Lead With Soul

Self-expression & being non-binary with El Chenier

June 07, 2021 Kimberly King Season 1 Episode 8
Lead With Soul
Self-expression & being non-binary with El Chenier
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Lead With Soul, we're diving deep into gender identity, what being non-binary means, self-expression, and some incredible tips for creating a safer and more inclusive space for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

El Chenier is an award-winning writer and educator who spent the last 25 years deepening our understanding of gender and sexuality. Last year they left the university to work directly with non-binary people as they grapple with what it means and how it feels to be non-binary.

Connect with El:

Find me on Facebook and Instagram or visit my website here.
Find more episodes of Lead With Soul and show notes here.
Download the transcription here.

Episode 8: Self-expression & being non-binary with El Chenier

Welcome to Lead With Soul — The podcast for spiritual entrepreneurs who are ready to build an impactful and profitable brand, create a thriving and sustainable business that aligns with your values, and experience more freedom, fulfillment and abundance in your life and business — while making a positive difference in the world. If you’re ready to elevate your business and brand to a new level, manifest your vision into reality and embody the leader you know you’re meant to be — this is the podcast for you. I’m your host, Kimberly King.

Kimberly King:
Hey, welcome to another episode of Lead with Soul, I am super excited to share that I have a special guest for today's episode. El, I am so excited for our conversation today. El, I would love for you to take a moment to introduce yourself, share a little bit about who you are and the work that you do in this world.

El Chenier:
Hey, great to be here. So I thought about this. And I actually want to first talk about who I've been. So my name is El Chenier, and I am a professor. And I teach at a Canadian university that I have been teaching for quite a long time, more than 25 years. And my field is critical Sexuality Studies. So I've been a feminist, queer, and academic for more than a quarter of a century. And now, last year, a year ago, just over a year ago, now, I decided that non-binary made sense for me, and that came to me as a little bit of a surprise. It was my students who I'd heard the term being used. And one of my students in one of my classes introduced themselves, I invited students to say their pronouns. And so they said, I'm they/them. And as I always do, I took a moment to pause and ask my other students in the room, if this was something they'd heard before, so several students put up their hands, yes, they had. And so I take a moment to explain. You know, some people simply don't identify as either male or female and call themselves non-binary and use they/them. And then in a sort of off-the-cuff way, I said, you know, if I was your age, I'd probably identify as non-binary as well. But you know, I'm 53, I came out 30 years ago, I'm too tired for all that business.

We all had a good laugh about that. And two months later, or so I woke up one day, and just like that, I realized it's just what you are, it wasn't a conscious decision. It was very different from when I came out as a lesbian, when I came out as a lesbian was more of a conscious decision because I think from a sort of technical sexual attraction point of view, I was equally attracted to men and women. So in that sense, you could say I was bisexual, I didn't, I didn't quite have that awareness. So for those of you old enough, cast your mind back to the 80s. At that point, in my mind, heterosexual women could have sex with other women in a pornographic fantasy-like manner. So I didn't really think about it in terms of sexual identity, that discourse wasn't really in the air in the suburbs where I was growing up, but there was certainly loads of porn, you could read with women having sex with other women, and it was always very hot. And I thoroughly enjoyed reading that. And so when I discovered that there was a lesbian community, and I have to say, my relationships with men weren't going so great. I sort of said to myself, well, maybe I'm really a lesbian, and I just hadn't figured it out. And then I started dating women and was having the exact same relationship problems with women than men. So it turns out, it was me not my sexual orientation that I was bringing to the relationships. But I found that I enjoyed my relationships with women better, so I continued to remain with women.

