“Nanny, you do know I’m a girl, don’t you?” Anna Bianchi’s journey of grand-mothering a gender-expansive child

I had no premonition, when my first grandchild was born, that I would be writing this book. How could I know that Ruben’s birth would lead me to question many of my essential ‘truths’ about being male or female? That his small fierce journey across the landscape of gender would take me on one of my own? That Ruben’s insistence on living his own truth would inspire me to live mine more fully? None of us knew then that my grandson, soon to be celebrated in every hue of blue, would undo our gender bearings. These were impossible circumstances to imagine the morning Ruben arrived. I simply held him to my heart and gazed into his face, as surely in-love as I’ve ever been in the whole of my life…” p.11, Becoming an Ally to the Gender-Expansive Child

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Are you looking for books and resources to support your work with gender variant individuals?

 

We publish a range of books for therapists, counsellors and healthcare practitioners who work with gender variant individuals. From informative guides to personal memoirs, our books offer support and promote greater understanding of gender identity and expression. This collection includes books that address themes of gender identity, sexuality, relationships, transitioning and mental health. For more information on new books and to receive a copy of our new catalogue, join our mailing list here

The Voice Book for Trans and Non-Binary People

Matthew Mills and Gillie Stoneham

Written by two specialist speech and language therapists, this book explains how voice and communication therapy can help transgender and non-binary people to find their authentic voice. It gives a thorough account of the process, from understanding the vocal mechanism through to assimilating new vocal skills and new vocal identity into everyday situations, and includes exercises to change pitch, resonance and intonation. Each chapter features insider accounts from trans and gender diverse individuals who have explored or are exploring voice and communication related to their gender expression, describing key aspects of their experience of creating and maintaining a voice that feels true to them.

This pithy, practical guide is a treasure trove of rare and wonderful gems – particularly the exercises for trans men and non-binary people, often neglected but vulnerable to crippling self-consciousness and even phobia around speaking. Clinicians and clients alike, I unreservedly recommend The Voice Book to anyone looking to feminise, masculinise, neutralise or just explore the potential of voice.’ – Dr Stuart Lorimer, Consultant Psychiatrist

Who is this book for? Speech and language therapists, healthcare practitioners, counsellors, gender variant individuals

 

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Sign up for a free copy of our new Gender Diversity catalogue

JKP’s pioneering gender diversity list publishes practical resources and personal stories that encourage greater understanding of gender identity and gender expression. From informative guides for professionals and parents, to children’s storybooks and texts for the general reader, these books provide inspiration and support to a range of readers and promote wider discussion about the diversity and complexity of gender and identity.

Sign up to our mailing list to receive information on our forthcoming titles and a free catalogue.

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How to be a trans friendly employer

Jennie Kermode, chair of Trans Media Watch, shares her advice for employers on how to make the work place supportive and inclusive for trans and non-binary people. 

Proportionate to their numbers in the general population, trans people are under-represented in the workforce. If your company is positive about diversity and has a friendly workforce and sound policies on inclusion, yet you’re still not managing to recruit trans people, what can you do about it? Are you missing out on potential talent because people don’t see you as approachable? How can you make sure that your recruitment process is up to scratch?

Advertising

A Totaljobs survey recently found that 43% of trans people seek out trans-friendly employers when looking for jobs. This means that it’s worth sprucing up your website to make sure your diversity policy is easily accessible and to stress that your organisation is committed to equality. It also means, however, that advertising in mainstream publications might be passing trans people by. If you advertise in publications aimed specifically at the LGBT community, trans people will see this as evidence of your good intentions, and will be more likely to apply. You can also try contacting trans support groups in your local area to let them know that you’re a friendly employer, or approaching national organisations like Stonewall and Proud Employers where you can be listed as such.

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Are you a boy or a girl? Yes! Alex Iantaffi shares his journey to gender identity

 

Hello! Alex Iantaffi here, one of the authors of How to Understand Your Gender: A practical guide for exploring who you are published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Our publisher asked Meg-John Barker and I to write a blog post each about our own gender journeys, so here I am.

Are you a boy or a girl? Yes!

