The Impact of Pronouns in Women’s Recovery Spaces

Honoring Trans Women & Non-Binary Individuals in the SHE RECOVERS® Community

SHE RECOVERS® Foundation

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She / Her / Hers + They / Them / Theirs are pronouns you will hear resonating within the SHE RECOVERS Community.

In honor of International Pronouns Day [ ], to recognize the diversity within the SHE RECOVERS Community – and to address some of the curiosities rising within recovery realms around inclusionary language – we felt it absolutely imperative to share this message with all of you today.

We sincerely appreciate those who have brought these questions forward with a sense of curiosity and desire to deepen their understanding – this is how we grow in recovery.

We are also thankful for those who are courageously sharing their blind spots with a desire to shed biases that may have traveled with them from past generations.

Most importantly, we send our deepest gratitude to the trans women and non-binary individuals within the SHE RECOVERS community for courageously sharing their personal experiences with us.

As you may know, we ask that all who enter our spaces align themselves with the SHE RECOVERS Intentions & Guiding Principles. One of these Intentions & Guiding Principles is: “We do our individual work in order to create & hold healing spaces for everyone. All WOMEN deserve recovery.”

When we say “all women” we mean trans women too. Because trans women are women.

In any introduction to SHE RECOVERS, within our SHE RECOVERS Together Online Gatherings, and in our global communications, it is important for us to note that we support women (cisgender or trans women) and non-binary individuals who identify with women’s communities. Because many of these folks may have experienced discrimination, marginalization, stigma, and/or trauma because of who they are, the body they were born with, and their gender identity.

“Transgender populations often experience high levels of both perceived and internalized social stigma, social isolation, discrimination, and victimization. Extreme social exclusion and lack of acceptance of transgender populations in different settings diminish their self-esteem and ability to participate in social events. These situations often lead to symptomatic psychological distress, depression, anxiety and other mental health difficulties among this population.” Simran Shaikh et al via U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine.

We have come to learn through our community that women view social support as paramount to their health and well-being.

Positive social support has also been shown to provide momentum for improved wellness. Ensuring that the [ SHE RECOVERS ] movement is inclusive of all women, the Foundation focuses on priority populations such as women from historically underserved populations including Black, Indigenous and women of color, LGBTQIA2S+, women veterans, differently-abled women, and incarcerated women.

We welcome those who feel uncomfortable with what we have shared so far to consider a few things:

1. Perhaps this is a great opportunity to “answer the call to heal our past wounds and intergenerational traumas so we can live fully in the present” (Great work if you caught that this is, in fact, another one of the SHE RECOVERS Intentions & Guiding Principles.) Waking up and doing the work needed to heal in recovery is sometimes just that – work. We promise though, it is always worth it. It is ok to shed old beliefs. It is ok to unlearn things. It is ok to ask questions. It is ok to be curious. It is ok to notice automatic biases. It is ok to learn. It is ok to not understand.

It is never ok to be hateful or disrespectful towards others in the process.

2. Consider that it is not the use of pronouns like she/her/hers or they/them/theirs (and the myriad of other pronouns) – or the presence of trans-women and non-binary individuals who identify with women’s communities – that take away from, or suppress, women’s voices and experiences. It is systems, people, cultures, and societies rooted in values of domination and control (i.e. Patriarchy) that do. Opening hearts, minds, and doors to a rainbow of definitions, life experiences, and expressions are matriarchal approaches that foster inclusitivty.

Perhaps if you feel uncomfortable with the Patriarchy, you have more in common with trans women and non-binary individuals than you originally thought.

3. The trauma, experiences, and stories of one, do not discredit, erase, or take away from the trauma, experiences, and stories of another. All that we arrive with in recovery is valid. However, the opportunity for individual and collective healing is amplified when experience, strength, and hope – are shared.

We must never respond to someone with an energy or belief that their story or experience takes away from our own. There is room enough for all.

3 b. Racial trauma is real. As a community made up primarily of white, cis-gendered women, we must be acutely aware of our privilege when it comes to the color of our skin. There may be times, in this group or otherwise, where a member shares that part of their trauma was at the hands or by the voices of white folks. It is not a personal attack. It is an invitation to listen, hold space, act as an empathic witness, and to learn how – the privilege of our skin color – may have caused harm, or continue to do harm, to those who are not white. Recently we held a Critical Conversation about ‘Healing the Effects of Racism for Black Women in Recovery’. We welcome you to tune in to the replay to learn about what racism has to do with recovery, and how we can heal – together.
SHE RECOVERS Trusted Advisor, Shari Hampton also offers an anti-racism training ‘Healing Recovery Spaces.’ This is a great place to learn more about how racism threatens recovery and discover solutions for building welcoming and supportive environments for Black, Indigenous, and women of color.

4. Add some words to your recovery vocabulary and get to know these terms, identities, expressions, and people : LGBTQIA2S+: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Trans-Woman, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirit, and the countless affirmative ways in which people choose to self-identify. Our friends at Faces & Voices of Recovery have a great post on how to ask, respect, and practice the use of pronouns.

Recovery has many layers. It is a journey of waking up, navigating discomfort, and doing the work.

Yours in recovery,
she / her / hers

International Pronouns Day 

Is the third Wednesday in October.

International Pronouns Day seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace. Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people’s multiple, intersecting identities.

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