And through that period, I went to university and discovered feminism and totally fell in love with research. So I was already a voracious reader, and I knew I wanted to be a teacher. In fact, I went to university because I wanted to teach high school. But I didn't, I did well as an undergrad, and one of my professors said, Have you thought of grad school and I said, What's grad school? And, and so I, you know, thus encouraged, I did my MA and then I did my PhD. And then you know, here I am. So many years later, I'm still having never left school in a way you could say. So for me, what I loved about the scholarly work I did was it was a tool for liberation. So I was queer, I was a feminist, and Goddammit, we needed liberation. So for me teaching, thinking, theorizing, all of it was a way of critiquing systems of oppression, and a tool for our own liberation to achieve our own liberation. So super exciting stuff loved it, loved it, and love teaching it as well love doing it, all that kind of stuff.

But everything shook up when I came out as non-binary, including using my intellect, my brain as a way of processing what I was experiencing. So to me, and how I explained it is that in the lesbian community, to me, the lesbian community was always there was always a lot of room for gender fluidity, right.  I mean, the stereotype is, you know, there's a stereotype, right, there's a lot of lesbians are more masculine. And for a lot of women, that's kind of like felt gender identity and a lot of and it's sometimes hard to separate it from a rejection of the limitations of conventional femininity, strength, you know, wanting to be strong, and how that's represented in our culture. So that's the kind of image that's available to us. I mean, there's all kinds of reasons why, including a genuine felt sense of a more masculine presentation, and manner and so on. And indeed, many lesbians became trans men, but certainly not all. So to me, there was that was also another reason why non-binary wasn't, you know, I felt no pressing need to become non-binary because I felt I had all the freedom I needed and wanted to express myself within the framework of being a lesbian, being queer and being feminist.

And of course, feminism is nothing but a critique of the gender system, right, masculinity and femininity. That is what feminism is. But what I realized is that, within that system, we were always navigating within a framework as if masculinity and femininity were fixed, and real things that we had to either go with or go against. So there's this kind of tension. And there are lots of ways that that tension was playful and productive as a form of critique. But nevertheless, we are still sort of functioning within this limited frame. And I think that morning, when I woke up one day, realized, oh my goodness, I'm non-binary, was this realization that it opened up a space that always existed within me and was natural to me, but I didn't have access to through a feminist queer lesbian framework.
So another image that's very powerful in my mind, to describe what my process has been like, is imagine a tree growing beside a brick wall, so the tree will grow, but it will never be able to push beyond the brick wall, right? So for me becoming non-binary is like taking that wall down. And suddenly the limbs of the tree can expand in all directions, and the box falls away, right? So it's that feeling of like, real deep, I almost don't want to say liberation, it is liberation. But to me, liberation is a little bit of a loaded term, because I've used it so long as feminism, so just freedom like real authentic, genuine freedom within myself. And the cultural pull, the dynamic like we live in a world that reads everything feminine, or masculine, or almost everything, try to think of something that we don't read as feminine or masculine. A crumb, a breadcrumb. Do we wonder about its gender? No, we do not. But you know, so I know that I go through the world, and people will read me in particular ways. And that's just kind of how it is.

So for me, the other aspect of coming out as non-binary was, so I've just told you the story of liberation. Sounds great. And this is the narrative that we have in our culture, but actually, it really knocked me over on so many levels, and it would take me hours to tell you all of it, but first of all, I was overwhelmed with actually how painful it had been to be a woman. As soon as I let go, the experience of being a woman. Years, decades of pain, of being a woman in the world came up within me. And I mean, there's that whole thing. And I had to process all of that, which has really pushed me to some deep personal edges, booking extra therapy appointments, you know, lots of Kleenex. But also, I'm 53, about to turn 54. And I'm a feminist and a queer and an academic and intellectual, I've spent my life not just living it, but thinking it and theorizing it and to suddenly discover that I didn't even know parts of myself was, in a way, sad.

For me, it was in a way painful for me to realize that. So I had to do a lot of work. It's been a heavy year for me, I mean, super exciting because I love doing deep work. And I love discovering more of myself and I'm, I have a willingness to go to those difficult places. And I have a good therapeutic team, and friends and family around me that are supporting me in this. And so I guess, I will give you a minute here to get a question. And I guess I'll just use that as a natural segway to I didn't feel a sense of gender or sexual orientation.

