Queer Theory and Acupuncture
As a non-Queer practitioner trying to improve the care I provide to those who do identify as LGBTQ+, and while sheltering in place I’ve been doing a lot of reading. One recent book that really resonated with me is Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele. It gives a fairly comprehensive overview of the development of queer theory, a sort of philosophic/gender studies area of thought, with lively illustrations. The authors identified their objective in writing the book “is to be useful to people in their everyday lives, as well as introducing the academic world of queer theory.”
Perhaps the main point I took away from queer theory is the limiting nature of binaries, of all sorts including gender. Binary concepts are often opposites, such as “near/far” and can be extremely useful. Imagine trying to describe locations without being able to use those terms. One significant difficulty comes, however, when we stop viewing them as relative concepts and make them rigid categories. Consider “up/down.” Upstairs in my house is higher than downstairs but relative to the cedar tree tops outside, upstairs is actually lower in height and therefore down. Imagine if I were to suggest that the upstairs of my home is an absolute, fixed “up.” The same can be said about humans. As an example, some humans are male and some humans are more male than female. There isn’t an absolute category of “male” (or “female”) but rather relative degrees.
It may be because I am an acupuncturist and one of the primary diagnostic paradigms is the “Eight Principles,” which are four sets of opposites, but I spent a fair bit of time pondering binaries. In acupuncture we use hot/cold, interior/exterior, yin/yang, and deficiency/excess for diagnosis. They may look like binary concepts but, in practice, they are treated as dualities: different but related and coexisting. Just because someone has “hot” symptoms does not mean that they cannot have any “cold” symptoms simultaneously. Yin could not exist without Yang; Yang could not exist without Yin. But not in the same way that Simone de Beauvoir explains that male is the standard and female is the “other,” rather they are dependent parts of a coexisting whole. You have undoubtedly seen the Yin/Yang symbol. It is a filled circle and can only be a whole with both the Yin portion and the Yang portion. Again, this applies to humans: there is no absolute “female” (or “male”) but rather they both co-exist in a single person, at varying degrees, simultaneously.
This brings us to another point in queer theory: process rather than static. Queer theory encourages us to look at HOW something is being DONE not WHAT something IS. In Chinese medicine an “excess” in one area of the body can, and often does, lead to a “deficiency” elsewhere in the system. Having an interior deficiency might make a person more susceptible to an exterior excess (a commonly experienced example of this is catching cold when you get run down). Just because this situation currently exists doesn’t mean that it can’t or won’t change over time. To use our analogy, probably you have had a cold at one time but not always had a cold. So as practitioners we treat the person in front of us at the time; treatments might be similar from one visit to the next but usually they are not identical. In the case of gender expression, queer theory recognizes it can be a fluid process rather than a static fact determined based upon your sexual phenotype at birth.
The final piece of queer theory that I took away from the book was to question “normal.” This term often gets used to mean “majority,” but I can tell you I consider myself “normal” and I haven’t always taken a majority viewpoint or voted for the candidate with the most votes. Just because most people you know do something doesn’t mean it makes any more sense than not doing it or doing it differently. Which is more “normal”: wearing no eyelash modification, using mascara, or getting eyelash extensions? Maybe they are all “normal” options. This concept was brilliantly illustrated by my favorite of the many insightful depictions in the book: the Stereotypical North American Female asks of the Drag Queen “Why do you dress like a woman?” The Drag Queen responds, “Why do YOU dress like a woman?”
Binding and Breath–chest binders in the time of corona
Breathing. It’s something we often take for granted and don’t think much about. Besides keeping you alive, breathing can help you slow down, manage anxiety, focus your attention, and even reduce pain. It’s kind of our body’s built-in wonder drug!. Breathing is the foundation of things like meditation and biofeedback. Yet, for those of us living with certain forms of gender and body dysphoria, easy breathing can be a challenge….and well, not so easy after all. I’m talking about binding.
Chest binding is a way to flatten one’s given chest to give a more masculine appearance and to reduce the appearance of given chest/breast tissue. For many transmen and masc-of-center nonbinary folx, a binder is a self-required item to have on before leaving the house. Binders help us feel better in our bodies, help prevent misgendering, and give confidence to appear in our identified gender.
