What Can Polyamory Teach Us About Relationships?

As we’ve discussed before on this blog, there is a lot we can learn from folks who are different from us. Even when we think we don’t have much in common, there are lessons we can draw from many types of experiences, lifestyles, and communities. Today, we’re talking about what we can learn from polyamorous people, even if we’re not poly ourselves!

For folks who aren’t familiar, a person who is polyamorous is someone who desires consensual and ethical non-monogamy. Ethical non-monogamy is when someone is a member of multiple sexual and/or romantic relationships at the same time with the consent of everyone involved, and is not to be confused with infidelity. Ethical monogamy includes agreements and negotiations that allow for multiple sexual and/or romantic connections and relationships. Polyamorous folks are often referred to as “poly” or “polyam” in sex positive spaces.

Just like with monogamy, polyamory isn’t for everyone, but it is often misunderstood or misrepresented in media. There are many different ways to structure poly relationships, and there is no one “right” way to be polyamorous. So, even though we might not all practice polyamory, there is still a lot we can learn about love, desire, and relationships from polyamorous people.

It’s okay to be attracted to other people

One big lesson we can all learn from poly people is that being attracted to someone else doesn’t have to be a threat to your relationship. We’re all human, and we’re allowed to be (and are going to be) attracted to more than one person at a time. Love and attraction are not finite resources. Your feelings for someone else do not cancel out the feelings you have for your partner, and vice versa. Many of us experience attraction to more than one person at a time (even if it’s just fleeting!), but the difference is that poly people acknowledge that it’s important to experience and talk about these feelings instead of burying them under shame and guilt. Also, poly people have space to engage with consciously thinking about and deciding whether to engage in that attraction in an open and honest way, where monogamous people may not feel they have that space.  

Communication with a capital C

A huge part of poly relationships is communication. This is a topic we return to frequently because it really is the foundation of relationships! Poly folks communicate constantly. Not only is there the logistical side of coordinating schedules and making time for all partners, but there is the emotional side of communication as well. When feelings of jealousy, abandonment, or fear come up, communication is a large part of working through those feelings

These emotions are not just reserved for poly people, either. They are present for most of us at some point or another, but often they go undiscussed. Poly folks understand that the way to work through these feelings and keep the relationship healthy and satisfying for all parties is to recognize the feelings, soothe themselves, and talk about the tough feelings coming up. Even when it’s hard. Even when you feel like you can’t do it. It’s important to get those feelings out on the table so everyone is on the same page. It takes practice, but, for many, it feels worth it.

Other people can fulfill your needs, and that’s okay

It’s a lot of pressure to be everything to someone. Poly folks understand the strength of a support network, whether it is through romantic partners, sexual partners, friends, or family. Think about it this way: you probably have different friends who fulfill a variety of needs for you. You may have a friend you go to bars with, a friend you talk about books with, and a friend you go to the gym with. You probably don’t have just one friend who meets all of your needs all the time, and that’s okay! The same idea is true for poly folks, except some of those relationships can include multiple romantic and sexual relationships. Different relationships can fulfill different needs for you without taking away from each other.

It is up to you to define your relationship

It’s nobody’s business what goes on in your relationship except for the people in the relationship. Polyamory can be confusing to some people because there are so many ways to approach it (hierarchical vs. nonhierarchical, is one example). One of the biggest takeaways from polyamory that anyone can benefit from is that you get to set up your relationship in any way you want to - there are no rules, except for the rules and boundaries that you co-create. Relationships take time and effort, no matter what type of relationship structure you choose, so you may as well explore what works for you and your partner(s).

Remember, these aren’t ideas you can implement overnight. They take practice, commitment, and communication. Poly people aren’t born knowing everything there is to know about polyamory, because polyamory is an experience that varies from person to person. Even if you are content in a monogamous relationship, we can still learn from poly folks.

Blog authors all hold positions at the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Collective (G&STC). For more information about our therapists and services please contact us.

How Kink Can Help Ease Sexual Anxiety

Even in spaces focused on sexual liberation, one thing that often goes undiscussed is how to navigate sex in a healthy, pleasurable way when you or your partner experiences sexual anxiety or functioning issues. It can be hard to relate to articles and tips about making the most of your pleasure when you have trouble performing with or experiencing pleasure at all.

One thing that might surprise you? Kink + play can actually help sexual anxiety and performance issues! According to a study from Northern Illinois University “BDSM sex can help increase mindfullness, reduce stress, make you hyperaware, and help people stay in the moment.”

So how can kink help ease sexual anxiety? When we add kink into our sex lives, we give ourselves the opportunity to:

Set the pace we’re comfortable with:

When setting and negotiating a scene, navigating boundaries is a crucial step. This means before we try anything new, we have to make sure all partners are comfortable and excited to try whatever we want to introduce into our play. Whether this means taking it slow or jumping in, it gives the power back to us to determine the pace we want in our sex life.

Take it slow without missing out on the fun:

Taking it slow doesn’t have to be a chore! Often, within kink, taking it slow is an important part. The play is thorough and involved and, crucially: focused on pleasure + consent! Instead of feeling awkward and fumbling, not knowing what to do, kink play provides an avenue to go as slow as you want to without compromising our pleasure.

Keep consent an active part of the conversation:

As we’ve said before: Consent isn’t just a straight “yes” or “no”– it’s about making sure anyone involved in play knows what the limits are, knows what will increase their partner’s pleasure, and it always involves checking in during play.

When we engage with kink, we give ourselves a new understanding of what consent really is. While some people see it as an awkward conversation that can take you out of the moment, kinksters know that it is actually a vital and sexy part of the process. When you stop and start in kink play you’re not taking yourself out of the moment, you’re checking back in with yourself, your body, your partner(s) and making sure that you’re experiencing pleasure out of whatever you’re doing. Kink helps make conversations about consent open and easy gateways to talk about how each partner best experiences pleasure.

Knowing that your partner is aware and mindful about your pleasure can help ease some of the anxiety that goes along with sex! You won’t have to worry about doing something “wrong” or not getting what you need out of it because those conversations are built into kink play.  

Expand the definition of sex:

Sex isn’t just about penetration! And, often times, a lot of sexual anxiety comes from the notion that penetration is the most important part of sex. But with kink, partners are able to explore so many other ways to both give and receive pleasure with their partners.

With this, partners who have anxiety regarding performance or penetration are given outlets to express their desire and experience pleasure without the anxiety that comes with penetration. Learning how to fuel and feed our desires through a variety of sexual activities can strengthen our sex lives and help manage our sexual anxieties without forgetting about pleasure!

