What Is Gender

What Is Gender

Gender is confusing. It’s often used and understood as a synonym for sexual genitalia. Consult any dictionary, and you’ll see. And while, in our culture, both terms are inextricably linked with one another, they are different. They’re associations with one another (and our staunch adherence to them) have proven oppressive and dangerously limiting.

For some, it’s never an issue; they’re born, they are raised as the sex they were assigned at birth, identify with that sex and its associated gender, and it’s all good. For many others, it’s not so easy. Some of us feel confined by the limits of our current conceptualization of gender upon which our society has agreed and enforced for generations.

Even in places where people self-describe as open-minded and accepting, a cis man wearing a dress is assumed to be in costume, and a femme or high femme woman with fully grown out leg hair is a spectacle.

Gender is a construct, and we have agreed that being masculine means one thing and being feminine means another. Many of us who disagree with this construct do so while following the rules. We feel that we are following these rules against our wills. When people do break free and live authentically, however outside the norm, they are mocked, isolated, bullied, attacked, and even killed.

For years, in the Trans community, “passing” has been a goal. Some want to pass in hopes of feeling in alignment with who they know themselves to be. Some want to pass to look and feel like and be accepted as a “real” man or woman. (Please note that I am absolutely simplifying this concept.) This is a testament to the generations of patriarchy, toxic masculinity, sexism, and misogyny that inform our culture. Men must “look like men, ” and women must “look like women.” To this day it’s still an issue of safety as MTF (male-to-female) people are the most targeted members of our community. (And MTF People of Color make up a substantial portion of that group.)

Obviously, this is not true for every Trans person. There are plenty of people in the Trans community for whom passing isn’t much of a goal, and there are many who’ve found more peace and happiness after transitioning. Happiness is a universal goal, and many eventually find it after they have transitioned. (Most people don’t find immediate fulfillment; transitioning is often a long and arduous process during which a person can face various types of rejection and self-doubt. Years of managing the stress brought on by denying oneself, living in fear of being rejected for living authentically compounded by the stress of letting go and allowing oneself to transition is an enormous undertaking.)

But there is a whole group of people who identify as Trans and don’t want HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) or surgeries. Some Trans people want HRT but not surgery. Some want some of the surgeries but not all and don’t want HRT. Some FTMs will never look the way we’ve been conditioned to identify as male, and some MTFs will never look the way we’ve been conditioned to identify as female. Most of us assume that when someone transitions they’ll start behaving and presenting in a way that our culture affirms as masculine enough or feminine enough.

We have decided what is masculine and feminine, which characteristics are ok to swap and which are definitely not ok. Straight men can have long hair, but they can’t wear makeup. Women can have buzz cuts and abstain from shaving body hair, but they’d better be Lesbian. Our culture puts an incredible amount of pressure on its members to conform to its rules and has assembled a loyal and persuasive army of militant enforcers who are always more than willing to defend these rules.

In response, so much dangerous adherence to these limits is the notion of being gender-fluid. Gender fluidity is gaining momentum. A lot of people don’t feel they should have to comply with a certain presentation based on their genitals. So they don’t. They identify and present however feels most authentic to them. They don’t ask for permission. They don’t appease. People who are gender-fluid have looked at the gender, and sexual constructs created by the dominant groups in our culture and have opted out. They are creating a safer, more inclusive culture where we are not defined by our presentations or ruled by binaries and either-or options.

I’m often asked about “detransitioning” and how common it is. This is a complicated subject and will take time and commitment to discuss. If you have any questions about what I’ve written or would like to discuss detransitioning, please contact me. I’d be more than happy to talk about this with you.


Love and Be Loved,

The Politics of Sexuality and Confidence in Women

The Politics of Sexuality and Confidence in Women

Do any of you remember Britney Spears? When she first made her debut at the end of the 1990s, she was about 16 years old and sported both a schoolgirl’s uniform and basketball outfit with her hair in pigtails. Many of her facial gestures expressed dramatic, wide-eyed curiosity and a genius mixture of innocent and seductive smiles. Both the lyrics to Britney’s songs and choreography included heavy sexual innuendo. The nature of this sexuality sent a subtle message to her younger fans (and, perhaps, less aware fans) that she was not as much in charge of her sexuality as much as she found herself the subject of sexualization by others.  Britney’s fan based ranged from tween girls and boys to adult men. Britney was beloved by the Pop music community and deemed “Princess of Pop.”