They also can restrict breathing. In our current COVID-19 pandemic, that is problematic.
The CDC is recommending the use of cloth face coverings to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. This is an important tool particularly in public spaces like grocery stores and pharmacies where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. However, these face coverings can mimic symptoms that binder users report including shortness of breath and overheating. Binder users also commonly report back and chest pain as negative outcomes from use. These outcomes can be reduced with changing how and which binders we use, according to this study.
The article(published in 2017 in the Culture, Health & Sexuality journal) was one of the first population-based studies on binder usage. Researchers surveyed 1,800 AFAB transgender and intersex binder users over the age of 18 from 38 countries and analyzed the data. They found that the average days per week spent binding correlated the most to the self reported negative outcomes. It’s suggested that taking days off from binding may reduce the risk of these health impacts.
The use of commercial binders is another factor most consistently found to correlate with negative health outcomes. This is likely due to the significant compression these binders provide. It is surprising that the binders most of us have come to think of as the safest are actually causing the most harm. Of course, elastic bandages, plastic wrap and duct tape were also commonly associated with negative outcomes, as we’d expect.
So what does all this mean in the context of our “new normal”? Ultimately, we must weigh the risks and benefits of the items we use to protect ourselves and others from disease with the items we use to decrease our dysphoria. As a genderqueer physician, I highly support wearing cloth face coverings or masks anytime you leave your home or with any interaction with others who do not live with you. Infection control in these times is key.
As for binding, if you are home and can tolerate it, skip the commercial binder and take a deep breath. If you do need to leave your home, consider short term use of sports bras, layering sports bras or other athletic compression wear instead of the commercial binder. These alternative items usually allow for easier breathing. We all work within the context of our own mental and physical health and we need to do what we feel is safest for our bodies. While you consider your options and is right for you, I ask that you also consider the social responsibility we each carry to protect ourselves and others during these times. And remember, breathe. For help with that, here a link for 6 deep breathing apps.
This is hard. And we are in this together.
I’ve been thinking recently about digestion. Digestion is the process of breaking things down and sorting them into smaller parts. It involves a complex orchestration of many bodily systems: the stomach, intestines, our gut microbiome, and vagus nerves, etc.
These many parts are critical supports for turning what we eat into useful energy or waste. When it works, it’s a process of integration, of incorporation.
But when we ingest things that are aggravating to the system, digestion and incorporation become difficult. This is when it is necessary to support those systems within us that make digestion possible.
This is why, during this global time of change, it is important to do what we can individually and collectively to support the systems that help us integrate this “new normal.” We are digesting this ever-changing experience on mental, emotional, physical, physiological, spiritual, energetic and interpersonal levels. As a fellow human on planet earth today I want to say to you we are all in this together. You do not have to do this alone.
Below is a list of resources that may be supportive to you or to others in your life. Please explore, add and share. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Feel free to leave comments below to add or amend this list.
The Tapping Solution app: for EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) tapping meditations
What’s Up app: utilizing some of the best CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) methods to help you cope with Depression, Anxiety, Anger, Stress and more.
MindShift app: CBT to help you learn to relax and be mindful, develop more effective ways of thinking, and use active steps to take charge of your anxiety
Breathe2Relax app: Free for IOS and Android
Created by the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, this app is a portable stress management tool that teaches users a skill called diaphragmatic breathing. Breathe2Relax works by decreasing the body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ stress response, making it a great option for people suffering from PTSD
The Icarus Project website: “A support network and education project by and for people who experience the world in ways that are often diagnosed as mental illness. We advance social justice by fostering mutual aid practices that reconnect healing and collective liberation. We transform ourselves through transforming the world around us.”
Coronavirus Online Therapy website: “Free & Low Fee Online Therapy Sessions for those on the front line of Covid-19 in the USA.
Healthcare professionals, first responders, grocery store employees, and those out there serving us during this pandemic – we thank you. You are doing your part. We’d like to do ours, by supporting you with short-term, free & reduced fee sessions.”
Down Dog app: “So that anyone who wants to practice at home can do so, we are making all of our apps – Down Dog, Yoga for Beginners, HIIT, Barre, and 7 Minute Workout – completely free until May 1st. In response to the many school closures taking place, we are also offering free access until July 1st for all students and teachers (K-12 and college). To access the free school membership, please register your school’s domain by visiting downdogapp.com/schools. We are also extending free access until July 1 for all healthcare professionals so we can help those who are helping us. Please visit downdogapp.com/healthcare to register your work healthcare domain.”
