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How to Understand Your Gender: A Practical Guide for Exploring Who You Are

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  400 ratings  ·  64 reviews
'For anyone who's ever wished they had a smart, kind, friend with whom they could calmly and safely discuss gender issues: this most excellent book is that kind of friend'. - Kate Bornstein, author of Gender Outlaw


Have you ever questioned your own gender identity? Do you know somebody who is transgender or who identifies as non-binary? Do you ever feel confused when people
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Paperback, 284 pages
Published September 21st 2017 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers
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Average rating 4.22  · 
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 ·  400 ratings  ·  64 reviews


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Tyler J Gray
Words do not describe how I have fallen in love with this book! It took me on a journey of reflecting on gender and sexuality, in myself and society. It is accessible and very kind. There are pages that remind you to stop and breathe. To take a break if you need it. Of course you can ignore them if you want but I found that I needed them and was so glad they were there.

I truly believe anyone can get a lot out of this book. Cis, Trans, Non-binary.

There is stuff in here that I wish everyone woul
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A
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I took a really long time with this book, I wanted to be able to make sure that I paced myself and could really absorb what was being laid out by the authors of How to Understand Your Gender. I am thrilled that a book like this exists. I'm thrilled as a genderqueer/non-binary person, and I am over the moon to see it as a librarian. I feel like this title should be an essential piece of any library collection.

Iantaffi and Barker are both mental health professionals who are trans-identified. They
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K
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
YES! It would have taken me just one day to read, but the book kept imploring me to "slow down!" and reflect on all of the ideas in periodic break pages. I appreciated that the book has an awareness about it around how much of a Gender 101 this will be for those of us who have been thinking about these issues for awhile. The new insights, which are spread out all over the place, are beautifully balanced with narratives from other people on how they experience gender, sex, and sexuality. Also, so ...more
P
Nov 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
this is the kind of book you take your time reading, taking it in one page at a time. understanding, sitting on it, thinking and then reading some more. it was fairly accessible,, even my dumbass managed to finish it (after forever but still???) and it does help understand things for those who are questioning. would highly recommend!
Eli
Imagine you have two friends who are incredibly knowledgeable about a particular area of life experience. And one day they happen by with a thermos of tea and proceed to sit on your couch and engage you in a remarkable conversation about that area of their expertise. It's both a deep and a far-ranging discussion which confirms some things you've suspected while also challenging your assumptions and toppling your preconceptions in in all sorts of fascinating ways. There are activities. Some of th ...more
Flavie Flora
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer
This is by far one of the best books I've ever read. Let me explain why.
The authors are pretty clear and their language, the terms they use, their style... Everything is super readable and enjoyable. They can make connections with philosophy, language, different cultures, religion, laws, complex concepts and so on in a super accessible way. They're aware of their privileges and successfully managed to create something as more inclusive and intersectional as possible. Throughout the book you'll f
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Marianthi
This book should be required reading by anyone who breathes. Amazing.
Chris Zable
I found this book deeply compassionate and it really broadened by thinking about gender. It helped me think about the many different roles, expressions, and identities I take on in different aspects of my life, in different places, and with different people. I read it on paper and have now started listening to it to stimulate further thought.
Krystal
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I could not be more impressed by this incredible #ownvoices resource, which embodies the kind of accountability that I have always envisioned as possible from white folx. These writers begin by acknowledging indigenous elders, crediting their understanding of intersectionality to black feminist trailblazers, Kimberlee Crenshaw, Patricia Hill Collins, and bell hooks, and by the end, they have undoubtedly achieved the goal of writing the book they wish they had while growing up!
Lee
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book does not make you question what gender is. It describes gender as some complex biopsychosocial interaction, but does not actually explain what it is. It then shows examples of people living their lives as masculine women and feminine men, but then kind of extremely implies that your gender is how you present??? This book is just hypocritical and I don’t like it. Didn’t answer any of my questions about gender.
Sharon
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a good beginner's guide. In addition to explaining a lot of introductory concepts, it includes frequent reflection points, written activities, and mindfulness reminders. I have some doubts about the ways that cis experiences of gender were incorporated, but both of the authors of the book are trans therapists so I assume it's a reasonable approach. ...more
Fred Langridge
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I zoomed through this in a day. A great resource; I wish it had been around twenty years ago!
Stacie Kenney (she, her, hers)
Jul 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookshelf
While this book is definitely geared towards folks who are wondering if they were born in the right birthday suit, experiencing gender fluidity, or just curious about gender, I found some golden nuggets in here as a cis woman.
The first nugget is that while some folks are learning that gender is not as binary as they were taught during their life, this is not new news... Intersex, asexual, transgender, etc. has been in the world since humans have.
The other nugget is that if you feel comfortable
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Liz
Dec 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
I had to take this book out from the library three times this year to finish it, as it was so thought-provoking I couldn’t get through much in each borrowing period. I used it as supplementary material to think about the gender topics we’d discussed in the youth group I work with, so I could get with the program a bit and catch up with the kids on identity issues. Recommended if you want to start thinking about gender.
Ingrid
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have to return this to the library for someone else, or I would have let myself get through this at a much slower pace. It is very practical and useful but also gives an intersectional approach and combines real experiences. I feel like most people could probably use this, whether they are questioning their gender or not. I am really grateful the library had this.
Sarah
Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
"How to Understand Your Gender" was a really interesting read that gave me a new perspective on gender and intersectionality in regard to gender.