None of this, in itself, is abhorrent, but wait until I describe Britney’s reception as she grew into herself.

Eventually, Britney traded her pigtails for full, voluminous hair and began to dress in shorter and tighter outfits. Her choreography became obviously sexual, and her song lyrics had less innuendo and much more clear, sexual content. Britney’s tween fans and their parents began protesting her new presentation, reporting that she was setting a “bad example” for young girls. The same die-hard fans who once praised her at every turn now persecuted her.

So, what happened? What was the unforgivable change?

Here it is (I gave a little hint in the first paragraph.); Britney went from seemingly disconnected from her sexuality (and sexualized by others) to in charge of her sexuality and connected to it. What’s worse, she seemed to be enjoying it! (The nerve.) It was ok for the artist to be sexualized as long as she wasn’t in charge of it (with a lack of awareness, to boot), as long as it was happening to her in fact, it’s part of what made her worthy of praise. However, the more Britney took control of her sexual power the more she was seen as an abomination. Hm. The more this woman consented to her sexuality, the more it was seen as a transgressive act.

This is not the first time this kind of sexuality shaming has been thrust onto a female artist (Whitney Houston) and, surely (unfortunately), it will not be the last. Good news (not really), the same sexuality shaming happens to women and girls who aren’t in the public eye. Our community is pretty sure that it’s far more admirable to have sex happen to a woman instead of with her; more fetching is a woman who is powerless in her sexuality than a woman who enjoys it.

Perhaps, instead of perpetuating this dangerous message, “a woman’s virtue= sex happens to you; women taking ownership of their sexuality=slut=the worst thing ever” we should question why we are so vehemently attached to it in the first place and question what it is doing to and for the health of our community members. With slut shaming, sexuality shaming, and bullying dangerously interwoven into the lives of both adults and children, this is most definitely a message in favor of violence, not health and safety for our community.

Love and Be Loved,

Respecting the Value of Porn

Respecting the Value of Porn

As a sex-positive therapist, many clients seek my help for concerns they have about their sexuality, looking for guidance as they navigate sexual and or intimate relationships, and supportive treatment for symptoms related to the sexual trauma they have experienced. They often have many questions about normalcy and fear of the unknown. Overall, I see a common thread of emotion woven into many of these concerns: shame. So many people feel ashamed of their desires, feelings, and experiences. A common subject broached by clients is porn and their shame around watching and enjoying it. (There are other subjects which I will address in later posts.)

Overall, women who view porn are often seen as depraved sex fiends and antifeminist, in addition to myriad other misguided opinions. Men who view porn are seen as typical misogynist cads…  So we don’t talk about watching porn. And we don’t talk about enjoying it. Porn is so feared and detested that we, as porn viewers, fear what it might mean about ourselves to watch and enjoy it. We are encouraged to hate the parts of ourselves which derive pleasure from it.

If we did feel safe enough to have an open dialogue with one another about the value of porn, what might we say?

Some of us might say that porn has helped us to connect with our authentic sexuality for the first time. Where previously we had experienced discomfort, fear, shame, or a combination of any of these feelings when accessing our sexuality at anything deeper than surface level, porn has served for some of us to explore this part of ourselves in a safe, nonjudgmental space. Porn has gifted curiosity about ourselves, what we like (and what we don’t), what we want, what we want to try, ways of expressing desire, and what might make us feel desired.

Others might say that they find value in queer or feminist porn, that they like to see people who look like them enjoying their authentic sexuality. These members of our community might say that it’s refreshing and empowering to watch scenes in which they are represented and to which they can relate, scenes that inspire them.

Maybe some of us would share that watching porn has enriched our sexual relationship with our partners. We might have experienced a lull or predictable sex, maybe disconnected sex, and much of it unsatisfying. As we explored the world of porn with our partner(s), we realized things they wanted that they didn’t feel comfortable revealing before. We noticed more ease in talking about the sex we were (and weren’t) having with one another and the sex that we wanted. We began to feel more connected to one another and less afraid of talking about what we want, less afraid of the awareness of what we want.