DIY Mask Making Patterns:
WA State Coronavirus Response (COVID-19), Mental Health website: Where can I find support for my mental health and well-being? https://coronavirus.wa.gov/mental-health-and-well-being
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
Free Resources for Mental Health Professionals
Headspace, a meditation app, is free for healthcare professionals
Breethe app: Free lifetime membership for therapists: Meditation, mindfulness, sleep support.
Headspace app: Mindfulness and Meditation and Sleep aid app.
$12.99/Month or $9.99/Year for students; iOS and Android
Worry Watch app: Aims to help users identify their trigger points for anxiety, note trends in their feelings, reflect on when the outcomes were harmless, and change their thinking patterns for the future
During this time of social distancing, the providers at Rainbow Health Center want you to know we are still here for you. For many of us the ways we are here look different. Check below to see the providers who are scheduling new appointments and if we can fit your needs.
** Healthy and strong together **
Dr Jill Corey, ND: Dr. Corey is still available for appointments via telehealth and phone. Dr. Corey is able to offer a wide range of health support and hormone therapy support virtually. Dr. Corey accepts Regence, Premera, Lifewise and Firstchoice insurance plans. They also offer sliding scale cash pay rates to those that qualify. Call or text 206.971.6708 for more information.
Dr Chelesa Unruh, MD: Dr Unruh is available for telehealth visits for established patients and in person visits for new patients. Dr Unruh manages hormone therapy for all ages (including children/teens and puberty blockers), can write letters for state and federal gender marker change requests, and refer for surgery. Dr Unruh accepts United, Premera, FirstChoice, Cigna, Regence, Amerigroup, and has a discounted cash rate.
Sharonne O’Shea, L.Ac.: Under the Governor’s “Stay Home – Stay Healthy” proclamation (20-25), “alternative medicine” providers, such as acupuncturists, may continue to see/treat patients. Some acupuncturists with immunocompromised family members have closed their practices temporarily. I remain open to see patients at RHC on Fridays and in Lacey on Tuesdays.
As acupuncture breaks the skin surface, I have always been compliant with best practices to limit infection such as changing linens between each patient, cleaning my hands before and after treatment, and – as required by federal law – using one-time use, sterile needles. In addition, I now screen everyone for fever and/or symptoms of upper respiratory infection and reschedule folks who have one or both. I am also wiping down surfaces that I normally would not, such as door knobs and shared pens, and wearing a mask while treating patients as I cannot perform acupuncture from 6 feet away – I may have long arms but not THAT long and no one wants me to play darts with them as the target.
Perhaps more importantly, I am diligently working at not succumbing to pan(ic)demic mindset; I leave a roll of TP on the shelf for the next person, I get outside daily, I keep a regular schedule, and – since my schedule has freed up considerably with no kid activities, meetings, etc. – I am getting lots of rest. It is possible to take the situation seriously and lightly simultaneously. For instance, my kids share with you this message of empowerment during these times of uncertainty: “Wash-your-hands-ington” residents like to “give high fivers not high fevers.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jhwyAsZAvo. Stay well, not just virus-free.
Sarah Peace, MA, LMHC
Work cell: (360) 451-4903
Fee: $130 or ask about sliding fee availability, paid by debit, credit, or HSA card. Out of Network insurance receipts can be provided.
Sessions: Individual adults and teens, couples, relationships, and families. Online video or audio, or phone call. For people located anywhere in Washington State or abroad. 55 or 110 minutes session length available.
Availability: Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, daytime and evening.
* I am offering more sliding fee and pro-bono sessions right now as there is need, and I do so with the clear recognition of the people and oppressive systems that led to this need: that I am intending and currently able to be flexible in providing more counseling with sliding and no fee is in direct response to the corrupt, neglectful, and oppressive actions and laws of the wealthy people, corporations, and US government that profit without care for the rest of us.