As a cis woman, I'm not necessarily the target demographic and I think this book would be more helpful to non-cis people and their families and friends.

Still, it gave me the opportunity to think more about how I perform gender and how my gender impacts my life, something I see mostly in my interactions at work.
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Jen
Mar 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Great book about what gender means, and lots of exercises both for people who want to explore their own gender because they aren't sure where they are, or to think more about the gender you currently are. Understanding the social/historical contexts and the way people have been socialized, expected to behave, and the ingrained systems we all live within is necessary and important. ...more
George
Mar 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book. A must read for all, regardless of gender identity.
Jim
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The gender binary is toxic.

It should be obvious by now that the gender binary is a total construct. The idea of trying to force these hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine roles and ideologies on people based on biological sex is ludicrous if you think about it.

On top of that, what is masculine and what is feminine is also a construct.

This whole system needs to be deconstructed.

It seems kind of silly. And arbitrary.

Ok, so maybe this stuff has been obvious to a lot of people, but as a straight
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Siobhan
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
How To Understand Your Gender is a guide to gender diversity and living with gender that is aimed at anyone who could be interested in reading it—people questioning their own gender, those who want to read more about gender to support people around them, or anyone who is curious in some way or another about aspects of gender and its diversity in the twenty-first century. The book is a general guide which contains discussions of biology and psychology, practical exercises, definitions of various ...more
Emma
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is great for everyone, whether they are questioning their gender, have a trans or non-binary friend or simply want to learn more. It is written in a friendly and accessible tone by authors who are both academics and trans/non-binary. It is very interactive, if you want it to be, and there are plenty of reminders to breathe and take some time out if the book raises upsetting thoughts and feelings. There are also lots of suggestions for further reading and different resources available- ...more
Virginia
Excellent introduction to gender seen as not binary. Accessible language. Full of food for thought and pointers to exercises to reflect on one's own experience of gender. Also good to learn more about how to support others who don't fit the norm. I will definitely re-read and recommend this book! ...more
Noah
Sep 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtq, gender
useful and friendly guide, gets a little repetitive sometimes though.
Enfys
Oct 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
How to Understand Your Gender: A Practical Guide to Exploring Who You Are by Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker was not what I expected it to be. Never before have I had a book so gently and lovingly take me by the hand and explain, in the most nonthreatening and accessible way possible, a difficult concept.

What I expected was for a little intro on the concept of gender and then, I don’t know, a bunch of quizzes to try and figure out a gender label for myself. Instead, the authors slowly, careful
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Ben
Jan 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was an enjoyable read, having read a few of Meg-John's books now (Rewriting the Rules, A practical guide to sex). I really like the style of chunked text with optional activities etc and references for further reading. I also find the frequent snippets of anonymous personal experiences on various topics incredibly interesting, they give a feel of the many varied ways in which our lived reality differs from person to person. Meg-John and Alex also share their own experiences at a couple of p ...more
Margot
Aug 29, 2018 rated it did not like it
I stopped on the 30th page. This is supposed to be a self help book and to spend 30 pages being told that you have to do everything according to the people who are determining how they are to be treated is a bit much. First off, it's assumed that everyone with gender issues is perfectly right getting an operation and they shouldn't have to go through the typical psychological determination that they might not be together enough to dress appropriately in order to get a trans operation. Frankly, h ...more
Kristine
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
How to Understand Your Gender by Alex Iantaffi & Meg-John Barker is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late September.

Iantaffi and Barker are kind and considerate towards readers who may balk, feel overwhelmed, be emotive, resistant, or fully embrace the fluid tenets of gender. They also offer a personal background of being assigned a gender at birth and how it has become a socially reconstructed concept with its definitions elastic and changing dynamically all the time (though conversely hav
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Naomi Ruth
Apr 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I borrowed this from the library, read three pages, and then immediately ordered my own copy. This was the book I had been searching for. It had the information I need and the activities to stop and think and draw and journal a bit. I loved how often the authors reminded the reader to pause and practice self-care. I tend to rush through things unhealthily. It was such a healing book for me to read. I understand myself so much better. I feel understand like I never have before. I have pages bookm ...more
Jules Bertaut
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, queer
The title pretty much describes what this book is about. It's not exactly a workbook but it's got activities and reflection ideas and stuff. Actually, I think this would be a great book for cis folks to read and do the activities and stuff, because they're generally not forced to think about their gender and stuff the way trans folks are, and doing so would be a good experience for them.

This book nicely covers non-binary stuff and intersectionality and other things that sometimes get left out o
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Joanna Bartlett
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An accessible and useful guide to understanding and exploring gender identity. This is a thoughtful and thorough book, well-written and researched. It blends and balances research and lived experience.

Reading the snippets of other people's experiences regarding their gender identity was affirming and helpful.

I loved the mindful chapter breaks, compassionately reminding the reader to be gentle and kind to themself, to take a breath, to get grounded before continuing on.

This is a lovely book and I
...more
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