What Does It Mean to “Decolonize” Your Gender?

What Does It Mean to “Decolonize” Your Gender?
Decolonization refers to the process of dismantling the beliefs set into place by the colonizers, and the idea of gender can be included in that process. Read on to learn more about what it means to decolonize your gender.

Decolonization involves respecting Native and Indigenous knowledge and dismantling the rigid Western ideas established by colonization. As advocates for the LGBTQIA+ community, our expert and compassionate team of psychotherapists know that decolonization can also include gender.

Read on as the Brooklyn Integrative Psychological Services team shares what it means to decolonize your gender and six ways you can start that process. 

Understanding decolonization

Decolonization refers to the process by which colonized people take back power from colonizers. Decolonization dismantles the structures imposed by colonizers onto colonized folks so that they can reclaim knowledge, cultural values, and even the interpretation of gender that was lost during colonization. 

Decolonizing your gender is an active process of breaking free from societal constructs and redefining your identity beyond traditional expectations. It involves dismantling preconceived notions and embracing a more authentic and liberated sense of self.

6 ways to decolonize gender

Breaking free from societal constructs doesn’t happen overnight, and that’s okay. It’s a unique personal journey without any set timeline.

Here are six strategies to help you decolonize gender.

1. Question assumptions

Challenge the ingrained assumptions about gender that society imposes. Interrogate the narratives and norms that dictate how you should express your gender, and allow yourself the freedom to question, explore, and redefine.

2. Explore cultural perspectives of gender

Explore and celebrate diverse cultural perspectives on gender. Engage with different narratives and experiences, recognizing that gender is not a one-size-fits-all concept but a spectrum of possibilities that can vary across cultures and communities. 

For example, the term Two-Spirit refers to people with both a male and female spirit. This contrasts the colonizer’s idea of two separate and non-fluid genders. Indigenous communities place heavy importance on the Two-Spirit people, and they have a separate word to highlight their significance: Naawi-naangweyaabewag, an Anishinaabe word that means that the Two-Spirit people “keep the circle together.” 

During your research on cultural perspectives of gender, you may also find that different indigenous populations have their own gender traditions and pronouns. Some communities have multiple pronouns for gender (e.g., male, female, feminine male, masculine female, etc.), while others only have plural pronouns (e.g., we, us, they) to reflect a strong sense of belonging and oneness. 

3. Reflect on your own beliefs 

Take ownership of your narrative and identify the elements that resonate with your authentic self. 

Ask yourself questions:

  • What do I truly believe? 
  • How does this new knowledge make me feel?
  • What assumptions do I want to challenge?

You may not know the answers to these questions right away, and that’s okay, too. It’s okay to sit with these questions for a while. 

Tip: Journaling your thoughts and feelings may help you process them.

4. Reclaim the language that feels right to you

Reclaim the language surrounding your gender identity. Use words and expressions that resonate with your experience, even if they deviate from the conventional terminology. 

5. Connect with others

Connect with like-minded individuals who are also on the journey of decolonizing their gender. You may find benefits from both in-person and virtual communities. 

6. Celebrate self-acceptance and ask for help when you need it

Understand that decolonizing your gender is a unique and personal journey. Celebrate your authenticity and empower yourself to live a life that aligns with your truest identity. 

As you work to decolonize your gender, you may experience a range of emotions, and that’s okay. If you need mental health support as you break stigmas and learn to find the language that’s most authentic to you, don’t hesitate to reach out for the support you need. 

Remember, asking for help is always a sign of strength.

How we can help

While many are confident in their gender identity, others struggle with gender dysphoria, especially as they work through the challenging and rigid ideals set out by colonization.

Here at Brooklyn Integrative Psychological Services, our team offers a variety of LGBTQIA+  support for people in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and Midtown West and Union Square, New York. Our team also offers LGBTQIA+ virtual support for those in Massachusetts and Oregon.

In addition to therapy, our team offers support for coming out and guidance with sourcing gender-affirming care through their Gender Care Program.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the location of your choice or simply click here to get started.