Fennec Oak, MA, LMHCA, MHP
I offer telehealth video sessions that can be accessed through computer or cell phone for adults and youth ages 12 and up in Washington state. I continue to offer a sliding fee scale and have added more capacity to work with people with limited financial abilities. I specialize in working with transegnder, gender expansive, and sexualy expansive people, as well as those who have experienced trauma.
Please visit my website for more information, or contact me directly.
Teresa Guajardo, MA, LMHC
I am offering telehealth video counseling sessions via my practice management app, Simple Practice. We can also do telephone sessions if video technology isn’t working for you. Hormone and surgery letters are available via the telehealth video medium.
Who: individual counseling for adults and adolescents as young as 13 years old.
What: LGB and gender affirming counseling, anxiety, depression, and adapted EMDR therapy for performance enhancement, trauma processing, substance use urge reduction.
Rates: Regular rate is $120/clinical hour. Sliding scale and some grants may be available. Kaiser Permanente for gender affirming counseling. Apple/Medicaid with Amerigroup. Otherwise out of network for other insurances. Check with your insurance company about coverage. I will give you a statement to submit for reimbursement.
Availability: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
Contact: email@example.com, 360-789-7025
Erin Daly, MA, LMFTA, ATR-P
I am currently offering telehealth sessions via phone and HIPPA compliant video sessions. I am currently available for telehealth sessions for anyone in Washington State.
I offer therapeutic services for individuals for ages 12 and up, as well as relationship focused therapy for families and romantic partnerships. I provide psychotherapy (i.e. talk therapy), as well as Art Therapy, Mindfulness, and Somatic Based Therapies.
Fees: My regular fee is $110/clinical hour. As always, I believe in supporting access for all to the best of my ability. To do this, I am continuing to offer flexible sliding scale rates. I work with people on what makes therapy more accessible to them.
Insurance: I am an out of network provider, and am not able to bill insurance companies directly at this time. If your insurance company offers reimbursement for out of network providers, I can provide you with the necessary paperwork to receive reimbursement.
Hello Everyone! I’d like to introduce myself as the newest practitioner now at the Rainbow Health Center. My name is Fennec Oak and I am a trans-identified therapist. I am happy to be a part of the team here and to be able to provide therapeutic support to our community.
I’ve been thinking about community lately and how being in community can mean many things to people at different times. Right now, a lot of us are thinking about how best to support our community by NOT being together due to the Coronavirus. Much has been written on how to best share physical space with others and support each other by following good health practices, so I will not attempt to recreate the good work that others have already done (including another post on this blog by one of our medical practitioners!)
But I would like to talk about some of the projects that people in LGBTQ+ community have created recently, which can be enjoyed in the times in which we can not be together. These are three projects which have inspired me in the past week.
First is the new Solace App that was created by two trans people right here in Washington State. Patrick McHugh and Robbi Katherine Anthony created the Solace app to provide “information and resources to guide transgender people through whatever process of gender transition they desire.” It provides information on laws in each state, how to change legal documents, come out to family members, among many other options. People can choose what to include in their own personalized goals list. It also has an option for parents of trans children, and a section with good news in the media, which I have enjoyed reading.
I have recently been listening to the Queer Public Podcast made by four people on the east coast of the U.S. and Canada which talks about the real life and stories of queer people. The podcast came out in the past year has episodes on queer poetry, racism in gayborhoods, and a beautiful collection of letters written to a gay helpline in the 80’s.
Finally, for those interested in artsy autobiographical essays, the work of T Fleischmann is highly entertaining and thought provoking. Their book Time Is the Thing a Body Moves Through (2019), is something that I have been re-reading after devouring it over the summer. The description from the back-cover states: “How do the bodies we inhabit affect our relationship with art? How does art affect our relationship to our bodies? T Fleischmann uses Felix Gonzáles-Torres’s artworks—piles of candy, stacks of paper, puzzles—as a path through questions of love and loss, violence and rejuvenation, gender and sexuality. From the back porches of Buffalo, to the galleries of New York and L.A., to farmhouses of rural Tennessee, the artworks act as still points, sites for reflection situated in lived experience. Fleischmann combines serious engagement with warmth and clarity of prose, reveling in the experiences and pleasures of art and the body, identity and community”
I hope that something here connects you to community, or inspires you to be creative in your own ways to make connections to those who bring you a feeling of belonging and togetherness.
