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Information and education about psychology, gender, and trauma.

Advice and reflections on writing, research, and life in academia. 

Posts written by Dr. Jem Tosh and Dr. Lucy Thompson. 

Tips on Being an Ally to Nonbinary People

By Dr. Jem Tosh (they/she)

I find that there are a couple of main reasons why misgendering hurts me so much. The first, is that each time it happens it brings up decades of memories and hurt where I have been ridiculed and received hostility for my gender. Every little slip of 'women like us' or 'your female body' cuts like a paper cut on a body deeply bruised and full of the chronic pain from a lifetime spent living in cisnormativity and intensifying transphobia.

The second is that it can signify that while someone may be using the correct pronouns for me, they haven't actually changed how they see me or what they think of me. I'm still thought of as a 'woman' or 'female' who sometimes uses they/them pronouns, rather than seeing me as a nonbinary person with a nonbinary body.

This may be why it hurts more when misgendering happens in inclusive and critical spaces, where people are making an effort to be an ally to nonbinary people. It happened recently, quite a few times, at Psygentra. The space I created as a nonbinary person. I didn't want Psygentra to become yet another place that I felt unwelcome or like I wasn't truly accepted as my whole self. So I sent out an email reminding people of my gender, name, titles, and pronouns, as well as some suggestions for how to be a better ally to nonbinary people for those who are already doing the work. I got so many positive responses about the email that I decided to make it into a blog post so that more people could read and share it.

No Apologies Needed

Because the best apology is changed behaviour.

If you feel bad, worried, or sorry, you can use that energy to commit to doing better in the future. Mistakes happen and they can be a reminder that we have more learning (and unlearning) to do. Also, when we start apologising profusely, we can make the focus about us and the person who has been harmed by our error can be expected to console or comfort us. Sometimes in these moments, it can become about alleviating our guilt so we can continue feeling like a 'good person', rather than sitting with that discomfort and learning from it.

Tips on Being an Ally to Nonbinary People

  • Don't just memorise pronouns, you have to change the way you think about gender.  

  • Practice with other allies talking about the person you are trying to support, using the correct pronouns and gender terms (or practice in front of a mirror if you would rather work on it alone).  

  • Practice saying 'nonbinary person' and 'genderfluid person' until you get used to it.  

  • Apply this to their whole being - if they are nonbinary then so is their body.  

  • Don't expect androgyny. Femmes can be thems.  

  • Create space for us to talk about the violence that targets our communities. Let us grieve Two Spirit, trans, and nonbinary people lost through violence, abuse, and hate.  

  • Being an ally is not an identity, it's ACTION. How you feel about trans and nonbinary people is not doing the work of dismantling transphobia and cisnormativity.  

  • Attend our May 7, 2024 Reading and Research Group on Trans and Nonbinary Embodiment.  

  • Watch Psygentra's short lecture on Autism and Gender Nonconformity.  

  • Download our articles on 'What is Genderfluidity?' and 'Six Mistakes Academics Make When Writing About Trans People' from our online bookshop.

Please do not use the terms female or woman to describe me. I'm nonbinary and genderfluid. I've worked hard to create a space where dismantling the gender binary is at the heart of everything we do at Psygentra, and as we expand and more folks find a sense of belonging here, I will stand strong on this boundary.

Because if we can't make Psygentra - a critical, creative, and compassionate community, founded by a nonbinary person - safe for me, how can we possibly expect to be safe anywhere? As more hate and violence target trans and nonbinary people, it becomes even more important to have spaces that accept and celebrate us. Please don't make me feel unwelcome in the home I first created for myself, and the only space I can work without hate.

My titles are: Dr. or Mx.

My name is Jem Tosh (the longer version of my name is my deadname)

My pronouns are: they/them and she/her. I use them interchangeably.



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also known as Dr. Jemma Tosh (deadname)


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