Photo Credit: Jakob Owens via Unsplash
In an exquisite approach to opening our thinking about gender transition, guest writer Anna Jezuita discusses her experience of meeting and working with her colleague Aris Papaefstathiou, and how their upcoming workshop at Stillpoint Spaces London has been shaped by the voice of transition itself.
Aris and I met at a workshop for partners of transitioning individuals. As soon as we started chatting I became aware that I might have found a potential therapist for my transgender child – a warm, kind human who would understand their experience. That has never happened - as life had different plans - but instead we became friends. I soon realised that the honour of witnessing Aris’ courageous journey created a hope that ‘a good ending’ was possible for me and my family. For Aris, meeting me, a parent, whose process and response to their child’s transition was very different from his personal story, has been encouraging and healing. It also helped him understand and empathise with his parents’ difficulties along his transition.
Our reflections, our respective experiences, and shared enthusiasm, grew into an idea for creating a workshop together. The reason behind it – regardless what audience it was presented to – was to offer space for hearing both voices: that of a transitioning individual represented by Aris, and that of a “witnessing parent” held by me.
During the process of creating this workshop we became aware that there is one more voice emerging from our reflections – the voice of the gender transition, who in the systemic approach would be regarded as an important element and agent of the journey that the family embarks on.
So we stopped in our tracks, put the Power Point presentation to one side, and listened…
Gender Transition: “It is not usual for me to be given a voice … my role is to sit quietly and closely to the one person who invited me – often not even consciously, but just by power of their unhappiness and struggle. I am the only confidant, the only one who can listen and understand, but I am too worried to utter a sound in case it is heard too early, or by the wrong person.
People that do not experience their gender as a matter of stress or confusion habitually blank me, happy that I am not their problem – as it feels too strange, far removed, and let’s admit it - a bit of a specialism, which one doesn’t need to be concerned about - until they do - because maybe their close friend or family member introduces them to me.
And then, something has to change.
They can’t continue blanking me without blanking their friend, partner or child as well – and unfortunately, often that’s what some choose to do.
Most people will decide that their friend, child, or partner are worth the risk, and open their eyes and acknowledge me. However, what they see and how they react varies.
Some are welcoming and curious, but most are very scared and angry. They accuse me of breaking families and changing their loved ones into someone they can’t love any more. They are petrified about the prospect of having to challenge and change their minds, hearts and souls. They don’t want to accommodate new concepts of seeing gender other than being male or female, and biologically determined.
I invite them to look and consider concepts which upset the gender binary axis of human interaction in similar ways that Copernicus must have upset the planetary balance by ‘stopping the Sun and moving the Earth’. It took a few centuries for humans to regain the balance and adjust to this moving Earth, and I am told Copernicus was pronounced a heretic by his contemporaries. I can tell you, I have felt that too many times!
It makes me quite sad that people find it so difficult to relate to me. I don't see myself as either difficult or challenging. I just am, like the weather, or gravity. I am always there but it takes something big to happen for people to notice my presence and my force. So here is what I want to say:
Once you have noticed me, please understand that you can’t wish me away, like you can’t wish away the weather or gravity.
You can stay inside in the hope you can keep yourself safe, unaffected… you can pull your loved ones inside with you too. But please understand that I won’t go away.
So why don’t you come outside, get to know me. Just like gravity, once you stop struggling against me and accept me as what is I will become one with you and your family, and I will work with you all to make you stronger.”
Anna Jezuita is a MBACP accredited Counsellor and Mindfulness Trainer. Anna gained her qualification in Therapeutic Counselling in 2003 and Clinical Supervision in 2016.Anna is a visiting lecturer at Warsaw University. Her teenage son is in the process of gender transition.
Anna and Aris will be holding the first part of their 2-part workshop No Voice Missing: Understanding gender transitions at Stillpoint Spaces London, on Saturday 9th June. For more information and to book tickets for the event, visit our events page up top!