When I was born, I never felt male or female. And I and as I said, I was you know, if anything bisexual, but one thing I did feel was I knew I wanted to be a teacher. Even before I went to school, my older sister went to kindergarten, and I was so lonely. So at home, I would play school all day until she came home. And I always wanted to be a teacher. And so whenever I learn anything, I love teaching, I love it. I love it. Whenever I learn anything, I immediately want to I want to teach it. And it's not like teaching it. It's like I want to share it. It's like, oh, oh my god, I learned this amazing thing. Let me show it to you. Let me give this to you. So you too can have this thing. So I developed besides, therapy, which I highly recommend for everybody. But the way I, the way I worked through all of these things that came up for me was I knew it wouldn't be an intellectual process, I knew it wouldn't be a thinking process. I knew it had to come from the heart, not the brain, I needed to go deep inside myself because all this stuff was coming up. And I was like, Whoa, who's in there? What's going on? But I also wanted to find out like, Who am I really like? What are these walls that have been holding my tree back from growing, you know, I didn't even know they were there. So I needed to go on, like a mission to find them. So I could take them down.

So because I knew it wasn't going to be an intellectual process, I called on my friends who are artists, and I use a series of expressive arts practices to get to know myself better and that was great. It worked, right. Like it was a very rich, deep, beautiful, positive process, where it was just really filled with joy, and which is what I needed and really wanted is to access my own joy and bring myself to a place of real deep joy in the fullness of who I am. And so being the teacher that I am, as soon as I figured this out, I thought oh my god, I want to teach this. I want to share this because I have an amazing support system. But not everybody does.

And you know, I've been teaching for 30 years, and I see young people struggling but I'm also online and I see people my age and older struggling. Just the other day I was talking to someone in their late 60s who said how affirming it was of them. And they've been out for 20 years. But we all need access to support to help us find our way to our own joy. So now I'm on a mission, right? It's like okay, let's get to the joy. Let's get to the joy. And yeah, so that's, that's Wow, I told that all in one go. I'm impressed with myself.

Kimberly King:
That is amazing. Thank you so much for sharing that. That is incredible. Oh my gosh, I took a bunch of notes of things that I want to dive into. It's so interesting, just thinking about society and a lot of the conditioning that is put on us and the messages that we receive, especially when it does come to gender and like you said putting gender on things even things like clothing or just colours like why are we putting gender to them when they're really just things they are just materials they are in and of themselves non-binary. They don't have a gender attached to them, but yet society puts that label onto them and I feel like this can really impact us when it comes to our own identity and what feels true for us.

And oftentimes, we might not take that time to do that exploration or get curious or do that internal work to figure out who am I really, whether or not it necessarily has to do with your gender, but just in general, as humans, like, Who am I? What do I like? What do I not like? How do I desire to express myself, and I feel like that's such an important thing for every single person to do because there is so much freedom in that when you do have that clarity and feel that connection to who you are, and then go out and express that. And, yeah, I just absolutely love that. And I'm curious to know, for anyone listening who may be in a, in a space where they might be at that sort of curiosity stage, or maybe having some awareness around, not being fully connected to who they are not being fully clear on who they are, I know, you mentioned part of that for you was just a knowing and just kind of waking up and just having a realization about that part of your identity. And for another part, it was a little bit of a different process. So I'm curious, do you have any ways that people can begin to explore that for themselves?

El Chenier:
So in this course that I teach, called Coming Home to our Non-Binary Bodies, I think that you know, really, honestly, anybody could do it, because it's really a series of guided practices, to just develop a deeper connection with who we actually are, in a manner that's actually unattached from gender. I mean, as non-binary people, this is kind of what our process is. But I think doing this, anybody could do this work because all of us are limited by beliefs, we've internalized and don't even realize we've internalized until we have a moment. And it can come up in many different ways. But it can not come up. As I was saying, you know, all this stuff was going on for me, and I teach this stuff and I wasn't really even seeing this within myself.

