Word Wednesday: ‘Seeing Gender’ by Iris Gottlieb

6 min readNov 6, 2019

This Week’s Word Is “Gender.”

As we move into the 2020s, society is perhaps more open about gender and sexuality than it has ever been. As usual, when reviewing this type of book, I have to state up front that I am a cis-het male and so many of the issues discussed in Seeing Gender don’t and won’t affect me. I can’t fully relate to most of the experiences described in this book.

But as society becomes more open, and my children and their friends grow up and explore their identity, books like Seeing Gender will be invaluable to ensure I can understand and empathize with their thoughts, feelings, and decisions.

What is Seeing Gender?

The book is subtitled “An illustrated Guide to Identity and Expression.” The book’s foreward (by Meredith Taluasan) describes it as being, “the book I would have given my parents and friends when I transitioned.” It is full of helpful information such as why pronouns matter, something that appears to be difficult for people to understand.

This book is not just for trans of non-binary people but for anyone who has a relationship with gender, which means everyone you know, including you.”

Seeing Gender tries to explain how traditional attitudes towards gender are stifling society. Its primary aims are to educate and liberate. The topic of gender is both nuanced and emotive. Seeing Gender aims to dispassionately explain how and why the traditional two genders model is both erroneous and harmful.

In the introduction, Seeing Gender’s author and illustrator, Iris Gottlieb, is at pains to point out that the book is the representation of a personal journey. Whilst she has done her best to cover as many perspectives as possible, the subject of gender is personal and nuanced, and the written word is a comparatively blunt tool. Gottlieb accepts and apologizes for the fact she may not get everything right. In her introduction, she describes the book as being a number of things.

  • An accessible entry point to understanding gender expression.
  • A self-education tool that will allow for non-judgemental explanation of your own gender and increased empathy and understanding of others’ experiences.

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