Such incredible connection and growth are happening for people watching porn, and we are discouraged form sharing it with one another. We are experiencing a wonderful, life-affirming treasure, and yet we are told that it’s toxic garbage.

Let’s stop playing along. We can show the others what they’re missing, those who don’t watch porn and those who pretend they don’t. We can show them there’s nothing to fear and everything to gain by sharing the valuable experiences we have had thanks to porn. Who else is with me?

Love and Be Loved,


Increase Your Sex Work Awareness

Increase Your Sex Work Awareness

Think for a minute about what you do for a living. Does it currently satisfy you? Are you good at it? When you experience a bad day at work, who do you talk to about it and what kind of support do you get?

Imagine your current situation as it is now and think about what it would be like if your friends and family disapproved of how you make your living, judged you for it, even pathologized you for it. Imagine how it would feel to have people try to rescue you from your job, save you from its perils and yourself because they knew that you were a paralyzed victim who couldn’t help themselves, who had probably been abused so, of course, it makes perfect sense that this is what your job is… Think about what it might feel like to have a bad day at your job and talk to someone about it only to hear, “Well, of course you had a bad day. Look what you do for a living. What did you expect?”

What if you couldn’t tell anyone about your bad (or good) days at work because your support network had made it clear that they didn’t want to hear about it? With whom would you share your experience and what would it feel like to experience such a lack of support?

One way to find out what this might be like is to listen to the stories of many sex workers. They’ll be able to give you insight into what it’s like to experience the shaming, stigma, blaming, isolation, and ultimate devaluing that comes with their jobs.

Almost immediately, when people hear the words “sex work” or “sex worker” they often imagine a woman or girl who is being forcibly managed and mistreated by a man or a group of people, abused and victimized. Sometimes they imagine that this girl has probably had an abusive childhood, and that is what has driven her to sex work. There’s a cultural (mis)understanding that women don’t like sex and they certainly don’t like it enough to turn it into a career, at least not one that they enjoy and in which they take pride.

It’s pretty hard for people to generate a clear picture of an empowered sex worker who does this work because she loves it, who isn’t being coerced, who is authentically connected to her power, enjoying the work she does. There are a lot of reasons for this. It’s a tough conflict for many people to imagine a woman really enjoying sex in the first place and so, selling sex of her volition blows peoples’ minds; they resolve it however they can (ie: she was abused, and she’s just repeating unhealthy cycles! she’s being forced into it!), because it’s just that unfathomable.

We’re still operating under the assumptions that a) women don’t *really* like sex b) if you’re a woman, and you do like sex, the more sex you have and enjoy, the more it is indicated that your character must be terrible and c) if you sell sexual services you must either be sick, and people should feel sorry for you and rescue you, or you must be dangerous, and people should avoid you. These assumptions have incredibly dangerous indications not only for sex workers but all of us. (More to come on this!)

“But sex work is dangerous!!” Yes, it can be dangerous. It is not inherently dangerous, however, just because it is sex work. Sex work can be dangerous because of what I just described. Sex work can be potentially dangerous because of the shame we infuse into sex, into women who are sexual, into ourselves for wanting sex and the kinds of sex we want (or don’t want). Sex workers are harmed and killed, not because of the job they’re in, but because of the stigma we’ve attached to it and because we offer these providers no protection against and no recourse for sustained abuse. Shame and stigma are a breeding ground for violence.

We’ve just navigated our way backwards through what some people consider to be controversial content. You did great!


Love and Be Loved,


Sluts, Sex, and Sabotage

Sluts, Sex, and Sabotage

“What a slut- could she be any more desperate? She’s just trying to get attention. And look what she’s wearing!”

Statements like this are uttered by both men and women about women, but right now, I’m more concerned with focusing on women who talk about one another this way.

Our larger community has come to agree that a slut is someone, most often a woman, who enjoys sex more than she should, is overtly sexual, and who exercises her impetus to realize her sexual desire. Women criticize and judge other women who don’t suppress their sexual drive and behavior. We are encouraged to disavow our authentic wishes to be sexual. In fact, we are praised if we are powerless (or at least ambivalent) in our sexuality, and this is incredibly destructive.

We have the messages of historical sexuality that still influences us- puritan sex, sex between one man and one woman for the purpose of procreation. And then there are the messages about sex in the media today. This is an incredibly difficult intersection to navigate.