And I'll just give you one quick example. my grandchild, who's five, about to turn five, I showed them some drum videos of this amazing female drummer in the UK. And she's extraordinary until we watch those and we just enjoyed them. And then I said, Hey, you want to take drumming lessons? Because I thought that would be cool and fun. And they said, Yes. And so I took them to a few drumming lessons. But after their first lesson, I stood there in front of the drums. And I said, Hey, I want to learn how to play the drums actually. And in that moment, I actually realized I always wanted to do it. Well, I actually had known I always wanted to do it. But I didn't realize I wasn't letting myself do it. my grandchild isn't taking drumming anymore, but I am, I still go. And I decided to step into it. Like I literally felt myself just, I saw it. And I was like, Hey, you should do that, you know?

And I will say I do think that part of it is because I'm on sabbatical this year. And there's also a sense of time, you know, and that's important because if it was a normal academic year for me, I probably wouldn't have allowed myself and the excuse I would have used is I don't have time. But by being observant and becoming observant of my mind is a practice everyone can develop through mindfulness. And that's a practice I use every day, you notice things like, if they're mortal and naturalized thoughts, we just don't notice them right? Like of course I don't have time for drums or it's not important to me in life's many things that are out there that I want to do. But when I stopped at that moment, and notice the desire, all I noticed was a desire come up within me, you want to do that. And I simply gave myself permission to do it.

And when I gave myself permission to do it, that's when I felt a shift happen in me and literally, I think maybe that might even be where the tree metaphor came up for me because I literally felt myself growing in a direction that I had not allowed myself to grow. So you can see how complicated it is right? Because, you know, I had a child when I was 19. So I just didn't have time to do things for myself. And if I was going to do something for myself, you know, it was going to be career progress kind of thing or you know, something like that. So there are all kinds of stories you tell yourself for why you can't do something. So it was only in that moment I was able to see actually you were denying yourself something.

And it's really funny, just to tell you a funny side. So for like three weeks after that, I just listened to like Led Zeppelin nonstop, you know, like all this music that I listened to as a teenager. It's not an accident, I don't think that I went back to my teenage years. And actually, to be even more specific. What I became obsessed with is an album that Robert Plant put out after Led Zeppelin. I can't remember the name of it, but I know the songs. And I just and I listened to that over and over again, I'm sure my neighbours are going crazy. But I was like, why are you so obsessed with this song, and I realized that was the first album that I bought because nobody else introduced me to it or suggested it to me. It was the first album I bought because I heard it came out and I wanted to. And so I don't think it's an accident that in this moment of discovering something that I really wanted to do. And you know, we can say it's the more masculine side of yourself, obviously, that's why I didn't allow myself to go there. But I'm just letting it be as it is without gendering it. I just wanted to do that. So all sorts of many, many-layered things. So I think mindfulness practise is huge.

It's really, really, in everything, right? Because you notice all kinds of patterns of thinking that you have. Even you know, so I've been meditating for like six years now, which sounds like a long time, but man, progress is slow. This is the long game. If you take up this practice, it's worth it. It's worth it. But it's a long game. And the other day I so this is an example of something, nothing to do with gender. But the other day I woke up, I can't believe it took me six years to get to this point, I woke up, and immediately the stress thoughts began of the work I have to do. And then I didn't want to do that, and oh, email, blah, all these things. And then I suddenly had the awareness to go, Well, those are just thoughts. So why don't you stop having those thoughts? And why don't you just have some different thoughts? Like, I'm looking forward to actually these things I had to do. And it was like, you know, Mind blown.