After getting a cancer diagnosis it can be very challenging to navigate all the medical appointments, new information and insurance concerns. It can also bring up profound and frightening feelings about our mortality. It may cause shifts in the family structure or dynamic. Many clinics that provide care for people with cancer also employ social workers and/or counselors. With so much to navigate, it can be helpful to have someone affiliated with the clinic or hospital you can ask for assistance and support.
Social workers and counselors can help if you have concerns about your insurance, if you are struggling financially, if you feel like your doctor is not a good fit for you, if you or a family member is experiencing depression, anxiety, or having thoughts of suicide, if you want a therapist and don’t know how to get one, if you need help filing for disability or early retirement, if you or a family member don’t have insurance because of immigration status, or if you have questions about your treatment and don’t know who to ask. If you or a loved one is a patient at a clinic or hospital, find out if there is a social worker or counselor you can speak with.
Do I get a second opinion? Getting a second opinion is commonplace and encouraged in the medical community. You get to make your own choices about where you receive care, and your doctor should talk with you about what your options are for treatment. If you feel like you are not getting the kind of care you want, you have the options to change doctors or to transfer your care to a different clinic.
Support groups in the area: Providence hosts a support group for patients and caregivers called Living with Cancer, you do not have to be a providence patient to go, but they do ask that you let them know if you are planning to attend. Call 360-493-7960.
Help Kids Cope is a 6 week emotional support program for children ages 6-11 who have a parent, grandparent, sibling or significant bond with someone who has cancer, call (360) 358-3348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for screening and registration.
There are also phone and internet based support groups through https://www.cancercare.org that are led by oncology social workers.
Providence Regional Cancer System puts on two educational events that are open to the public:
Cancer 101 is a 2 hour event that brings in Pathologist, Medical Oncologists, Surgeons, Nutritionists, Palliative Care Specialists, Physical Therapists, Massage Practitioners, Social Workers and Spiritual Care to speak and answer your questions about the process of cancer diagnosis and treatment. Upcoming dates April 13, June 15, Aug 17, Oct 12, Dec 14, 6-8pm. RSVP at www.provregister.org, or call (360) 412-8949. A complimentary dinner is provided.
Living with and Beyond Cancer is an evening of resources, connection and support with Cobie Whitten, Ph.D. Cobie has extensive experience working with people with cancer to adjust to the many changes that follow a cancer diagnosis. She will be providing information and assistance for people at all points along the cancer journey. 6:30-8 May 5 and Nov 3. Call (360) 412-8949 or email or visit www.provregister.org to sign up.
Some other resources:
National LGBT Cancer Network https://cancer-network.org/ with LGBTQ affirming information and self-screening tools
The MayDay Foundation serves Thurston County and can provide financial assistance for families with minor children at home if the parent or child has cancer. They can help with rent, mortgage, utilities, groceries and transportation: https://maydayfoundation.org
Harmony Hill hosts wellness retreats for those affected by cancer and for healthcare professionals. Anyone who has had, or has cancer can go to one of their 3 day retreats with a companion at no cost. Registration fills quickly, see their website for more information https://www.harmonyhill.org
American Cancer Society has a lot of information about specific cancers, treatments, and resources including smoking cessation resources and a rides-to-treatment program called “Road To Recovery.” Check out what they have to offer at https://www.cancer.org
For emergency childcare support: Maggie’s Crisis Nursery https://www.ccacwa.org/margies-crisis-nursery
LiveStrong provides support, information, and runs a fitness program through the Brigg’s YMCA for cancer survivors to get customized exercise support from fitness instructors https://www.livestrong.org
This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you have other resources you’ve found helpful, or if you know of other resources specifically for the LGBTQ+ community please get in touch! The more connected we are, the more resourced our communities become.
The Power of Denial
I am continually impressed by the human skill of denial. Denial can be defined as “the action of declaring something to be untrue.”
Declaring something as untrue does not actually make something untrue, is what many of us have found, to our great surprise. Denial is a rejection of what is actually happening. Sometimes the truth of what is happening is enormously painful. Or humiliating/shameful/embarrassing. Or just doesn’t fit in to who we think we are or how we see the world or others. Or makes us feel scared and powerless.