That’s not to say that kink is the only way to experience pleasure when dealing with sexual anxiety–but learning the pillars of what makes kink fun & functional can help us explore the needs we have in our own sex lives!

Blog authors all hold positions at the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Collective (G&STC). For more information about our therapists and services please contact us.

G&STC's Director talk with HuffPost Relationships about 10 Common Reasons For A Sexless Marriage, According To Sex Therapists

Check out G&STC director, Jesse Kahn, and Therapist, Liz Afton, talking with Kelsey Borresen at HuffPost Relationships about 10 Common Reasons For A Sexless Marriage, According To Sex Therapists

  • You’re under a lot of stress

“When you’re stressed, sex may be the last thing on your mind. You’re busy worrying about crippling student loan debt or taking care of the kids — not getting busy. Chronic stress can lead to elevated levels of the hormone cortisol in the body, which can mess with your sex drive.

“Whether it’s about children, work or finances, stress can play a huge role in reducing sex drives, reducing desire to have sex, reducing the energy we have to have sex and reducing the time we have available to have sex,” said Jesse Kahn, sex therapist and director at the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Collective.

Being overly stressed or fatigued can make sex feel “more like something you have to do rather than a pleasure activity,” Chavez added.

During these busy or overwhelming times, consider scheduling sex instead of waiting around for the mood to strike.

“Sometimes, sex needs to be planned,” Kahn said. “Which may require us pushing back on the false narrative that sex needs to be spontaneous.”’

  • You have mismatched libidos

“It’s normal for a couple’s sex drive to fluctuate over the course of a relationship, meaning you and your partner may not always be (or ever be) on the exact same page sexually. But if you can talk openly about your different levels of desire and reach a compromise that works for you, mismatched libidos shouldn’t pose a major issue.

However, if left unaddressed, tensions may arise and give way to periods of sexlessness. Often, the higher libido partner feels rejected when their advances are denied and he or she may eventually stop initiating. The lower libido partner can feel put-upon by all of the requests or feel inadequate because they think they can’t meet their partner’s needs.

“Sometimes [mismatched sex drives] are managed and it’s working for everyone. And sometimes it’s not being managed,” Kahn said. “When the issue goes unmanaged — and I don’t mean ‘solved,’ not all issues need to be or can be solved — we start to avoid the conversation entirely and then avoid the activity as well.”’

  • You have sex-related performance anxiety

Fears about not being able to perform (getting or maintaining an erection, giving or having an orgasm) can cause so much anxiety leading up to sex that it becomes easier for some couples to just throw in the towel altogether. The misguided thinking is this: If I don’t try, then I can’t fail.

“While thinking and talking about sexual anxiety and sexual functioning issues can be difficult and filled with a lot of shame, there are a lot of ways to navigate both and continue to have sex,” Kahn said. “Silence feeds shame and shame feeds anxiety.”’

  • You’ve grown bored with each other

“Early in the relationship, the sex is new so it feels hot and exciting. Over time, though, couples can grow accustomed to the same routine, which may lead to a sexual malaise. But know that your sexuality (and your partner’s) is constantly evolving, and there are always new things to try and discover, Kahn said.

“When we stop being curious, stop allowing for growth and start assuming, sex can become mundane,” Kahn said. “Try refocusing on eroticism and ask yourself what turns you on, what makes you feel pleasure, and what makes you feel desired. Exploring ways to increase curiosity, excitement and playfulness in your sexual lives can modify a rigid repertoire.”’

How To Embrace Your Fetish Without Shame

Fetishes are a seldom understood aspect of sexuality.

Often stigmatized and categorized as “perverted,” people develop unnecessary feelings of shame around their fetishes. There’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of if you have a sexual fetish — in fact, it’s perfectly common. Research has shown that people who practice BDSM are less neurotic, more extroverted, more open to new experiences, more conscientious, less rejection sensitive, and have higher subjective well-being than non-kinky people. Embracing your fetish will not only enhance your experiences with pleasure but also decrease the stress that your shame is currently fueling.

There’s nothing wrong with you.

A fetish is an erotic attachment to an ordinarily nonsexual activity, inanimate object, or body part. Some common fetishes are foot fetish, voyeurism, exhibitionism, leather and/or latex fetish, humiliation, age play, or medical fetish. Despite what deep rooted social stigma teaches us, most fetishes are absolutely healthy to fantasize about and consensually enact.

We aren’t born feeling shame around our bodies and desires — we are socialized this way from a young age. Sometimes, it’s so skillfully embedded into our brains through media, education, and various systems of oppression that we don’t even realize where all this sexual shame came from. Especially when it comes to fetishes and kinks;embarrassment, stigma, and even disgust have become so normalized that many people feel they’re sexually broken for having these desires.

Our society has come to view any kind of sex that exists outside the confines of a monogamous, heterosexual, and non-kinky dynamic to be “deviant” or “dirty.” That’s societies problem, not yours. It’s okay to unlearn those narratives and beliefs, and explore your fetishes with openness and curiosity. Your fetishes don’t make you any less deserving of respect and dignity. Kink has the possibility to open up parts of yourself you didn’t know were there — embracing your fetish can create new connections and different forms of expression. And you deserve to revel in your sexual truths!

Your desires are normal. You aren’t alone.

Whatever your fetish or kink may be, it’s a healthy aspect of your sexuality. There are ways to play out all sorts of fetishes with other people who have similar desires–all it takes is some communication. Do you want to roleplay an alien fantasy or wear a diaper before getting spanked? There are absolutely other people out there exploring those kinks who would be ecstatic to welcome you.

As long as your play is consensual, negotiated, openly communicated, and safe you are free to explore your deepest (and darkest) desires. When you start connecting with fellow kinksters, you’ll quickly learn there’s an entire world that exists for desires that previously felt too perverse or shameful to even speak out loud.

Get vulnerable about what you want.

Putting yourself out there can create space to explore your fetishes and kinks — but we know that is much easier said than done. Usually, we're our own worst enemy when it comes to fully embracing our identities and sexual desires. It’s the internal monologue that tells us our kinks are “too weird” or “out there” or “no one else will want to share these experiences.” Being vulnerable and honest about what you want will allow your fantasies to reify.

It takes courage to be able to tell someone else a kinky fantasy or fetish you want to explore with them — fear of rejection or judgment can be intimidating. Remember that if someone declines your offer or reacts in a less than ideal way, that is not a reflection of who you are and it doesn’t mean your kink is shameful. It simply means that you and this person have different desires and that’s okay. For every person who doesn’t share your fetish, there are 5 more out there who do. It may take some time for you to find people who align with your kinky desires.

Embrace your true, kinky self.

