New Gestalt Voices is exploring the field of gender and sexual diversity (GSD) within gestalt psychotherapy, and we are planning to publish an anthology of writings on the subject. We’re now calling for chapter proposals to cover voices that can help practitioners expand their knowledge and understanding.
This book will cover:
- The range of GSD experiences.
- A mix of voices, from the more theoretically advanced to experiential/testimony and trainee experiences – including straight and cis-gender experiences.
- An emphasis on GSD as a part of wider diversity – building bridges rather than further separating.
Why a book on gender and sexual diversity in gestalt?
The aim is not to invalidate anyone’s experience, but rather to widen perspectives by including experiences of GSD identifying individuals, thus equipping non-GSD practitioners with knowledge.
There are beyond 100 expressions to describe gender, and yet in the gestalt community the discourse is often limited to binaries, as in the rest of society. Sadly, the majority of societies group people into men and women, ignoring cultural, spiritual and anthropological references that gender can be multi-faceted (e.g. see Wakashu/Japan, Mahu/Hawaii, Muxe/Mexico, Bissu/Indonesia, Khawaja Sira/Pakistan, Xanith/Oman, Hijra/India, Two-Spirit/North America and many more). The focus on binaries is causing huge problems for people who differ in their gender experience. Offering expansion of knowledge for practitioners has the potential to help clients who present with trans and non-conforming identities in the therapy room.
The distinction between gender, sexuality, orientation and preferences can easily be confused. Sexual preferences (such as BDSM, fetishes, what you like sexually) are distinct from orientation (same sex, opposite sex, all sexes, or no preference at all). Anecdotal evidence suggests that even within the gestalt community a lack of knowledge can lead to pathologising and labelling. In addition, the term ‘sex addiction’ and the public debate about heightened sexuality further contributes to pathologising sexuality and preferences that are deviating from a ‘norm’. We need more knowledge and guidance to help practitioners.
Despite best efforts, people with differing gender expression or sexual orientation still experience oppression and depersonalisation on a regular basis. Even though the gestalt community is inclusive and welcoming for difference, it is also evident that the community is majority white, majority cis-gender, majority heterosexual, majority monogamous – norming how gender, sexuality and relationships are defined within the gestalt community.
When practitioners are only exposed to monogamous, heterosexual relationships, it is easy to conclude that this might be the ‘only’ form of relating, risking imposing mono-normative values on clients who present with differing relationship preferences such as polyamorous, non-monogamous, or BDSM frames of relating. A deeper understanding of differing relationship models would help practitioners to develop a more sensitive approach to engaging with clients from these groups.
Gestalt therapists are inherently trained to meet clients where they are. This can be beneficial for LGBTQ+ clients who face conversion therapy as a threat to alter themselves, with harrowing consequences. Despite the harm this can do to people, conversion therapy is still present and tolerated, sometimes even unintentionally, in the form of ‘therapeutic challenge’. Guidance on working with GSD clients would help gestalt practitioners.
- There is little published on GSD themes within the gestalt literature, outside of some writing on gay and lesbian experience – for instance, there’s hardly anything covering queer, non-binary, trans, bisexual, BDSM, gender fluid, intersectional (i.e. black and gay, disabled and trans, etc.), or polyamorous experience.
- Training institutes have little gestalt-specific material to draw on to illustrate GSD themes. There is anecdotal evidence that trainees identifying as GSD can have a harder time in qualifying as therapists, with fewer role models. This remains concerningly acute in some countries (e.g. Eastern Europe). If the book is distributed to clinicians in these areas, and offers new ways of viewing non-normative experiences, this information could contribute to reducing stigma and pathologising in these communities. There is a tie-in with liberation psychology.
- We suspect there might be ways in which gestalt theory (or approach to teaching theory) is normative and less amenable of GSD experience. We offer the following questions as examples, but we anticipate others: How to think about BDSM preferences in non-pathologising ways? How might narratives that undercut the gender binary inform aspects of theory (e.g. theory of self)? What can gestalt learn from wider sociological advances in these fields (authors like Judith Butler)?
- Aligning with NGV values that diversity of voice and personal experience can be more illuminative than theory.
Why participate in co-creating this book?
- Help practitioners to be more effective.
- Help clients to receive effective (and non-damaging) gestalt therapy.
- Help reduce stigma and further the liberation of gender and sexual diverse people.
- Contribute to the advancement of gestalt therapy.
Strategy and planning:
- Aspiration to publish in time for the AAGT 2020 Conference.
- Call for chapter proposals goes out by January 2019
- Proposals received by April 2019
- Draft chapters submitted by October 2019
- Review and feedback given by January 2020
- Finalised chapters submitted by April 2020
- Colleagues sought to be on editorial committee (active interest is more important than publishing/editorial experience).
- Intention to publish around 15 chapters, in following sections (to be firmed up).
- Testimony/narrative around different GSD experience, experience in different countries and in different cultural settings.
- Intersectionality – links and commonalities and difference to wider diversity experience (e.g. reflections from ‘straight’ perspectives, non-white perspectives, social class).
- Insights from wider cultural/sociological theory – what can gestalt learn?
- Theoretical/teaching implications
- Practical guidance on non-pathologising assessment and treatment planning
- Suggestion that editorial committee proactively invite contributions from a number of key figures.
- Put out wider call in January 2019.
- Ongoing support for authors via Zoom link-up/social networking, etc.
- Editorial committee to write introduction and reflective chapters.
How to propose a chapter:
- Write a 1-2 page proposal on your chapter.
- Help us understand how your proposal/contribution can help to grow the field of GSD in gestalt.
And if you’d like to discuss any aspects of this with us beforehand, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line!
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