We had a great evening with Wes Chernin as he shared his expertise in Building Transgender Cultural Awareness. Wes is an SLP working in Early Intervention in the Portland area who provides transgender cultural awareness trainings to SLPs and educators. His passion for his work is rooted in his personal story as a man of trans experience and his pursuit as an SLP to help people feel heard and understood.
 
Wes’ presentation was an excellent introduction to many of the facets of the transgender culture. It brought insight into how we should be using pronouns appropriately and how we can create a more inclusive environment in the schools for all students. Additionally, we as professionals have practices that need to be updated to acknowledge and validate people’s differences.
 
Here are some of our takeaways from the evening:
 
Pronouns are Important
Most of us tend to put emphasis on “correct” use of pronouns which hinders transgender cultural awareness. There are better ways to teach pronouns beyond “he” for boys, “she” for girls, and “they” for more than one person. We need to shift our thinking about this – it’s important to ask others what pronouns they use, or use gender-inclusive pronouns such as the more inclusive “they.”
 
Foundational Terminology
We learned about transgender foundational terminology, and that there are different ways of ensuring respect around people’s gender choices and identity. For example, the term “cisgender” refers to people whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth. This is in contrast to “gender dysphoria,” which is an intense and persistent discomfort with the gender someone was assigned.
 
Transgender Awareness Saves Lives
A recent survey indicates that 40% of transgender people have attempted suicide, which is heartbreaking. The extreme degree of distress, depression, and harassment experienced by trans people signals the urgency of the need to build transgender cultural awareness. As professionals, we can create a safe environment by doing small things, such as changing intake forms to be less gender-specific, and helping transgender students feel safe, welcome, and seen.
 
Inclusion is Important
We especially loved the following quote Wes shared. It applies directly to serving clients with disabilities as well as transgender individuals: “Inclusion is not bringing people into what already exists; it is making a new space, a better space for everyone.” – George Dei, Diversity Toys
 
 
We also took this opportunity to collect gift cards and non-perishable foods for families in need as part of our ongoing Give efforts. This month, our donations went to Neighborhood House, a local organization that provides early childhood education, safety net services, and youth and senior services. Thank you to everyone who joined us for the evening, and thanks to Wes for taking the time to share with us – we are lucky to have you in our community.