So took six years to get to that point, but it's really worth it like those six years were awesome. I mean, because if I hadn't been doing it, I'd still be you know, waking up with negative thoughts every day. So it's just that awareness of going, and curiosity. Where did that thought come from? And if you want to do something, noticing, hey I want it. Well, look, there's a part of me that wants to explore that. And then why am I not letting myself do it? or giving myself permission to do it, and so on.

Kimberly King:
Absolutely. I love that. Yeah, I feel like permission is a big thing for a lot of people where we whether ourselves haven't given permission, or we felt like maybe from society, we haven't been given permission to do certain things, experience certain things, express ourselves in a certain way. And I love the idea of just bringing more mindfulness into our day-to-day life and becoming more aware and coming at it from curiosity as well. Because I know sometimes when it comes to this question, like, Who am I? How do I desire to express myself? Sometimes that can be a bit of a heavy question, or oftentimes, there's, I know, for me, there's often trauma or negative experiences attached to that question, or that sense of self?

So I love coming at it from curiosity, or what do I want to do? Or what would be fun? Or just how can I bring more joy into my day, and just following that, and I think that's really important to remember. And also around the timeline as well, because I know you mentioned being on this journey, of meditating for six years, which is amazing. I'm not quite that that long at it yet, but working on it. And I think it's important to remember that there's not a specific timeline that we need to follow when it comes to our sense of self or identity or our growth or healing or anything like that. Because I know, sometimes there's pressure to maybe get to a certain point. And usually, it's something that we've decided for ourselves, like, Oh, I should be at this point at this stage in my life, or whatever it is. And just remembering that there's no deadline on these things, right. And just giving ourselves kind of that grace around it as well.

El Chenier:
Well, you know, in the Buddhist tradition, the practice is to be in this moment now. Because all we have is this moment now and to let go of expectations, future planning anticipation, because we don't know what's good. I mean, who could have predicted COVID you know, we don't know what's gonna happen. But, you know, on the other side of the scale, wonderful things happen to right and we don't know that they're gonna happen. So it doesn't benefit us to be future-oriented in that way, of course, we have to plan something for dinner, otherwise, we're gonna get really hungry. But the point is, when you are planning for dinner, to be very mindful in the moment that you are planning for dinner, right? Otherwise, we tend to be caught up very much in the past or the future. And I think this is why.

So it's these practices that I bring to the work that I do with non-binary people, and also supporting the parents of non-binary people, as they're trying to figure it out and support their children, the only goal is the goal to be here now in this moment. And if we want to really deeply live in the fullness of who we are, then it's better to let go of the tendency to be caught in the past, or caught up with the future, you know, if I get this right, then I will achieve that look, or that status or that acceptance, right, if I cut my hair in a particular way, or, you know, for trans and non-binary people, if I get these surgeries, and so on, right, then I will fit that ideal. But actually, though and again, this can apply to everybody. Because certainly, as someone who lived as a woman, I very much know, the ideal, those ideals are out there, and I've lived my whole life, you know, I only lose 10 pounds or 20 pounds, you know, and that constant self-criticism going on.

So if we can allow ourselves to drop into who we are right here and now, we will be able to access the innate joy that we have. And that one is a hard sell. Because when you've spent your whole life, internalizing the criticism, we have exercised our critical, self-critical bones so that they're out are all out of proportion. And we don't see the joy and the beauty, the fundamental beauty. I mean, we are all born deeply and profoundly beautiful. And we carry that with us our whole lives. And that gets covered up. Right. So dropping into the present moment and into ourselves is dropping into that place of our own beauty. Yeah, and being there with that, and that that's work. You know, it sounds very, you know, when I ever say these things, I imagined myself six years ago, rolling my eyes going Yeah, right. Sure. But it took me a long time. And I took the hard route to get here, but I'm here.