There is nothing to apologize for in embracing your desires with other consenting adults. Respecting your true, kinky self looks different for everyone. Some people may find it liberating to be out and proud about their kinky lifestyle and wanting to talk about it with every new person they meet. Others may feel incredible keeping their fetishes to themselves for when no one else is home or as a sacred space shared with their partner(s).

There is no right or wrong way to embrace your sexual desires. You get to decide what it means to be kinky for you. Everyone deserves a judgment and shame-free space to feel liberated in their sexuality.

Blog authors all hold positions at the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Collective (G&STC). For more information about our therapists and services please contact us.


How to Have Safe(r) Sex

So, you want to have safe sex. We’ll give you the bad news first: There is no such thing as completely 100% risk-free sexual contact with another person. However, you can make safer sex the goal. There is a lot of misinformation out there about sex and safety (some of which we’ve written about before!), and it can be hard to tell what’s true and what’s not. Here are some of our top tips for having safer sex:

Get tested regularly

Getting tested for STIs regularly is the foundation for practicing safer sex. It’s also a fantastic way to practice self-care.. You may have to ask about testing, so be prepared to bring it up if your doctor doesn’t. Remember, your doctor may ask you questions about your sex life, to get an idea of the test you will need. Your doctor shouldn't make you feel ashamed or less-than because of your sexual practices, and if they make you feel that way, you are under no obligation to continue seeing them. It’s important you have a doctor you can be honest with so that you can get the care you need!

STI tests vary for different types of infections: some are a mouth swab, some are genital swab, some require a blood or urine sample, some are diagnosed by a pap smear, and some are diagnosed visually.

Also, some physicians have biases about queer sex that can make discussing this topic uncomfortable or feel unsafe, so if you have experienced this in the past, you’re not alone. For example, they may think that a person with a vulva who exclusively has sex with other vulva-having people doesn’t need to be tested for STIs, but this is absolutely not correct. If you are having sexual contact with folks, you need to be tested regularly. If your doctor shames you for this, please know that there are other doctors who will take you seriously and not shame you. Here are some places to start your search:

GLMA (Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality)

Planned Parenthood

Lighthouse (in NYC)

OutCare

Barrier methods

This is one of the most basic ways to practice safer sex. There is no method that is 100% infallible, of course, but condoms and dental dams are a crucial part of a safer sex practice. Do your best to use a condom and/or a dental dam every single time you have sex, whether that is vaginal, anal, or oral sex. If you use toys, you can put condoms on them for safer use between partners (remember to change condoms between partners!). Remember, you can make your own dental dams out of condoms: just cut off the tip, and then down the side so that you have a rectangle shape to use!

PrEP

PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It’s a pill that you can take daily to dramatically lower your chances of contracting HIV. This option is not for everyone, though. It is primarily prescribed to folks who don’t have HIV already and who are at higher risk of getting HIV. Reasons for this could include not regularly using condoms, having sexual partner(s) that are HIV+, and/or using injected drugs, among others. If this sounds like it could be the right fit for you, let your doctor know!

Learn how to manage STIs

Some STIs are curable (examples include syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea) and some are not (examples include HIV, herpes, and HPV). However, all STIs are able to be managed in some way. Some will require you to take an antibiotic or other medication temporarily until the infection is gone, and some will require lifelong medication. If your doctor prescribes you a short term medication to clear up an STI, make sure to follow their instructions exactly. Take all of the medication that is prescribed to you, even if you feel better before you are finished with it.

Expand what ‘sex’ means to you

You probably know this by now, but penetration isn’t the be all end all of sexual activity. Lower risk sexual activities are manual sex (handjobs, fingering, etc.), outercourse (dry humping), and mutual masturbation (where you masturbate together, touching your own bodies). Not only are these activities lower risk, but they can also be really hot! You may even find that introducing these activities into your sex life will be exciting!

Communication

This one again! This tip is on most of the lists we write because it’s so important in every type of relationship! Make sure to discuss the limits, boundaries and level of exclusivity with your partner(s), and discuss the safety practices you put in place with other partners so that you and your partner(s) are on the same page. If you aren’t used to communicating openly about your sex life, this may feel really intimidating and impossible, but like all things, it gets easier with practice.  

Be familiar with your body

If you know how your body normally works, you will be better prepared to notice that something is amiss. Keep an eye out for things like sores, rashes, or unusual discharge as these can be signs of several STIs. You can also be on the lookout for these things on the body of your partner(s), since you will likely be able to see any changes or symptoms for yourself.

With these tips in mind, we hope you feel more confident about making safer sex a regular practice!

Blog authors all hold positions at the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Collective (G&STC). For more information about our therapists and services please contact us.

G&STC's Director and Therapist talk with HuffPost Relationships about myths about sex

Check out G&STC director, Jesse Kahn, and Therapist, Liz Afton, talking with Kelsey Borresen at Huffpost Relationships about myths about sex.

MYTH #1: “Sex is only “good” if it ends in orgasm.

Yes, the Big O can be toe-curlingly euphoric, but it’s definitely not the only pleasurable aspect of a sexual encounter. Even when sex doesn’t end in climax, it can still feel really damn good for both partners.

“Sex operates on so many dimensions beyond the physical, or in tandem and unique synergy with the physical,” said Liz Afton, a therapist at the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Collective. “Whether in tantric breathing, BDSM edging, professional sex surrogates or fetish-oriented kinks, the profound spiritual and emotional healing potential of sex and sexuality is too often overlooked.”’

MYTH #2: “Being into kink makes you abnormal or sexually deviant.

If the mega-popularity of “50 Shades of Grey” (though problematic in some regards) is any indication, kink is no longer a niche community relegated to the dark corners of the internet. Spanking, role-playing and bondage are all common types of kink — which is defined as a sexual activity or desire outside of the conventional (read: vanilla) appetite.

“Kinkiness is becoming more and more mainstream, which eases the shame and isolation kinky folks experienced in the past,” said Jesse Kahn, therapist and director of The Gender & Sexuality Therapy Collective. “Not only are more people kinky, but folks are starting to realize that their sex life already incorporates kinky elements.”’

And one more myth:

MYTH #3: Planning sex is not sexy.

This is totally not true! In our culture we have a fantasy about spontaneous sex, but, if you really think about it, even our sex that feels spontaneous is often not. Specific actions and intentions led to those moments. Planning sex can be equally hot once we expand our definition of what “planning” means. When we create an erotic environment, incorporate new toys, re-visit our turn-ons, or explore different fantasies, we are planning sex. Using this perspective, we redefine rigidity and spontaneity.