Here’s the short of it:

Female sexuality is considered acceptable if a woman is in a relationship; she is encouraged to please her partner (love sex), but she runs into trouble when she seeks sex outside of a relationship (lust sex). It’s fine for her to have her needs, though not necessary, as long as they are the right kind of needs- the kind that make her partner feel affirmed. She is discouraged from expressing her needs in a way that might make her seem a) too sexually aggressive or b) too difficult for her partner to please. The message to women is this; cast off your sexual needs and learn how to negotiate the needs of others. Don’t be too sexy, but please no, don’t be frigid and closed off, either. Follow this advice and you will be a respectable woman.

…but do we want respect if we have to pay for it with our authenticity? And why do so many women experience the impulse to glance knowingly at one another when a member of their cohort walks by in clothes that express a part of her sexuality if we’re all under this microscope? (What exactly is the knowledge being shared with those glances, anyway?)

Part of what’s happening for women is fear, fear of expressing the parts of themselves that they have been told are shameful or “too much.” That in itself can be tough to overcome. When someone has believed that a core aspect of herself is bad for a significant part of her life, even when she wants to access and express it, the insecurity of navigating and realizing this can be painful. Many women fear that they won’t express themselves the “right way.”

Some women resent one another for their ability to take the risk and express their sexuality in a way that feels healthy for them. This resentment is born of the fear I just described, anger that they, themselves, don’t feel capable of taking this action, and hope that they can govern their sexuality the way they want to instead of they way they’ve been directed. This hope keeps their authentic sexuality from straying too far so that they are, in some way, always connected to it.

If we experiment with allowing ourselves to be curious about our sexual needs and desires, without pressuring ourselves to avoid nor move toward them, we can give ourselves space to get to know that part of ourselves. As we increase our self-knowledge, our capacity for connection in relationship will improve. The idea is to first share our desires with ourselves (because sometimes it’s a secret), and then with those close to us. We become less isolated. We become stronger, and we begin to lose that urge to act like crabs in a bucket, keeping one another down. For some women, this will be a longer journey than for others. For all, powerful, safe, balanced, healthy, authentic sexual experiences will be worth it.

Love and Be Loved,

How to Build Strong Young Women (Part IV)

How to Build Strong Young Women (Part IV)

We want our young women to feel confident that they can hold any career they choose, perform at any level they choose and do what most inspires them. We watch for their skills and talents and hope for them to develop into something that these young women can use to find a means of executing whatever they understand their purpose in life to be. Our hope is that they will develop interest and passion, that they will feel that these interests and passions are available to them, and pursue them.

A solid way to encourage their interest and to help our young women feel that what interests them and what they’re passionate about is available to them is to help them develop their sense of connectedness to her cohort and authentic self. I’ve discussed these topics in my earlier How to Build Strong Women posts so, please feel free to take a few minutes to review them now. (I’ll wait for you.)

Our young women develop their beliefs and values based on their interaction with their world. These are values and beliefs about themselves, the world, their impact on others, and their capability. They develop their passion and interests based on these beliefs and values.

We know that there are a lot of distractions that are thrown at our young women. These distractions can also have a quite an impact on a young woman’s values and beliefs. Fortifying her sense of authentic self and connectedness to her group members will strengthen her resistance to these distractions and her resilience when she trips over them.

What our young women are searching for is what will allow them to improve their community in a way that feels fulfilling to them (inspired purpose). They want to inspire, advocate, nurture, educate, heal, and create. Many of them have been moved by music, the arts, helpers in their lives, and family members. They have been inspired, and they want to know that they are capable of embracing that part of life, too.

Be curious about their interests with them. Perhaps some of their interests will come and go; overall, this is appropriate for their development. What is important for this time is that you are teaching them to navigate the challenges that accompany seeking and engaging their sense of inspired purpose. Along the way, they might encounter any combination of failure, judgment, criticism, and hardship. They will benefit from your guidance and confidence when they feel like giving up or wonder if this really what they want. Our young women will learn from you that they have the perseverance and strength to reach their inspired purpose.

Sometimes our young women aren’t quite sure what inspires them; they aren’t in touch with their skills. Sometimes this has to do with their sense of authentic self, at times it has to do with fear, and sometimes it has to do with their ability to feel satisfaction. If you are concerned about your young woman’s ability to access her skills, interests, motivation, and passion don’t worry by yourself. Give me a call and let’s talk about it.