Kimberly King:
Yeah, definitely. It's definitely a journey and I feel like there's things I say all the time today that, yeah, six years ago, I would have been like, whatever, like, What are you talking about? You have no idea. But yeah, it's really funny to think about it that way. And so many great points, something that I was curious to kind of dive into a bit because I know you mentioned earlier on having a support system, having a therapist, which is something that I 100% believe in and stand behind, I've been going to therapy on and off for 18 years. And I have an amazing therapist right now, which I am so grateful for.

So I'm curious to know, for people who may be in a place where they are wanting to express more of who they really are. And also, knowing that, at this present day, reality in certain places in the world, it is, unfortunately, not always safe to be fully expressed. And to share all of who we are. I'm curious to know, if you have any, maybe just thoughts around that, or ways that people can support themselves through that process of sharing more of who they are, when their environment or external reality might not always be supportive of that.

El Chenier:
Yeah and of course to we have to acknowledge that therapy is not accessible to most people, you know, I make a very good income, and I have a great job and my benefits package is terrible. So you know, I can afford to pay for it. But even with benefits, even people who have benefits don't necessarily have very good coverage. And then there are lots of terrible therapists or mediocre therapists too. So you know, I'm so happy for you and me that we have therapists that we really like, but I just want to acknowledge that it's not always accessible. And then when it is accessible, it doesn't always work out great for people either. So yes, I mean, therapists are just one piece of it. I think that there's lots of different ways to find support. And I think that's one of the amazing things about the internet is the way in which people can connect up.

So for people you were talking about who don't have the support they need, like, one of the problems for any minority group and for non-binary people is not having the opportunity just to hang out with other non-binary people. And that matters, because it's just, there's something for people, especially for people who are in the majority all the time, you have no idea what it's like when you're not. For myself, as a very privileged person with a Ph.D. who's white, as a queer person, I'm keenly aware that I'm not in the majority in my work. And as a woman, you know, I've experienced sexism, so even those things matter and make a difference. So for non-binary people, you know, you're really a teeny, teeny tiny, teeny tiny minority, even though more and more and more people are identifying as non-binary. So there's something really just profoundly affirming by being in a room with other non-binary people.

So my contribution to that is, every second Sunday, I hold a non-binary letter writing club, and we get together and I start with meditation as I do just to relax, bring everybody into the room. And then I send out I have like an email list, right? I call it letters from home. And, and I pick up on a theme, and then I use that as a writing prompt. And then we spend 20 minutes writing and then people share what they wrote. And I've talked to many of the people in the group and ask them, What do you like about the group, and they all say, just being with other non-binary people is really great. And they feel it's such a simple thing. But some of them might never even speak in the group. But just being there and having that moment of reflection, collectively in a space where what you're doing is supported and who you are, will never be questioned or challenged. But it's just accepted as is without any discussion is profoundly affirming. And all of us need all of us, not just non-binary people, each individual person needs to be affirmed in their fundamental humanity and so finding other people.

I'm going to tell you one story that just amazes me. So most people see social media as a highly toxic space. And I think I just have a well-curated list, I don't really experience it that way. That's just me. But I know this is very toxic. So, much to my surprise, after coming out as non-binary, I joined several non-binary Facebook groups, you know, they have 1000s of members. And you know, what happens in this group, this blew my mind. People come on there all the time. Usually, they're like in their teens, or 20s, I think because they're more willing, because of their life stage. And they say things like, you know, at work, I came out to my boss confidentially, or, basically, they tell a story of where they were invalidated, their parents won't use their pronouns, their parents won't use a right name, or their friends or somebody says something cruel and insensitive. And you know, what happens? They get 100 people validating them. And I say they pile on with love, they pile on with love. And it's the most beautiful, amazing thing to see. So it's like the opposite of toxicity. It's a place of profound and deep giving and loving. And I love that. We all deserve to be validated and seen for who we are, you know, as I say the incredibly beautiful people that we are.

