narratives in society are absolutely everywhere and touch almost every aspect of our lives. Not only do these messages tell us that gender is determined by our genitals, they also insist that we ought to act certain ways based on what ours happens to look like (for example: men have to be strong and emotionless, while women have to be delicate and submissive, and so forth). These are called gender roles, and they can be particularly distressing to people who identity as TGNC. This is because being a TGNC person inherently conflicts with these narratives, and the cost for not following them often turns out to be forms of stigma and discrimination.
Because of a range of factors (generational differences, family dynamics, geographical location, for example), the ways in which we internalize these gendered narratives may differ. Gender Literacy focuses on developing the awareness and skill sets to critically think about socially constructed embedded gendered narratives. Being “gender literate” means being able to name these gender “rules” while at the same time being aware of what can happen if you don’t follow them in different cultures and subcultures. If we can externalize these rules instead of internalizing them, we can more easily decide if we want to adhere to them or not. We can develop a critical consciousness about how gender is shaped, valued, and enforced within society, and work on developing our own internal system about gender based on congruent values within ourselves.
This is where Gender Literacy comes in, which is all about developing the awareness and skill set to critically think about these gendered narratives. Being “gender literate” means being able to name these gender “rules” while at the same time being aware of what can happen if you don’t follow them. If we can externalize these rules instead of internalizing them, we can more easily decide if we want to adhere to them or not. We can develop a critical conscious towards aspects of toxic masculinity and recognize how femininity is often required and devalued at the same time.
We believe that gender literacy is a part of building resiliency because being able to validate your own identity amongst negative gendered narratives can help support the development of a positive self-image and healthy and effective coping strategies.
Gender literacy is also about helping people to see that sex assigned birth doesn’t define your gender identity, gender expression, or your sexual orientation. Being gender literate means that you can take your subjective experience of each of these pieces, and put them together in a way that works for your own, integrated self.