G&STC Glossary of Terms for Therapists | Part Five

Welcome to the fifth & final installment of the G&STC Glossary of Terms for Therapists! This glossary can function as a first step for those looking to educate themselves & their practice in order to make the practice to be a safe & inclusive space for queer and trans clients. Along with our six tips for therapists to be more queer and trans-inclusive, we’ve put together this five-part glossary series for therapists & care providers. You can find parts one, two, three & four here!

**In addition to educating yourself on the actual words, it’s important to reflect on your familiarity with, relationship to and underlying judgments and assumptions of the people and communities that embody these identities, expressions, and experiences. It’s okay to have judgments - we all do. What matters is that we are aware of, question the validity of, work to unlearn and not perpetuate those judgments at our clients’ expense.

Queerphobia: Describes discrimination against or hatred of people who identify as queer.

Questioning: describes the process of exploring one's gender and sexual identity, or a person who is unsure of what label or identity fits them best.

Sexual Orientation: Describes the nature of a person’s sexual/emotional/romantic attraction to others.

Top Surgery: A colloquial term used to describe gender affirming surgery. Find trans + queer affirming health care providers here.

Transgender: Describes person who identifies as a gender or sex different than the one they were assigned at birth. Trans is an umbrella term that emcompases many gender expressions.

Transition: Refers to the process which some trans folks undergo when socially, medically or physically affirming their gender identity.  Transitioning isn’t exclusive to those who undergo medical treatment or procedures; it can also describe a more accessible changes such as changing name and pronouns or changes in physical appearance like clothing, hairstyle, mannerisms, etc. to reflect a person’s identity. (Sidenote: many trans people’s transitions look different and many do not subscribe to cisnormative ideals of beauty and gender)

Transphobia: Describes discrimination against or hatred of trans people or the trans community.

Transmisogyny: Describes transphobia directed specifically at trans women & transfemine folks. (What is transmisogyny & what can we do about it?)

Tucking: The practice of hiding the bulge of penis/testicles in clothing.

Two-Spirit: A sacred and historical identity used by First Nations communities. It describes a distinct, separate gender identity (not a queer umbrella term, as it is often misappropriated). A more thorough history of the term Two-Spirit can be found here.  

Ze/Hir/Hirs: Gender neutral pronouns (sounds like “zhee”, “here”, and “heres”)


Blog authors all hold positions at the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Collective (G&STC). For more information about our therapists and services please contact us.

Kink + Safety: What You Need to Know

As with all sexual activity, there are safety concerns to think about when engaging in kink. Unfortunately, due to our restrictive and shameful sexual culture in the United States, many folks don’t receive anything close to comprehensive sexual education, let alone a kink-inclusive education. There is a lot of misinformation out there, like the idea that kink is an inherently risky activity. If you are interested in learning more about kink, make sure to do your research carefully. (Here are some books on the topic to get you started!) The kink community, in general, is very focused and intentional on safety.

If we want an education on kinky topics, many of us have to go looking for it ourselves. Which is where we come in! Kink doesn’t have to be a big scary thing hanging over you - ideally, it is there to provide you a safe space to explore your desires and sexuality. So, it’s important that all participants feel safe (in any sexual scenario, not just kink!). However, there are some ways to approach safety that are specific to kinky activities. If you’ve ever wondered how to discuss safety and kink with your sexual partner(s), here are our top tips:

Consent

We’ve written about consent here on the blog before, but it is such a crucial part of any sexual activity that we would be remiss if we didn’t mention it again. Here’s an excerpt: “In the kink community, consent is paramount. Consent is never implied - it is generally understood in the kink community that consent is an important discussion between partners and that it is ongoing. Saying “yes” to one activity does not imply a “yes” for all other sexual activity. It is crucial to negotiate consent before a scene and go over each participant’s limits and to check in during the scene as well.” Consent requires communication, so make sure to communicate your own desires and limits, and listen to your partner(s) when they communicate them to you. Additionally, stay in touch about consent as consent can change - saying yes to one activity today may not be yes to that activity tomorrow.

Know Your Acronyms

There are two popular acronyms used by kinksters: SSC (Safe, Sane, Consensual) and RACK (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink). RACK was developed as a response to SSC, because some folks find SSC to be limiting (or they find it’s an easier framework to describe kink to non-kinksters, but not comprehensive enough to use within kink communities). RACK is an understanding that no sexual activity is ever 100% safe, but being aware of the risks and making an informed decision that focuses on consent is vital.

Safe Words

You may have heard of the idea of a safe word before. A safe word is a clear signal to everyone involved in a scene to slow down or stop play. Basically, you choose a word that is short and easy to remember and make sure everyone involved in a scene is aware before play begins. You can pick whatever word you like, or use the words stop/no (although, if part of your play involves saying stop or no and having the person continue, you should choose another word). You can also use a stoplight system to check in with your partner(s) before, during, and after play. In this system, green means keep going, yellow means slow down and check in, and red means to stop immediately. Again, make sure that when you’re engaging in play, everyone is aware of the safe words that will be used.

Hard + Soft Limits

We like to recommend a Yes/No/Maybe list for folks who are exploring what they’re interested in sexually, and this can be a great starting point for determining what your hard and soft limits are. A hard limit is something you absolutely will not do, under any circumstance. A soft limit is something you are not usually interested in but would be willing to try in the right circumstance. An important thing to remember is that your hard and soft limits may evolve over time, so as always, it’s important to communicate your limits with your partner(s) regularly.

Aftercare

Aftercare is a post-play check-in, where partners give time and attention to each other to wrap up the scene and make sure everyone is feeling safe and comfortable. It can include cuddling, discussing the scene, drinking water, eating a snack, or something else. There aren’t rules for what you “have” to do for aftercare because everyone is different, but the end goal should be to communicate and make sure everyone is feeling good and taken care of. Aftercare is for everyone involved in play, not just for the submissive partner(s). Dominant folks need aftercare too, so make sure to check in with everyone involved in a scene and see what they need for support.

With these tips in mind, hopefully kink feels a bit more approachable and less intimidating. Remember, consent is paramount, and communication is key in kink.

Blog authors all hold positions at the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Collective (G&STC). For more information about our therapists and services please contact us.

G&STC's Director talks with HuffPost Relationships about the word 'Soulmate'

Check out G&STC director, Jesse Kahn, talking with Kelsey Borresen at HuffPost Relationships about the word ‘soulmate!’

”Soulmates are a symbol of the universal hope that someone will love you unconditionally in spite of your flaws and baggage.

“To me, a soulmate is a symbol. It’s a symbol of hope, connection and healing (particularly attachment-based healing) that we as humans desire and crave. It’s a symbol of feeling that — in spite of our histories, pain, dysfunctional relationship patterns — we will ‘click’ with someone and will be able to make it work. The soulmate symbol creates hope and speaks to a desire to be loved, seen, heard, understood and to feel worthy. And even more so, a soulmate is the hope that we will be loved, seen, heard, understood and worthy, despite our flaws.