Love and Be Loved,


How to Build Strong Young Women (Part III)

How to Build Strong Young Women (Part III)

Earlier, I mentioned the idea of an Authentic Self and its importance for sustained resilience throughout a young women’s development and into adulthood.  This part of her is what decreases her drive to search for outside validation and what helps her to find comfort and strength when she experiences rejection from others. With this tool, she can navigate her world, relationships, obstacles, and triumphs with much more confidence and stability.

“This sounds great!” you might be thinking. “I want my kid to have that.” So, how do I give that to her? Well, the earlier you start, the better, of course, but you can start doing these things that I will recommend at any age.


Step 1. Recapture the first moments you fell in love with her. Remember the earliest times when you first became aware of how overwhelmed by your love for her and your curiosity about her, your wish to keep her safe. This is a helpful step because it puts you back in touch with the part of her that is the vulnerable person she still is (in case things have gotten a bit tense between the two of you and it’s hard to access that) and it reminds you of the reservoir of love you hold for her. This step reminds you from which part of your intentions for her are coming. It can be easy to forget this when you find yourself in a power struggle with her, stuck in fear, and out of sync with the important young woman in your life.

When she feels your in-loveness with her, she will be more in touch with her self-worth (self-respect and confidence), which is crucial for healthy development.   


Step 2. Trust yourself and your instincts. Sometimes this is asking a lot. If you have been going through a lot with your young woman, and you feel like your family has been through the wringer, it can feel like you have lost touch with yourself. You can begin to mistake your anxiety for your instincts. They’re still there, and it will take some practice regaining your ability to hear our voice again. If you feel like you need some guidance here, call or email me, and I can provide further assistance.

When you trust yourself, you are less afraid, overall, and you can make more reasonable decisions. When you are less afraid, she feels safer with you, and she is less afraid of her world. She begins to trust herself. When she trusts herself, she does not need as much outside validation and does not feel as driven to seek approval at any cost.


Step 3. Be curious. The young woman is going through a lot right now. So are you. Be curious about her patterns and decisions, but don’t draw any quick conclusions from minimal information. Don’t be afraid to ask her questions about what you see or what concerns you. Be curious about your thoughts, reactions, and responses to her. There is power in curiosity, but we tend to lose that power once we become reactive. As she experiences your curiosity, she will strengthen her own and gain comfort in sitting with the unknown while she figures things out for herself, rather than reacting impulsively.


Step 4. Set reasonable and compassionate limits. It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and start rattling off shortcomings and consequences to the young woman in your life. This results in feelings of resentment, shame, and a wish for some rewind button. If you’re not used to slowing yourself down, it can be hard to get it going at first, but all you need to do is start with being aware. You’ll get it. Ok, so slow yourself down a little, then take control of the situation. Remember that you’re the parent, and you set the pace. If there needs to be a consequence of an action you don’t have to come up with one on the spot. You can give yourself time to think of something that makes sense for the situation and come back to it. Many of the parents I see don’t realize that they can give themselves this option and when they try it, they feel freedom.

If it’s a conversation that you want to end, it’s ok to end it. You don’t have to keep going around in circles. If you don’t think it’s a productive conversation anymore, it’s ok to take a break. You can be both loving and respectful while still holding firm boundaries. This teaches her that she doesn’t have to let others walk all over her to have a relationship. It teaches her to make and respect her boundaries while respecting others’ boundaries.


Step 5. Make room for both success and failure. She can’t always succeed, and she won’t always fail. She’ll need to learn how to manage both. Many parents are afraid to celebrate their child’s successes out of fear that they will become over-identified with them, entitled, or unable to deal with failure. This is understandable, but minimizing success is not a way to teach failure-management. The idea is to be curious about both. Why was she successful here? How does it feel when she is successful? It’s ok to praise her experienced success. The same goes for her failure. What made for the failure? How does it feel to have failed? It’s also ok to offer condolence and encouragement. She will take these lessons and reference them. She will remember that both success and failure happen and that neither defines her.


