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Non-binary and OT: what does it mean?

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

What does being non-binary mean? How is it connected to being an occupational therapist? And why does it matter to me personally?

I am so glad you asked! :)

Non-binary means different things to different people. As an umbrella term, it encompasses anyone who does not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, which is typically "boy" for males and "girl" for females (National Center for Transgender Equality, 2023). There are many resources, including videos, books, and websites, that provide a deeper understanding of this concept and people's experiences. I'll be sharing more about my journey and the resources that helped me in a separate post.

For me personally, gendered expectations and norms have always made me feel uncomfortable. Why do I feel compelled to greet my friends in a high-pitched voice? Why am I criticized for being emotional while my husband is praised for putting up with me? Why do I have to go through the door first, what if there's a rabid racoon in there who wants to make me part of it's undead army?

I'll tell you why: GENDER NORMS (dun dun DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNN!!!)

Certain expectations, such as the ideas that girls should be nice, laugh at jokes but not make them, be a follower, take up as little space as possible, and must wear dresses have been problematic for me. You may ask, as I asked myself MANY times, why can't you be a woman that doesn't put up with those things?

To that I must give you my most honest answer: it just doesn't feel right. I resonate with an identity that is not rooted in a gender that was given to me. It basically means I can breathe. Fully. And be my full Aster self.

So how does this relate to another important part of my identity, being an occupational therapist?

In order for me to be my true self, I must first acknowledge my needs, wants, and desires. In order to connect with my community fully, I must be honest with them about who I am. I want to empower others to do the same. When I am in front of a patient, I ask them "What is something that you miss doing or something you really want to do?" Not "what did your doctor say was most important?" or "what did your spouse say was most important?" While the community is part of the decision-making process, my goal is to empower individuals to recognize and meet their own needs and adjust their environment accordingly. This means challenging unhealthy expectations and norms to uncover what they truly need to thrive.

I would love to hear your responses: What is something that you miss doing or something you really want to do? Share your thoughts in the comments or send me a message!

References and resources:

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