Kimberly King:
Absolutely, I love that. Yeah, having a community is so important. And those spaces where you do feel seen and validated 100%. And I love also that you integrate writing into these groups that you do, because I know for me, like journaling, and writing is a very therapeutic process. So if maybe someone isn't quite ready to be seen in one of these communities, which is sometimes the case as well, just I think tying into what you were sharing about mindfulness, and also bringing in that writing piece of a way to maybe support yourself, when you maybe don't have that external support as well. So I really love that.

And I'm curious to know if we can shift to like the other perspective for someone who maybe has someone in their life who is non-binary, or maybe in the LGBTQ+ community, or just maybe is expressing parts of their identity that someone else might not quite understand or relate to, what are some ways that that person can be supportive and to validate that other person and I feel like this is really important as well for the entrepreneurs who really want to create a more inclusive space with their clients to take some of this away as well. So I'd love to dive into that?

El Chenier:
Oh, such a good question. You know, I would say ask like, I think a lot of us want to do well by each other. So we feel like we need to know that what the answers are ahead of time. So we can be the good person, right. But I'm an oral historian. And then which means, you know, my main methodology as a historian is to go to people with a tape recorder and say, Tell me about your life. And people love to have that time of reflection because they don't reflect on their lives in that way. And nobody takes an interest in them in that way. And so my interviews are almost always fantastic. Because it's just such a great moment for the other person to have this time to look back on their life and think about it.

So when you actually ask someone, if you said, you know, I don't know much about it, actually, what is it like to be non-binary? If you have time? If that's appropriate? Or what is the best way I can support you? I would say, that's a great question. What is the best way I can support you? Oh my God, if you said that to somebody, they would just fall to pieces and they might start sobbing because nobody's ever asked them that right? What is the best way I can support you? And don't make it about you? Is there anything I can do? Have I done anything wrong? Like, try to avoid that right? And just say, what is the best way I can support you? And of course, take it upon yourself. There's this thing called Google right? There's tons of explainers out there. And people have legitimate questions.

Here's one thing I want to tell you. People are curious, even compassionate people are curious. I wrote a blog post so maybe we can put a link to it. This is a very basic question. People are curious, and they say things. My blog post was about why you should never use the word genitalia. So people will say to me, I don't care what genitalia you have I accept everybody. Okay. So that's a terrible thing to say. Because you and I both are thinking about my genitalia. And honestly, I don't want to think about my genitalia. I rarely think about my genitalia, and I definitely don't want to do it with you who I don't even know. But people say that thinking they're being inclusive and showing their acceptance. But it's actually quite an awful thing to say, take it upon yourself to find out the basics, right? What's a good thing to say? What's not a good thing to say? It's really not hard to do.

There's a lot of information out there. It's okay to be curious. So people think, well, there are men and there are women, I don't get it. I don't understand that is totally legitimate. The non-binary person or the trans person is not the person to ask, they're not the person to ask, because we're asked all the time constantly. And it's exhausting to have to explain yourself and the act of having to explain yourself, even if it comes from a place of deep care and genuine curiosity, asking me to explain myself invalidates me a little bit. It says you're not legible to me. So please explain yourself to me. And trust me, that gets really, really tiring.

And the last thing I'll say is, you might be deeply caring and genuinely curious, but we don't know that. We don't know that. You might just be a jerk. You might just be lazy, and you can't be bothered to think it through yourself. You might follow up our answer with that's bullshit. Who knows? We don't know. So why should we enter into a conversation like that? Where you know, it's sort of a heavy tax that we have to pay. So simply saying, How can I support you? or How can I be present for you? That's a good question to ask or what's what's that like, for you might be a little bit heavy it depends on your connection with that person. But yeah, so hopefully, those are some sort of general introductory things. It's okay to be curious. But take your curiosity to the library.