“While I think hope and symbols are important, I try not to lean into them too hard as they can sometimes take away someone’s sense of agency in their own situation. Our relationships and future relationships may be influenced but are not determined by what we have or have not experienced, and we can have agency in that process.”’

G&STC Glossary of Terms for Therapists | Part Four

Welcome to the third installment of the G&STC Glossary of Terms for Therapists! This glossary can function as a first step for those looking to educate themselves & their practice in order to make the practice to be a safe & inclusive space for queer and trans clients. Along with our six tips for therapists to be more queer and trans-inclusive, we’ve put together this five-part glossary series for therapists & care providers. You can find parts one, two & three here!

**In addition to educating yourself on the actual words, it’s important to reflect on your familiarity with, relationship to and underlying judgments and assumptions of the people and communities that embody these identities, expressions, and experiences. It’s okay to have judgments - we all do. What matters is that we are aware of, question the validity of, work to unlearn and not perpetuate those judgments at our clients’ expense.

Intersex: Describes people who are born with reproductive anatomy that doesn’t fit in to the mainstream binary definition of male or female. Covers a wide spectrum of anatomical variation. It’s important to note that this is very natural in people and should not be considered a medical problem. More on what it means to be intersex here.

Lesbian: Describes a woman-identifying person who is most commonly attracted to other woman-identifying people.

Lesbophobia: Describes discrimination against or hatred of people who identify as lesbian.

MTF: Abbreviation for “male to female,” which refers to a person assigned male at birth, transitioning to and identifying as female. Can also be referred to as “transitioning to female.” Not all transfeminine people identify with this abbreviation or with the concept that they are “transitioning from M to F,” rather that they’ve always been F.

Outing: The act of revealing someone’s sexual or gender identity. Read more on why you shouldn’t ever out anyone here.

Pangender: Describes a person who identifies themselves outside of the gender binary or as a member of all genders. Can be a fixed or fluid identity.

Pansexual: Describes a person who is attracted to people of all genders. You can find a more in-depth look at pansexuality here.

Passing: Typically used in regards to gender; describes the ability of one to be regarded as a member of the gender identity group they identify with, regardless of the identity assigned at birth. Can also be used to describe how queer folks in different gendered relationships are perceived as straight (“straight passing”). While commonly viewed as a privilege, members of the queer community may also see passing as a sign of oppressive heteronormativity. It is also a controversial term in the trans community, as it implies the identity inhabited by “passing” trans folks is an inauthentic one, which is judged by normative standards associated with being cisgender.

Polyamorous: Describes a person who desires consensual and ethical non-monogamy. Sometimes referred to as “poly” or “polyam.” Start to unlearn common myths about polyamory here.

Polycule: Describes the collective network of people involved in a polyamorous relationship.

Polyfidelity: Describes a relationship with three or more members, who are engaged in a closed relationship. Sometimes referred to as “monogamy + 1” (or more).

QPOC: An acronym for Queer Person (or People) of Color.

Queer: Historically used as a slur against members of the LGBTQ community, but has been reclaimed and is now often used as an umbrella term for those who identify outside of dominant social gender & sexuality pressures.

This is the fourth in a five-part glossary series. You can find parts one, two & three here. Check back in each week for the next installment!

Blog authors all hold positions at the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Collective (G&STC). For more information about our therapists and services please contact us.

G&STC Glossary of Terms for Therapists | Part Three

Welcome to the third installment of the G&STC Glossary of Terms for Therapists! This glossary can function as a first step for those looking to educate themselves & their practice in order to make the practice to be a safe & inclusive space for queer and trans clients. Along with our six tips for therapists to be more queer and trans-inclusive, we’ve put together this five-part glossary series for therapists & care providers. You can find parts one & two here!

**In addition to educating yourself on the actual words, it’s important to reflect on your familiarity with, relationship to and underlying judgments and assumptions of the people and communities that embody these identities, expressions, and experiences. It’s okay to have judgments - we all do. What matters is that we are aware of, question the validity of, work to unlearn and not perpetuate those judgments at our clients’ expense.

Genderqueer: Describes a person who does not identify within the gender binary. People who identify as genderqueer may identify as a combination of genders, or as neither male nor female. Identifying as genderqueer can be fluid or stagnant, and does not have one firm parameters–meaning it can look different depending on the person! Want to know more about what it means to identify as genderqueer? Here are 7 things genderqueer people want you to know.  

Gender Policing: The forced performance of normative gender expressions. Often targeting trans & genderqueer folks who are not seen as adequately performing as the gender they were assigned at birth. Need some real-life examples? Here’s a Huffington Post article to help you out.

Gender Identity: How individuals see themselves (man, woman, genderqueer, agender, etc.)–one’s own personal sense of identity, not necessarily the same as the gender assigned at birth.  

Heteronormativity: The belief & cultural implication that heterosexuality is the norm or the default state, marginalizing or othering identities that do not fall into the “norm.”

Heterosexism: The belief & cultural implication that heterosexuality is not only the default but the superior state of human beings. Results in discrimination or marginalization of queer identities.

Homophobia: Describes discrimination against or hatred of people who identify as gay/lesbian. Often used as an umbrella term for discrimination/hatred against the queer community as a whole. What’s the difference between homophobia & heterosexism?

Intersectionality: Describes the framework which looks at how varying identities (race, gender, class, sexuality, able-bodiedness, etc.) are connected and interlocked, further marginalized together by oppressive power structures. Here is a more comprehensive explanation of intersectionality & how it works.

Internalized Homophobia: Describes when queer folks turn society's negative views of the queer community inward. SImply put it is the self-hatred that manifests for a person living as a marginalized identity.

This is the third in a five-part glossary series. You can find parts one & two here. Check back in each week for the next installment!

Blog authors all hold positions at the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Collective (G&STC). For more information about our therapists and services please contact us.


Ten Signs Your Partner May Be Emotionally Abusive

There are so many misconceptions about emotional abuse. Here are a few:

  • That it isn’t real.

  • That it only happens in heterosexual relationships.

  • That it’s because of a person’s trauma and therefore not their fault.

  • That anything that doesn’t leave a physical mark shouldn’t be taken seriously.

To combat these misconceptions, here are some behaviors that are emotionally abusive that are often not labeled as such:

  1. They minimize your experience.

This can look like them minimizing their abuse of you (for example, they may say things like: “it wasn’t that bad”or “how dare you make this about you”). This can also include minimizing your life experiences and invalidating any feelings you may be having.