Step 6. Ask for help. If you would like more clarification regarding these steps, do not hesitate to ask me for help. Asking your support system for help takes the burden off of you and provides more balance. It shows the young woman that, instead of suffering alone, she can increase her capability by asking for help when she needs it. It puts her in touch with her resourcefulness.      

How to Build Strong Young Women (Part II)

How to Build Strong Young Women (Part II)

If we find ourselves a part of a young woman’s support system, most of us have experienced thoughts about her at some point that goes something like this; “When did this happen?  When did she start doing/saying/behaving like/dressing like this?” Maybe this is accompanied by feelings of dread, fear, anxiety, anticipation, sadness or a combination of any of these. You’ve probably also noticed that these moments build on each other and increase in number.

Listening to One Direction last month, but suddenly she’s wearing pentagrams, and you can barely make out her features through all that dark makeup? Did you find those pictures on her Facebook account in which red cups adorn every hand, and she is wearing skimpy clothes you didn’t know she had ‘til now? Maybe you’re worried because you found a bag in her room with a patch in the shape of a marijuana leaf safety pinned to it.

These scenarios could be something, or they could be nothing. And they could be anything in between. Doesn’t make you feel better? Fair enough. That young woman is a)exploring her interests in a world of information b)what her interests mean (to herself and others) c)the relationship between her interests and their meaning. It can be tough to navigate for her. And for you. She wants to know if her interests will become her identity if they are supposed to, and if she wants that. Here is where her cohort members come in.

They are in search right along side her. They are feeling just as unsure and insecure. The young woman wants both to be able to explore and find out about herself about the world and have her group to come back to and report what’s out there. She wants to be allowed to change and experience things and remain loved and accepted by her members. Her hope is for her group to hold her accountable in a loving way if she falls too far down the rabbit hole. There are many girls who have this experience and their ability to continue to bond with others, with other women, flourishes. They enjoy the stability of healthy friendships, understand the impact of their choices, and experience confidence in relationships.

There are also plenty of girls who have not experienced this kind of bonding with their cohort members. In fact, they have experienced an exiling. This exile can take place in the form of the young woman’s fear that she will be rejected so, she leaves her group before they can leave her (though she still experiences it as a rejection). It can also take shape as the group actively rejecting her. As a rule, have a tough time watching our loved ones change. We don’t know what it means so, we find it threatening, and we don’t allow it. And this is how the exile can begin.

The group sees that the young woman is somehow changing and they resist it, either by poking jabs at her newfound style/other friends she has found/new music preferences, etc. Maybe they do this directly or indirectly (girl culture isn’t known for its direct nature, but more for its passive yet very aggressive torment). They can do it to her face, behind her back, or both. They begin to distance themselves from her. This behavior escalates. Eventually, either they will not tolerate her presence in the group or she will find her membership there intolerable, and she will leave. When this happens, it is most common for the young woman to find a group of boys to replace her group rather than a new group of girls because a)she has lost trust in her members and b)it can be brutal to enter a new girl-group. There might be a few peripheral girls in her circle. She has experienced her cohort as unsafe. She has taken a severe blow to her confidence and sense of power. Many of the girls I see who have experienced this suffer from depression, anxiety, tend to isolate, and engage in some form of addictive behavior such as drug addiction, alcohol addiction, cutting, or eating disorder.

So what can you do? Start with being curious. When you see that she has changed her style of something, her presentation, her friends, etc. be curious about it. Don’t automatically assign meaning or judgment to it. She’s not sure what it means yet so, how can you know? Allow her to change. Not only will this will give her some breathing room, but it will show her the compassion she needs in addition to giving her a template for how it looks to allow someone to change so that she can pass it on. Trust your instincts. This can be tricky for some people who have a tough time seeing the difference between anxiety and instinct. The more in touch you are with your instincts, the more in touch she will be with hers. If you need a tune up or feel like you want some help deciphering between the two, feel free to call or email me, and we can discuss this further. Know your negotiables and nonnegotiables. Some things, like partying, can be a phase but if this is nonnegotiable for your family, don’t be afraid to hold a calm, firm line here. Lastly, if it seems like there are things your family needs sorting out let’s talk about it. This can be a scary time, but I can help you figure it out.