Kimberly King:
Yeah, amazing. That is super helpful. And I love that question. Just what is the best way I can support you? Because it does take the attention off of you like what can I do? Like, Did I do something wrong, whatever and puts the focus on the person who you desire to support and clears up any confusion about how they might desire to be supported because you might know someone else who is non-binary, but they might desire to be supported in a different way. So I think it's important to remember that as well, I'm just always come to it with that question of what is the best way I can support you and I love it as well, just making sure that you are seeking your information from the right places. And just being mindful of that there's so much amazing information on the internet, so many resources, you know, so taking that time to educate ourselves and something that's definitely come up for me is especially around being in the online space, like being a business owner.

Sharing my message is sometimes that fear of saying the wrong thing or offending someone. And I think everybody has that fear. And the reality is, we will probably at some point, say something someone doesn't like or offend someone, even if we have the best intentions. So for me, it's really been a process of being okay with or just acknowledging when I make a mistake, or if I say something that might be harmful and learning from that experience, rather than kind of taking it and being like, I'm such a horrible person, I can't believe I did that, like kind of internalizing it. So I think that's something that I wanted to share. Because I know, that's been something for me that I have experienced as well. So yeah, I think those are all amazing tips and ways that people can work on being more supportive and inclusive.

El Chenier:
And, you know, as you read that back to me, how can I best support you? What I realized is also great about doing it that way, is because in saying that, you are saying you are worthy of being supported. So, whereas in the other case, it's like, explain yourself, to me how, you know, how can I support you? Or what do you need? Or what? I don't know, I can't think of it, but how can I best support you, you're affirming that they deserve support. And when you sometimes this is one of the things where the weight you don't realize you're carrying, you know, going all the way back to the beginning, when I talked about realizing the weight I was carrying as a woman and the kind of micro and macro aggressions you face all the time, because of sexism. It's the same, that kind of validation of being seen and being worthy of being supported. Yeah, it's so important. It's so important. And we get it, you know, so infrequently. I mean, we the global we not just a non-binary we. So the more we can do that for each other, I think the more we lift up each other.

Kimberly King:
Yeah, absolutely. I love that. Is there anything else that you feel called to share? And I would also love for you to share where people can connect with you and what offers you currently have?

El Chenier: 
Well, I just want to say that this means so much to me that it's probably somewhat apparent from this interview. So if people have any more questions, they want to follow up with me, I'm not like just to head out there in the interest sphere. I'm like a real human being who really as you can probably tell, loves talking to people a lot. So if people just have any questions, they want to follow up with anything about anything I've said here, please just reach out to me, I would love really love to hear from you. I mean, I am an educator. So I just really love to help people along whether you're non-binary or not, parent and entrepreneur, whatever the case may be, I'm really, really happy to help. My website is elchenier.com. So you can find me there. And hopefully, all the links are working. But you know, who knows. It's when you're kind of doing doing doing, it's hard to keep the keep all the links going.

If you know anybody who is non-binary. Or if you yourself, wonder if you are you might be interested in taking my course. And which is as I said, Coming Home to our Non-Binary Body and you can find the link on my page. And I also do one on one, coaching and consulting. Just as an academic, I do a lot of equity work as well. So I speak more broadly to issues around sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, and so on, too. But that's sort of that's another hat that I wear off to the side a little bit. But yeah, so basically, I do a lot of stuff. And just if this topic interests you please reach out I would love to hear from you.

Kimberly King: 
Amazing. I will have all of your links in the show notes so people can connect with you. Thank you so much. This has been an amazing conversation. Thank you for being here El. I'm so honoured to have you on the podcast and I will see you all on the next episode.

El Chenier:
Thanks so much. It's been a real pleasure.

Thank you so much for joining me on today's episode of Lead With Soul. I'm so grateful for your support and excited to have you in this community. If you would like to hear more episodes of Lead with Soul and be the first to know when new episodes are released, please subscribe to the podcast and connect with me on social media. If you receive value from today's episode, I would love for you to leave a positive review or share the podcast on your social media channels and tag me so I can connect with you. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram or visit my website here. You can find more episodes of Lead With Soul and show notes​ ​here. See you on the next episode of Lead With Soul.