2. They gaslight you.

This means that your partner makes you feel crazy by denying facts and your reality. (Gaslighting can be statements like these: that’s not how that went, that didn’t happen, you’re so crazy for feeling this way, etc.)

3. They humiliate you.

Your partner may do things like: Making a big scene in public, making fun of you to your friends, or saying anything to make you feel stupid or unworthy. This includes directly insulting you, calling you stupid, crazy, lazy, selfish, or anything along those lines.

4. They blame you and make you feel responsible for their negative emotions.

They put the blame on you for everything, including when things have not gone perfectly and for things that aren’t your fault.

5. They intimidate you.

They raise their voice, yell at you, and make you feel scared or unsafe.

6. They isolate you from your friends and family.

This tactic can include your partner not wanting or letting you spend time with friends or family, and being upset/punitive if you do. Another common behavior is your partner being controlling of who you hang out with, wanting to keep tabs on your at all times, and accusing you of cheating or having feelings for someone else.

7. They threaten you.

This includes threatening to leave you, but it can also include threats of harming themselves. They may threaten to kill themselves if you don’t do something. They can threaten you with physical or sexual violence that they don’t act on.

8. They make comments that are femmephobic, homophobic, and/or transphobic.

This looks like criticizing or accusing you of not being “a real lesbian/woman/man” because you are femme or trans. They may also spend time tearing you down based on your gender presentation (Which can look like statements such as: “you’re too femme for me,” “You’re not butch enough” etc.

9. They shame you.

They may try to make you feel shame for all sorts of things: For any desire you have, sexual or otherwise. For being emotional. For wanting better. For being you.

10. They withhold love.

They may not say “I love you,” or they may withhold physical affection as a punishment. They may ignore you or make you feel like you did something to deserve this kind of treatment.

Emotional abuse impacts our sense of self,  other relationships, and what we feel we deserve in life. But healing is possible and you are absolutely not alone. And it all starts with understanding.

If you are experiencing or have experienced emotional abuse, please reach out to us for a consultation.

Some other resources that you may find helpful are:

G&STC Library: A Gender and Sexuality Reading Roundup Part 2

In this series, we’re talking about things to read! We try to cover as much as we can on this blog, but in the hopes of expanding your knowledge of gender and sexuality, we put together this list of resources for you to reference as you need it.

In this installment, we’re recommending resources about intersectionality, disability, history from the perspective of marginalized communities, and sex positivity. Some of the selections below are a little more scholarly than others, but there is a wealth of information on these subjects available online, of course (some of it much more accurate than others!), but if you want to supplement the reading you do online, these books are certainly a place to start.

Intersectionality

Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics by Kimberle Crenshaw

Our first pick in this section is Kimberle Crenshaw ’s influential paper on intersectionality. This piece was the first to link the concept of intersectionality to feminism, where she explored the intersections of being black and being a woman, and how both identities often influence each other in ways that cannot be ignored. This is really a foundational read on this topic!

Women, Race, & Class by Angela Y. Davis

Angela Y. Davis is an internationally recognized scholar on the topics of women, race, and class, which she dives into in this book. She traces the history of the women’s movement and how it was designed to benefit middle-class white women, leaving all others behind. In this analysis of the mainstream feminist movement in the United States, she examines the intersections of gender, race, and class, and argues that feminism is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution.

History from the Margins

A Queer History of the United States (ReVisioning American History) by Michael Bronski, An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States (ReVisioning American History) by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, and A Disability History of the United States (ReVisioning American History) by Kim E. Nielsen

There are a lot of groups who get left out of mainstream history - aka the history you probably learned about in school. Unfortunately, the burden falls on us to educate ourselves on these topics. These volumes give a compelling overview of the history of three hugely marginalized groups in the United States - the queer community, Indigenous people, and disabled folks. If you’ve ever wondered what was left out of history class, you may want to give these volumes a read.

The Color of Kink: Black Women, BDSM, and Pornography (Sexual Cultures) by Ariane Cruz

This is a history and analysis of black women’s representations and performances within pornography and BDSM, from the 1930s until now. This book illustrates the idea that sexuality is not just one common experience for everyone - there are intersections and identities that influence sexuality, and they should be explored.

Sex Workers Unite: A History of the Movement from Stonewall to SlutWalk by Melinda Chateauvert

Sex work is still wildly misunderstood in the United States (even by otherwise progressive folks) and so it is especially important to educate yourself on the topic. This book looks at the history of civil rights movements of the last 50 or so years, and how sex workers were incredibly important to their success, although their contributions are largely ignored. This book details how sex workers are fighting for their own liberation, and actually tells the stories of sex workers, instead of leaving them out of the discussion entirely.  

Disability

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability: For All of Us Who Live with Disabilities, Chronic Pain, and Illness by Miriam Kaufman

Although it is hardly ever represented in the mainstream, disabled folks are still sexual people. This book is a guide to having a sex life that works for you, with information from a medical doctor, a sex educator, and a disability activist. The book covers a range of disabilities, so it is relevant for many people. Some of the topics covered include positive sexual self-image, positions to minimize stress and maximize pleasure, dealing with fatigue or pain during sex, finding partners and talking with partners about sex and disability, and adapting sex toys.

Sex and Disability by Robert McRuer

Disability is rarely mentioned in the same breath as sexuality, even in queer spaces. This book is a collection of essays that works to disprove the notion that disabled people are not sexual. In an ableist and heteronormative world, this book explores what is sexy and sexual, from many perspectives, including queer theory.

We’ll be back with some more installments in this series with more book recommendations! Are there any topics you’d like to learn about? Let us know!

G&STC Director talks with HuffPost Relationships about getting kinkier in the New Year

Check out G&STC director, Jesse Kahn, talking with HuffPost Relationships about 7 sex tips for couples looking to get kinkier in the new year!

A few additional tips:

Plan the types of sex you want to have or try. In movies (and in many people's fantasies), sex happens in an instant, but spontaneous sex isn’t the only way to keep your sex life exciting. I love writing and exploring what we can learn from different communities, and this tip is a great example of what kink and BDSM communities can teach vanilla folks. Putting time and energy into planning the type of sex you want to have can shift what your sex is like, can help create different types of sexual experiences, can help shift your sex life towards the sex life you want, and can build anticipation. By focusing on the “what” and “how” rather than the “when” of sex, we can remove some of the pressure associated with sex and make something that took a lot of communication and planning seem more spontaneous. (P.S-Spontaneous sex, what many cite as how their sex was early on, is in many ways an illusion, and was more planned and intentional than our memories recall.) 