Love and Be Loved,


How to Build Strong Young Women (Part I)

How to Build Strong Young Women (Part I)

This is Part I of a series. It has become the topic of a lot of conversations among my peer groups, colleagues, and the families and adolescents I treat. What do young women need to launch into the world? What is essential for them to stand firm in their communities? I will cover each of these in more detail in articles to come.  


                                                        Connectedness to One Another:

            A young woman needs to feel a sense of community in her peers, a sense of belonging.  It is important for her to experience herself in a supportive environment of other young women who are learning to navigate the world so that she can find sameness when she needs it (and a sense of difference when she needs it, too), solidarity, comfort, and strength. This home group of her peers will help the young woman learn both how she does and does not want to move through her relationships.

As she works through conflict and adversity, these peers will teach her various ways to communicate which the young woman will carry into other relationships.  It is here that she has the chance to begin to gain a confidence and experience the effectiveness (and perceived ineffectiveness) of her power in a way that only her group can provide her. If she experiences support amongst her members, this group has the chance to be one of the safest places for the young woman to express her fears, hopes, frustrations, and disappointments that she experiences as she navigates young womanhood.  If she suffers a lack of support amongst her members, the young woman might begin to develop a belief that it is safer not to share these parts of her experience.  It is possible for her to start to isolate, experience herself as powerless, and the risk for her to develop unhealthy behaviors as coping mechanisms begin to increase.


                                                                Sense of Authentic Self:

            Here is where this young woman will be able to legitimize her feelings, her experience, her opinions. A strong connection to this place, her authentic self, is what will make it possible for her to a) believe she is capable and b) exercise her capability. This is a place where she will find resource through hardship.

This connection is not just necessary for helping the young woman to realize her aspirations, relationship objectives, what kind of person she wants to be in her world, and how she intends to navigate through all of this. This connection to her authentic self is imperative for her resilience. The relationship with her self is essential for her to know that she will be ok regardless of what happens throughout the course of her life.

The more developed this part of her becomes, the more secure the young woman will feel about the feelings she experiences in response to particular situations. She will not only feel more confident about her opinions, but she will share them more freely with those around her. The young woman will demonstrate fewer behavioral defenses (defenses which serve to distance her from others in a protective way) because she will know that there is a safety within her that is always there.

A lack of connection to an authentic sense of self can encourage a young woman to constantly look to others for validation regarding choices and decisions she considers, causes her to illegitimize her feelings, strengthen a belief that what she has to say or do is not of value. A tenuous alliance with her authentic sense of self will make the obscurity of life increasingly overwhelming. It will be easier for the young woman to believe that she will not be able to withstand the pain she experiences in the world.


                                                            Sense of Inspired Purpose:

            The collective young woman being described throughout this article wants to connect and give something of value. She wants to impact her world. Some of her peers will choose to impact our world by committing their lives to the helping professions, others to business. Some will choose to leave their mark by contributing other humans to the world, and still, others will give themselves to social justice. It is important to highlight the many choices witnessed by the young woman (whether or not she perceives them as available to her, specifically, is related to the strength of her connection to her authentic sense of self).

Considering the pressure we as humans put on each other and ourselves to succeed, what it means to be successful, and the existing social constructs, a young woman faces quite a challenge as she decides how she will spend her time and energy in her world. She is confronted with the responsibility of finding out what inspires her, what gives her the most genuine sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. Then she must take another brave step and begin to do it.

It will not be enough for the young woman to simply pick a lucrative career if she is not somehow indubitably inspired and adequately satisfied with the gains returned by her efforts.  To choose a path based on someone else’s wish for her, societal pressure, lack of motivation, and maybe a combination of each of these will eventually leave her with a feeling of emptiness. It is not sustainable- at least not without paying a high price that will involve experiencing a disintegration of a part of her self.

The young woman aspires to influence and inspire by translating what influences and inspires her. She searches for the most impactful way she can accomplish this in a way that speaks to her the loudest, corresponds closely to her values and beliefs and allows her to fully experience her value in her world. She pioneers her path.

The three institutions described here are cardinal aspects of a young woman’s development for which there are no short cuts. Our holistic support of these conditions of her development will encourage a safe and healthy community for her to find her way. She will possess the confidence and strength to help others find their way.  The collective young woman is more resilient in these conditions and carries with her a sense of ok-ness. She passes this on to others, and we find that we all begin to strengthen.


Love and be Loved,