The problem with denial is the cues and clues of what is true will come into our awareness repeatedly, and with our rigid belief of it not being true, we reject those cues and clues as valid. We then may also reject other people who are stating or embodying those truths. And still, the truth remains the truth, whether or not we are declaring it untrue or true.
If I am a (hypothetical) person who strongly believes I love pickles, and will insist that I love pickles far and wide, and my fridge and pantry is stocked up with varieties of pickles that I have made and invested in purchasing, then I may deny the truth that I don’t like pickles (because my body doesn’t digest fermented foods well, or a cucumber allergy, or sour smells are a traumatic stress trigger, etc.) So when I feel disgust when smelling pickles or the ways my stomach hurts after eating pickles, I may deny it happening at all and not be aware of these cues and clues. Or I may explain them away as something else, like blaming it on being a bad batch. I may stereotype people who don’t like pickles as being lesser than or people to ridicule. I might tell my primary healthcare provider about how healthy I am, and then feel angry or upset when I they ask me about possible stomach pain based on some of the symptoms I’ve described to them. Over time, the truth of these cues and clues probably won’t go away, but will probably increase. What is hidden wants to come to our awareness, and keeping it hidden takes tremendous effort and energy, and creates tensions within us and our lives.
Denial usually gets shown for what it is (a human action, usually an unconscious habit or belief, that declares the truth is not true) when there is the support for long hidden truth to breakthrough into the spotlight of our awareness. Like with: overwhelming scientific data and analysis about climate change, many victims coming forward to name abuse by a perpetrator, self awareness to name a pattern in therapy, recognition of self when hearing the words for trans or nonbinary for the first time, hearing feedback or worry from a trusted loved one, car accident after using a substance, losing a relationship, memories of abuse, nightmares, hearing or reading someone else’s story and being rocked to the core with resonating, etc.
It is not always a gentle process of becoming aware of what has been denied. It can hurt emotionally or mentally, to realize that the truth is the opposite of what we have declared. We can feel like we’ve let ourselves or others down, or like we can’t trust ourselves. We can feel like we’ve lost or wasted time. We can still deny the truth, not everyone is interested or ready to accept a truth at the moment it first surfaces into awareness.
But this post is titled “The Power of Denial” not “The Devastating Awfulness of Denial.” When we reject the truth, by declaring it untrue, it takes a lot of us to constantly reject or unsee the many cues and clues about the truth. In the process of truth finally breaking through to awareness, there is healing. Reunion. Balance. Release. With the awareness of what is true, many people sigh, breathe deep, relax. Reclaim. The tension (and often exhaustion) of the part of us that has been working so hard to reject all the cues and clues can come back to rest. With awareness of what was once denied, comes the power of having and embodying more of ourselves and our energy.
So if I as a continued (hypothetical) pickle lover somehow becomes aware of the truth that I really don’t like pickles, and they give me stomach aches, and recognizes and accepts, integrates that truth, then I may stop forcing myself to eat pickles, instead try new foods, or use my creative skills to grow a food garden (without cucumbers), or be able to finally deepen a relationship with a person who I had rejected because they stated how they didn’t like pickles, and overall feel better and more relaxed with myself and in my body.
Denial happens because we humans form ourselves along me/not me, acceptable/not acceptable, safe/not safe, how I want to be/how I don’t want to be, keep/reject, I like this/I don’t like this, etc. For whatever the reasons, most of us shape ourselves and our identity based on polarities. It’s normal. Learning that we’re really good at doing this, accepting ourselves for who we are, can then allows us the freedom to chose “do I want to only look at what I think I am right about, or do I want to know what’s true, even if it means I might be wrong.”
The Power of Denial is yes, the power we each have within ourselves to reject truth and declare it as untrue, but is also the power to pointing us towards the choice we have, I think at most every moment of our lives, to learn and to listen to what is true.
These are my thoughts and are informed by the work I have done with myself, others in therapy, Gestalt and Existential Humanistic therapies, Freud and Jung, spiritual and inquiry paths including Buddhism and medicine ceremonies, and the two cups of coffee I’ve had on this chilly morning. Feel free to comment or contact me if you have any response, questions, criticism, etc.