Actively stay curious about you and your partner's sexuality and desires.Many find comfort in routine and stability, but unfortunately, that's not where eroticism thrives. Luckily, just as we continue growing and evolving, so do our desires. When thinking about great sex, first re-focus on eroticism and ask yourself what turns you on, makes you feel pleasure, or makes you feel desired. Then ask your partners! Try out, or revisit, yes/no/maybe lists. This is a list of sexual activities, and you can categorize them based on what you’d like to try (yes), what you would not like to try (no), and what you aren’t sure about (maybe). These lists are commonly used in kinky spaces, but can be applied to any type of relationship. 

7 Ways to be a Supportive Partner to a Survivor

Now more than ever it is important for those of us supporting a survivor in a partnership to be educated and prepared. Right now, the world is particularly full of trauma reminders. A trauma reminder is anything that reminds a person of a traumatic event. It can be a smell, feeling, place, person, sound, or experience. Anything that has the potential to trigger a memory or emotion associated with a traumatic event For many survivors of trauma, seemingly simple or daily events like: turning on their phones, seeing the news, or just walking down the street, can bring old trauma back to the surface.

Here are a few ways to support your partner through this time, and always:

Listen, ask follow up questions, validate.

Survivors need to feel heard and understood to open up and feel safe. Don’t offer your opinion, just sit back and listen. Ask clarifying questions. Validate their experience. If you don’t have a trauma history, you won’t ever be able to fully understand your partners experience. But you can validate their emotions and let them know you are there to support them, even when you can’t understand what they are going through. It can even be validating to hear, “I can’t even imagine how scary that was”.

Learn what your partner looks like and acts like when they triggered.

Ask what their triggers are. Pay attention when they check out, get upset, need to leave. What happens right before that? Then...

Make a plan.

When your partner isn’t triggered, talk to them about how you can support them when they get triggered or either of you can feel a trauma response coming on. Do they need to hold your hand? Be alone? Be told by you it’s ok if you all have to leave the party? Find out what it is they need when this happens, and what they need from you for support.

Educate yourself.

Reading books about trauma and survivorship will not only help you better understand your partner and their experiences but will also show them how much you care. Important books on trauma and relationships: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van der Kolk, Healing Sex by Staci Haines, Learning Good Consent from AK Press, and Loving Someone with PTSD by Aphrodite T. Matsakis.

Talk about sex, intimacy, and your relationship in a safe and non sexual environment.

If your partner is a survivor of any kind of sexual trauma or interpersonal violence, they may not always feel safe opening up when in a very intimate setting. Discuss these topics not in bed and normalize that within the relationship. Schedule check ins at the breakfast table. The more you can make communication a routine and the more predictable it can be, the safer your partner can feel. Trauma happens when a person feels out of control and where there is a lack of predictability. [1] 

Don’t take it personally.

If your partner gets triggered within your relationship, it is likely not “your fault”. Making it about you will further shame their reaction. People who are survivors get triggered within interpersonal relationships especially if that’s where previous trauma(s) occurred. If they get triggered, go back to the plan you all have made about how you can support them. 

Don’t walk on eggshells.

While you can support them in their recovery, they need to be treated like a whole human being. There’s a very important balance between being aware and being too careful. Your partner is a resilient, strong, resourceful human being who has been able to find love and connection with you.

You also don’t have to do any of this alone. Finding a trauma informed or trauma therapy trained professional is always an option.

By supporting your partner and educating yourself on trauma you are communicating to your partner that you care and they can be safe with you. This is where a lot of healing can happen, for both of you.

Blog authors all hold positions at the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Collective (G&STC). For more information about our therapists and services please contact us.

G&STC Glossary of Terms for Therapists | Part Two

Welcome back to the G&STC Glossary of Terms for Therapists! This glossary can function as a first step for those looking to educate themselves & their practice in order to make the practice to be a safe & inclusive space for queer and trans clients. Along with our six tips for therapists to be more queer and trans inclusive, we’ve put together this five-part glossary series for therapists & care providers. You can find part one here.

**In addition to educating yourself on the actual words, it’s important to reflect on your familiarity with, relationship to and underlying judgments and assumptions of the people and communities that embody these identities, expressions, and experiences. It’s okay to have judgments - we all do. What matters is that we are aware of, question the validity of, work to unlearn and not perpetuate those judgments at our clients’ expense.

Cissexism: The idea, or behavior that reinforces cisgender people as the “norm” while marginalizing or making other genders invisible. Need more? Here are 20 common occurrences of cissexism in everyday life.

Coming Out: The process of becoming aware of, proclaiming, and/or sharing with others their sexual or gender identity.  Here are a few tips on what to do if a friend or loved one comes out to you.

Drag: Refers to the theatrical performance of gender. You can read a history of drag here.

Femme: A term used to describe gender expression or behavior that presents as traditionally feminine. What’s the difference between being femme and being feminine?

FTM: Abbreviation for “female to male,” which refers to a person assigned female at birth, transitioning to and identifying as male. Can also be referred to as “transitioning to male.”

Gay: Describes a person who is most commonly attracted to people of the same gender that they themselves identify with. Can be used by any gender, but is most often associated with men.

Gender-affirming surgery: Refers to surgeries used to modify one's body to be more congruent with one’s gender identity. Also referred to as “sex reassignment surgery” Here are answers to common questions about gender affirming surgery.

Gender Binary: The view that there are only two genders (male & female) and that these genders are static and opposite, and that all people fit into one category or the other.

Gender Dysphoria: Describes the distress felt by those whose gender identity differs from the one assigned to them at birth. Here are five things you should know about gender & body dysphoria.

Gender Expression: Refers to the external display of one’s gender, through action, style, voice, etc. Does not necessarily reflect gender assigned at birth or gender identity.

Genderfluid: Describes a person who does not identify with a fixed gender identity. May identify as a mix of genders, or fluctuate between genders. Here are five things you should know about gender fluidity.

This is part two of a five-part glossary series. You can find part one here. Be sure to keep checking back for the next installment!

Blog authors all hold positions at the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Collective (G&STC). For more information about our therapists and services please contact us.

How To Be A Trans Ally

As you may know, the Trump Administration is looking for another way to erase trans folks. According to The New York Times, the Trump Administration is seeking to define gender as “biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth,” essentially incorrectly defining sex as unchangeable and in a binary of male or female.

As we stated in this post, G&STC stands in solidarity with transgender communities in opposition to this targeted and toxic move by the Trump Administration. Gender is not a binary, and cannot be determined by the body of an infant and the sex one is assigned at birth.

