Response to Kiss My Gender Exhibition

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Recently, I was fortunate to attend the Kiss My Genders exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. The exhibition is what Vincent Honore, chair and exhibition curator says it is: “Kiss My Genders is a group exhibition celebrating artists whose work explore and engages with gender identity. Working across sculpture, poetry and film, many of these artists treat the body as sculpture and in doing so, open up new possibilities for gender, beauty and the representation”.

I walked around the exhibition with one of my closest friends together our friendship spans twenty years. My friend looking radiant in their ninth month of pregnancy and me now out as a genderqueer person. I thought about who we were back then and who we are now. When we first met, I experimented with hair do’s and wore outrageous outfits. My genderqueer identity did not have a language. I did not have a disability or HIV back then. How simple my life was! I have three significant family parties coming up and I notice in me how my body is preparing itself to be misgendered and a part of me being dissolved. In my personal life, I have creatively brought my faith background and gender together, for me this is a journey with no destination in sight. I know recently that I have felt on a speed train with being non-binary, that’s because I knew about it three years ago. I keep telling myself it is okay for those around me to be on the slow train sometimes it feels that train is lagging behind. At times I become inpatient and want that train to catch up with me. At these times I go for a walk or just count to three, returning to my body and breath.

I have drifted, I realise now looking back that I drifted in and out of the bodies presented in their various forms, imagining myself embodying a new body. This brought joy to my face. The thought about the changing shape of the body, culture, queer and trans identity, racial identity and how do we celebrate our bodies. I think about the impact on my clients and myself when being misgendered. I reflect on how members of LGBTQIA+ community and I sometimes feel like we are erased. How we need to stop shouting and actually listen, tuning into our bodies and each other’s voices, to understand better what are the vulnerabilities of the others body. The possibility of this conversation could only happen when the people that speak from positions of power, have an awareness of their power. Before having this conversation with the other we would need to take a moment to consider which privileges help us to move through the world (race, sexuality, gender, class, faith, neurotypicality, ability, language, etc), before engaging in discussion. There is more healing that needs to happen. Are we there yet? Is it safe yet? Who will be included in this conversation? Who won’t and why? I

I just wish the media and television wanted to present non-binary and transgender lives in a more functional way. As we do function in the world and we have existed for a very long time, we are the minority that have often sat on the fringes of society, but we have existed.

For me the lyrics from the song by Canadian band Arcade Fire “We Exist” are poignant to all of us:

They walk in the room
And stare right through you
Talking like
We don’t exist
But we exist

As my paper “The Chicken Soup of Identity”, a section of a new book More than Gender: Intersecting identities of non-binary people. Dr Jos Twist, Tavistock. And Portman NHS Trust, Associate editors: Dr Meg-Jon Barker, Dr Ben Vincent, Dr Kat Gupta and Dang Nguyen, this goes to publication in the next couple of months. My paper talks from the intersectional prism of Judaism, Gender, Sexuality, Health and Disability. Through case examples, I then lead the reader through the transcultural and LGBTQ+ affirmative psychotherapeutic work I do in my therapy room. This takes the conversation I began when I was invited to be on the faith panel of Pink Therapies Conference: Intersecting Identities in March that one step further. Intersectionality was first coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1983 and is regarded as creating overlapping and interdepend systems of privilege and disadvantage. In the paper I reflect further on the then and there of my intersecting identities and how they affect the here and now. If you want to find out more do keep your eye out for the book.

Writing my section of the book and seeing the Kiss My Genders exhibition have granted me the permission to start a new journey of finding ways of creatively celebrating and exploring my genderqueer identity. In my own therapy I begin exploring aspects of my own gender dysphoria and naming it in my own supervision. This allows me to separate how I feel in my body, so I can be fully present with clients presenting with similar needs in my therapy room. I now use creativity, writing letters, music a song or drawing. I know from personal and clients experience how the words sometimes get in the way when speaking about how we feel in our skin. In therapy as a client it can sometimes feel like we only have to talk about what is not functioning in our emotional worlds, there is also the possibility of using the space to celebrate our bodies, gender and sexuality.

The Kiss My Genders exhibition allows for activism, celebration and exploration of the body and diversity of the bodies we may not see in our bodies. My recommendation and suggestion is if you want to start this journey exploring how you feel in your body and its skin, go to see the Kiss My Genders exhibition.