When I started to come out as trans masculine (that is someone assigned female at birth and presenting and identifying somewhere in the masculine region of the gender landscape), some people felt this made complete sense to them and some were befuddled. I empathized with the befuddled, even as I was being hurt by it. After all, it had taken me over three decades to even figure out that there were options beyond what I had been assigned to be at birth! But let’s back up a little.

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Self-understanding: Guaranteed! Meg-John’s gender identity journey

This is Meg-John Barker here. I’m one of the authors of the new JKP book How to Understand Your Gender. JKP asked me to write a blog post about how I came to understand my own gender identity, so here I am.

Self-understanding: Guaranteed!

When I shared a pic of the book cover on Facebook one of my friends asked whether it came with a guarantee that the reader would understand their gender by the end of the book! They pointed out that they’d already read and learnt rather a lot about this topic and that certainly hadn’t left them with some kind of clear simple understanding of their own gender.

I had to agree. ‘Complex’ might well be one of the words Alex and I use most in the book, because gender is certainly that! As with our sexuality, relationship patterns, sense of self, inner emotional world, and so much else about being human, understanding our genders is probably going to be a lifetime journey for all of us. And it’s made even more of an ongoing process by the fact that both the wider cultural understandings of gender, and our own experiences of it, change over time.

So, no the book won’t necessarily leave you understanding your gender in a simple ‘Eureka, I’m a ___!’ kind of way. What it will help you to understand is how your wider world views gender, how you came to experience your gender in the way you do today within this, and what options are available to you as you take your next steps on your gender path.

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Have you ever questioned your gender identity?

‘How To Understand Your Gender’ is the ultimate gender identity bible. Here, we share some of the lived experiences of the many different gender diverse people who have contributed to the book. Do you recognise yourself in any of these accounts? 

 

Sex, gender, and sexuality

‘I just couldn’t figure it out. I was born female, I am attracted to men, but I never felt comfortable wearing skirts, makeup, or spending time with girls, like I felt I was supposed to do. People kept assuming I was a lesbian, and even I wondered about it for some time. Eventually I realised that’s just who I was. I am a masculine woman, attracted to men.’

‘People kept wanting me to choose, but I just couldn’t. I’ve always been sexually attracted to women and femininity, while feeling much more relaxed with, and emotionally close to masculine people, regardless of their gender. I now identify as a bisexual, homoromantic trans man.’

‘Everyone assumes I’m gay because they think I’m “soft” and “artistic” for a man. I guess my mannerisms can be more effeminate than those of most guys. However, I am straight through and through. I just can’t be bothered with proving my masculinity in a way other people want me to.’

‘I love everything about femininity: the clothes, makeup, the fierce feminist history. I am just a proud femme who also happens to be a lesbian. Unfortunately, often people assume I’m straight, even at lesbian events. They also seem surprised at my job as a mechanical engineer. I always liked pulling things apart, figuring out how they work, and putting them back together, or even making them better!’

‘I’ve never felt at home in dresses or lipsticks. I always wanted to play with boys. Eventually I found other people like me and who were into me. I am a stud and proud of who I am.’

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How To Understand Your Gender – Alex vs Meg-John

In this blog post, Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker interview each other about their new book ‘How to Understand Your Gender.’

 Meg-John: Hey Alex. So, we’re here in Heathrow airport waiting for our flight to a conference in Vienna and we thought it’d be a good chance to write about why we’re so excited about our book for Jessica Kingsley Publishers which comes out in a few weeks. Tell me how are you feeling about it right now?

Alex: Right now, I am incredibly nervous, both about the book coming out soon and, more immediately, about the keynote I am about give in Vienna! Lately I have been thinking about how, as someone who came from a more working-class background, I never really had a clear and detailed career plan, just some vague aspirations. Also, as a queer and trans person, I have been so focused on surviving various systems that I didn’t even notice that somewhere along the line I became someone who is seen, at times, as ‘accomplished’. I guess this book coming out is part of these accomplishments. Yet, what I am most excited about, is having a book that I am proud to recommend to supervisees, to families and clients, to anyone really who wants to know more about gender. In some ways, this is the book I wished I had in my hands as a teen. How about you? You have written some wonderful books already, how do you feel about this one and how it fits in your body of work?