Sarah Peace, MA LMHC
email@example.com (360) 451-4903
It’s been about two weeks since those of us using a solar-based, Gregorian calendar celebrated the New Year, 2020. (Is this year particularly backward gazing and reflective due to the 20-20 vision of hindsight?) So many of us start with the best of intentions to “improve” our health in different ways. But, how many of us have already fallen off that wagon?
About 15 years ago, I started incorporating some Chinese traditions into my life, including observation of the Lunar New Year (along with about 20% of the world’s population). One of my favorite features of the Lunar New Year is that it gives me a second chance at a fresh start. Who among us doesn’t appreciate a re-do? If you’d like to participate in a local celebration of the Year of the Rat, check out the Olympia Area Chinese Association’s annual celebration. Details can be found at https://www.olympiachinese.org/.
As an acupuncturist and former environmental attorney, there are many East Asian principles related to health and wellbeing that resonate with me. Here’s something from the University of Minnesota’s “Take Charge of Your Health & Well-Being” site:
“In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a system is comprised of everything that creates and sustains it. Everything is interconnected and interdependent. If all of the parts of a system are in harmony with one another, then the whole system is in harmony. Disturb one thing and you create a disturbance that ripples through the whole system.
This principle applies to any and all systems. For example, it applies as equally to a human being as it does to a family, community, or the environment. So, we must take care to consider our actions and to take things as a whole.”
An aspect of Chinese culture that I wish were widely adopted is from the Mandarin language: the use of the pronoun “tā.” Link to tā and gender
If you have ever spent time around native Mandarin speakers, you may notice that, despite their impressive vocabulary and excellent grammar in English, they often interchange “he” and “she” when speaking. In Mandarin “tā” was the traditional, genderless third person pronoun used universally for singular and plural references.
I imagine it is as mentally confusing for these folks to refer to humans in gendered terms as it is for me to consider using gender-based articles in Spanish. I really don’t think of inanimate objects as possessing a gender.
I would love to be able to universally refer to humans without the need to put them in a gender box that may or may not fit, as gender is not one-size-fits-all. As a practitioner of acupuncture and enthusiastic observer of some Chinese traditions, I would like to incorporate the idea of tā at Acorn Acupunture. I want all of my patients to feel comfortable sharing with me their pronouns and identity as part of creating a safe space for healing; and to feel that their gender status doesn’t influence their ability to receive professional healthcare.
Acorn Acupuncture is a safe space for all humans to heal: he, she, they – tā. If you’re interested in learning more, contact Sharonne O’Shea, L.Ac. at 360-999-1683 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Go to my business page or my page on RHC. Happy New Year!
Today is the first day in the state of Washington that non-binary people can choose to have a third gender option on their State ID or driver’s license. This morning I went with 2 friends and stood outside the Washington state Department of licensing for a half an hour before they opened. As more and more folks lined up behind us, where we stood we could see the staff gathering for a staff meeting. Everyone received the same sheet of paper. While we couldn’t hear what they were saying, we could see it was the same sheet of paper that both of my friends were holding. It’s the “Change of Gender Designation” form by the Washington State Department of Licensing. As of today, November 13, 2019, you can apply to have gender X on your Washington State ID or driver’s license.
My friends and I had arrived early enough that as soon as the door opened, we were assigned a person to see immediately. The staff were friendly, kind, and maybe even a little excited at seeing the form for the first time. The whole exercise lasted about 15 minutes, photos were taken, addresses confirmed, etc. Both of my read friends received printouts of their temporary driver’s license showing gender designation X. Before these were printed, their information was displayed on a screen and in the gender field it read “non-binary.” There licenses will be mailed to them in the next 7-10 days. This whole process cost them nothing (no cost if you already have an ID). No note from a medical professional was required. We thanked the staff and walked out. In and out of the Department of Licensing in less than 15 min!
Several states have recognized a third gender option to be listed on driver’s licenses and IDs. Oregon was the first state to make a court decision in favor for this in 2016 and since then other states have followed suit. In Washington, it is possible to get an enhanced driver’s license with the third gender, which would allow you to travel by plane or cross borders into Mexico or Canada by land. There is not currently a third gender option for Federal IDs or passports, though this may be something we see in the future.
The Washington State Change of Gender Designation form can be found online at: https://www.dol.wa.gov/forms/520043.pdf.
An information sheet can be found online at: www.dol.wa.gov/about/driversrules.html.