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Being Transgender in a Binary World 

By:  Loree Cook‐Daniels – Director, FORGE Transgender Aging Network, USA

Abstract: This essay discusses ways in which people attempt to reconcile or resolve their own cognitive dissonance engendered by transgender people in a society in which gender is perceived as both binary (male OR female) and immutable (an unalterable state or condition).  The author suggests these cognitive dissonance reduction methods may be utilized in other situations where an adult is exposed to information that “doesn’t fit” what they already know.  Much, if not most, of the time we seek to teach someone something new, they already have the cognitive scaffolding for it. It’s possible to teach someone a new recipe because they’ve followed recipes before; this is a simple add‐on, a logical expansion, to what they already know. Or take a new software program: if someone has already used a computer keyboard and function keys or pull‐down menus, it isn’t too hard to learn additional ways those can be used.  What’s much harder to do is teach someone something that seems to contradict what they already know. When your organization is courting an age discrimination suit because one of your managers is certain that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” how do you budge that certainty to make room for other possibilities?

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