 Meg-John: You are so accomplished Alex! And I can totally understand why you’re nervous as well as excited. With the first non-academic book I published – on relationships – I was completely overwhelmed because it felt so personal and important. There was a lot riding on it because writing this kind of thing is what I really want to do with my life. Also, it was personally important because it was saying ‘hey, these diverse ways of doing relationships – including the way I want to do them – are okay.’ I guess that’s also what we’re saying about diverse ways of doing gender in this book.

How To Understand Your Gender feels at least as important as my first book – but luckily I now have the experience of knowing what the process is like so I’m a bit less nervous than I was back then. It feels amazing for two main reasons: first that I got to write with you, and second because it’s a whole book about gender which is such an important topic to me. I feel like our collaborative writing process was so wonderful, and I love how we bring all our different experiences and expertise together. Also, it feels so exciting to be part of the ongoing conversation about gender that’s happening at the moment, and to have the chance to put something out there which’ll hopefully help others to navigate the complex terrain that we’re both navigating ourselves.

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Mental health – a trans partner’s perspective

Jo Green, founder of Distinction Trans Partner Support and the author of The Trans Partner Handbook, explores the importance of talking openly about mental health when you are in a relationship with a trans individual.

As Jo notes in the extract below, trans people are more likely than cis people to experience mental health issues, but communication is key for both parties to feel fully supported throughout transition. In this extract, we hear from the partners of trans people on their experiences of dealing with mental health issues. 

Trans people are more likely than the cis population to have mental health issues, which are caused by a long history of gender dysphoria and/or chronic minority stress rather than by being trans (World Professional Association for Transgender Health, 2011). Minority stress is the increased stress of being part of a minority group, and it is due to the lack of awareness in the general population and consequent discrimination faced by people in a minority.
“I think the worst of this aspect was when my partner was growing up and the times when she contemplated suicide. This was at a time when there was no internet or groups visibly available. I feel very fortunate that my partner confided in me very early in our relationship, and the past 15 years, it has been a journey we have made together. I do have to reassure her that [I] will always be there for her, which I will be, and have given it lots of thought to be sure that this is a situation I can cope with and am happy to be in.” (Avril)
According to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), trans people can present with a number of mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety and self-harm. They also present with compulsivity, substance abuse or sexual concerns, as well as being more likely to have suffered a history of abuse or neglect. Trans people are also more likely to suffer personality disorders, eating disorders or psychotic disorders. WPATH also notes that trans people are more likely to present with autistic spectrum disorders.

“I have learned to work with my partner’s mental health needs. [I] have learned cues that help me know when he is feeling anxious or stressed, and [I] encourage him to talk if he needs to or to seek medical assistance if there’s a need for that kind of support. It’s definitely not something to be ignored or avoided, and in most cases, it’s a requirement for the transition process.” (Julia)

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Why the partners of trans people need support too

You’re in a relationship and your partner tells you that they want to transition. How do you feel? You want to support your partner’s choice, but you’re worried it will change what you have with them. Is it fair to feel anxious and uncertain?  

Realising the need for a support network for the partners of trans people, Jo Green set up Distinction Trans Partner Support Group. Here, Jo explains how you may feel as the partner of a trans person, and how important it is for trans partners to find their voice and be supported throughout their partner’s transition too. 

Despite the common narratives in the media, most relationships survive one person transitioning. From working with partners for years, I’ve found that transition means that you need to start communicating much more. And it’s this communication that becomes the key. We went from the average couple to a cohesive unit. Watching my partner transition meant watching her grow into a much better, happier human being. Just being able to witness someone grow from someone quite isolated and unhappy, into someone who glows with confidence and joy is an honour. It’s given me the courage to explore my own gender issues and come out as non-binary. Trans people teach us that nothing is set in stone and there is no such thing as doing something just because you should. It’s all about doing what you feel is right for you, which for me is a wonderful approach to take.

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