It’s more important than ever to be supportive of the trans community - lives are on the line, and the continued violence of this administration has been a threat to the trans community since day one. Here are some ways you can show up for trans people - not just when horrible news comes out like this, but every day.

Being an ally is an action, not a title. It’s not something you are, it’s something you do.

Do the work to educate yourself

Trans people have no obligation to educate you. While some people are truly unsure of terminology and etiquette, it is not the duty of marginalized folx to provide the emotional labor to educate everyone. Set aside some time to do your own research, and make sure you’re getting your information from reputable sources - ideally from folks in the community you’re learning about. Don’t be ashamed that you don’t know everything already, just make sure you take the time to educate yourself. You can start here:

TREVOR SUPPORT CENTER

Trans Youth Support Network

Transwhat?

National Center for Transgender Equality

G&STC Glossary of Terms for Therapists | Part One - check back with our blog for more terms, coming soon!

G&STC Consultation, Education + Supervision Services - to schedule a training

Give your time + money

There are a number of fantastic organizations that do the work to support the trans community on a daily basis. Take a look at the list below and see if there are any chapters in your area where you can volunteer. You can also check on social media to see if there are any events in your area. A one-time donation is a fantastic gift. An even better one is a recurring monthly donation so that organizations can count on your money every month and use it to do their work. Here are some places to get started:

Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund

Transgender Law Center

The Trevor Project

National Center for Transgender Equality

Trans Lifeline

GLAAD

G&STC's Mental Health Fund

Never out anyone

Hopefully, this is obvious, but it still bears repeating: never out anyone. Being out is not a simple decision for a lot of trans and gender expansive folks. In many instances, being out can be dangerous. Being out can also lead to discrimination from employers, peers, family members, landlords, healthcare professionals - the list goes on. This is not a choice you can make for someone. Unless you have been given the express permission of the person in question, it is not your place to out anyone, ever.  

Ask about pronouns, and offer your own

Don’t assume you know anyone’s pronouns simply by looking at them. If you don’t already know someone’s pronouns, take the time to ask them. Another way to be an ally is to normalize the sharing of pronouns. When you introduce yourself to someone, you can say “Hi, my name is [NAME] and my pronouns are [PRONOUNS]. It’s nice to meet you!” This way, the burden of disclosing pronouns is not solely placed on trans folks. Put your pronouns in your email signature and in your bio on social media sites.   If you’re meeting someone for the first time, you can introduce yourself with your pronouns and ask about theirs. Reminder: don’t just do this for people who you think “look” trans or nonbinary (Side note: Keep in mind that there is not one way that trans people look and this sentiment is based on a cisgender ideal.)

Listen more than you talk

This is a common theme in allyship - let marginalized communities lead the way. You are there for support, so make sure you are listening to and amplifying trans voices. Make sure you’re not just listening to fellow allies. Your allyship should be based around the folks you claim to be an ally to. This means listening more than you talk in trans spaces, educating yourself, and promoting trans leaders.

Vote

The best way we have to fight against the current administration is to vote. Make sure you’re registered, you know where to vote, and you understand the issues. Don’t just vote in presidential elections, and don’t convince yourself that your vote doesn’t count - it absolutely does - especially locally. Talk to your friends and family about why voting for candidates who stand up for trans rights is important. Make sure your friends and family vote too!

This list is just 6 easy ways to be a trans ally - don’t let your allyship begin and end here. Keep growing, learning, and fighting for the folks who are under attack by our government.  

G&STC Glossary of Terms for Therapists | Part One

If you’re looking for your practice to be a safe & inclusive space for queer and trans clients, educating yourself is the first step. Along with our six tips for therapists to be more queer and trans inclusive, we’ve put together this glossary (the first of a five-part series) of terms. This glossary is a great tool to use as a jumping off point in educating yourself about queer & trans issues, identities and terminology.

In addition to educating yourself on the actual words, it’s important to reflect on your familiarity with, relationship to and underlying judgements and assumptions of the people and communities that embody these identities, expressions and experiences. It’s okay to have judgements - we all do. What matters is that we are aware of, question the validity of, work to unlearn and not perpetuate those judgements at our clients’ expense.

Agender: Describes a person who does not identify or conform with any particular gender. Want to know more? Here’s a Bustle article to get you started.

Asexual: Describes a person who doesn’t experience sexual attraction. However, like most identities, asexuality exists on a scale from sex-neutral to sex-repulsed. People who identify as asexual can feel romantic attraction, emotional and personal intimacy. Asexuality does not refer to physical ability to experience arousal. Commonly referred to as “ace.” Learn more about asexuality here.

Aromantic: Describes a person who feels little or no romantic attraction or lacks interest in forming romantic attractions. Commonly referred to as “aro.” Learn 6 quick facts about the aromantic spectrum here.

Aphobia: Describes discrimination against or hatred of people who identify as part of the ace/aro spectrum.

Assigned at Birth (Sex): Describes the designation and classification of female, male, intersex or another sex, and is based on perceived physical anatomy at birth.

Bigender: Describes someone who identifies with more than one gender, or a combination of gender identities.

Bisexuality: Describes someone who experiences attraction to people of their own & other genders. Does not change or go away based on gender identity of a person’s partner. More on bisexuality here.

Biphobia: Describes discrimination against or hatred of people who identify as bisexual/biromantic.

Binary: The adjective used to describe the gendered system of female/male and woman/man that dominant western society perpetuates and upholds as legitimate & valid. This system grants those who embody those genders with unearned privilege.

Binding: Describes the process of tightly wrapping a chest in order to flatten the appearance of breasts. Learn more about binders & safe methods of binding here.

Bottom Surgery: A colloquial term used to describe gender affirming genital surgeries, such as vaginoplasty, phalloplasty and metoidioplasty. Find trans + queer affirming health care providers here.

Cisgender: A person who identifies with the sex identity assigned to them at birth and the gender dominant society correlates to that sex. What is cisgender privilege & why does it matter?

This is the first in a five part glossary series. Check back in each week for the next installment!

Blog authors all hold positions at the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Collective (G&STC). For more information about our therapists and services please contact us.

G&STC stands firmly against Trump's call to erase transgender individuals from federal definitions of sex and gender.  

According to The New York Times, the Trump Administration is seeking to define gender as “biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth,” essentially incorrectly defining sex as unchangeable and in a binary of male or female.

G&STC stands in solidarity with transgender communities in opposition to this targeted and toxic move by the Trump Administration seeking to harm millions of transgender and intersex people. Understanding gender as an innate binary construct determined by one’s genitalia at birth is in opposition to to the dominant view held by healthcare providers and medical and mental health professional communities.
 
Gender is not a binary, and cannot be determined by the body of an infant and the sex one is assigned at birth.