SLP Toolkit Podcast, Episode 45, Transcript

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Sarah (00:36):

Well, hey Lisa! What's new in your world?


Lisa (00:42):

Well, I know this probably won't get published until after the fact, but ASHA's coming up next week and we've got SLP Eve and, although we're not going to be at ASHA live, we are presenting virtually or, not presenting, exhibiting–


Sarah (00:57):

We’ve gotta booth, a virtual exhibit.


Lisa (00:59):

And we are just holding out for, um, next year in New Orleans. That's where it's gonna go (Unintelligible).


Sarah (01:05):

I was thinking the same thing with this whole month. The whole month of November is consumed by all things ASHA, it’s a ton of work, and I love it–we love it. And I'm so bummed that we decided we were going to go. We booked our tickets, we booked our hotel. And then we, as a team, sat down and thought, is this the right time? It still doesn't feel right to be traveling in such a big group in any way. Does it make sense? And I think the ASHA numbers are low for the in-person one? I was a little surprised they wanted to continue to hold it, but they are, cool. And for people going? Awesome, but we'll be there next year. And now we can just, like, focus on everything else on our to do list. 


Lisa (01:45):

Well what’s on our to-do list today, Sarah? Can you introduce our amazing guest?


Sarah (01:48):

I would love to! We have a very special guest in the confessional today, and we also just warned him that he's in a confessional–I don't know if he was aware that that's what was gonna happen, but– (Unintelligible overlap) Wes is here. Wesm it is so awesome. We first met and worked with you in January 2020’s Summit, I think?


Lisa (02:17):

2021. I think it was this year, 2021 Summit.


Sarah (02:20):

2021 Summit. And then we've had some other opportunities to collab with you and we've been dying to get you on the podcast. And so for those who are, don't have the privilege of knowing who you are, will you just tell us a little bit about yourself?


Wes Chernin (02:33):

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me on. Um, so my name is Wes Chernin and my pronouns are he/him. I am an SLP, um, based out of Portland, Oregon, and, um, I'm in my sixth year of being an SLP. The first five years I was working in, um, early intervention and early childhood special education, um, mostly with the two to five-year-olds. Um, and then recently I just switched to working out of a community based private practice. So now my clients are aged 3 to 18, so it's, it's changed a lot and that's exciting. And then, in addition to being an SLP, um, I also, co-founded a business called Q Inclusion, um, where my business partner, Finn and I, we, um, we–we collaborate with organizations and individuals to, um, really support gender diversity in the workplace and in homes, um, and any way we can to help bring places to more inclusive and safer spots in terms of, um, their gender diverse populations and–and also just, um, gender inclusivity for–for people of all genders and all gender expressions, regardless of where you fall along that spectrum.


Lisa (03:58):

I love your social media it's so, um, powerful and vulnerable. You guys put yourselves out there and I think that's what people react to as well. The information is super relatable, your stories are amazing. And, um, I love to follow, so can you actually, what is, are you Q.Inclusion on Instagram or just Q Inclusion?


Wes (04:20):

Yeah. On Instagram, we are at Q.inclusion. That's right. And then where I post some, most of my stuff is on my more personal account, which is just at Wes.Chernin. Um, and I really appreciate you mentioning, you know, about the stories that Ben and I share and, um, getting, getting a bit personal. And I think that's–that's something that we really, um, like to bring to the table because we're really trying to humanize our experience as transgender men. Um, and so by not only kind of helping lay out some solid framework for explicit things we can be doing to be more inclusive, it's also about, um, helping you see us as more relatable.


Sarah (05:12):

Yeah. And that's, that's how I found you, I was following at the time it was Lavendar SLP was your handle, right? Yes. And I did right away. I was just like, oh my gosh. Yes. All of this. Yes. I just, and so that's when I, we reached out and we were so hopeful that you'd want to work with us. And, um, you know, anyway that the Summit presentation that you did was so amazing and so powerful. And I know we talked a little bit before we even–I think like we always do about 20 minutes? Um, we go in early and so that's how we get a chance to talk with you. And we talked a little bit about like, are you prepared, you know, for, for the size of this audience and you know, this is obviously going to cause feelings and we had a conversation about, you know, what that might look like. So, um, you know, how–overall was it a good experience? I hope?


Wes (06:03):

Oh, it was such a good experience. I had so much fun, like during the live events. Um, and then afterwards, the feedback I was getting, you know, yes, lots of feelings came up for people, um, and you know, across the spectrum, but overwhelmingly, I received very positive feedback. Um, and people who just showed up with an open mind to learn. And that's really all that I'm asking is that, um, I'm not trying to change anybody's, um, anybody's perception of their own gender or their children's gender. Um, I'm just trying to help people see the diversity in—in our genders, um, amongst all humans, right? We're not–we're not all living in this, this world that is static in binary, this world that, um, where everyone fits into these two clear categories, it's just not the reality. And so even if, even if you yourself might live within that, that's okay. But to be able to show up at work or in community and respect and honor other people's experiences is really important to me. And I feel like people came to the SLP Summit ready for that.


Lisa (07:15):

Well, and we, it's funny, Sarah and I, when we do presentations–which are just, you know, even about data collection, we always talk about, there's such a wide range of experiences that people bring to any presentation? And, so, I think some of that reflected even with yours, that there were questions that popped up even like what, um, what does a person of trans experience means? So you were dealing not only from that therapeutic lens, but really filling in some of that other background information that–that they may not have been exposed to before. So no pressure, no, no biggie.


Wes (07:53):

Absolutely. I mean, honestly I love, like, I love sharing information because I, you know, I am transgender. Also another term I'd use is man of trans experience. Um, they can be used interchangeably. Some people prefer one over the other, essentially. It just means that I am someone who–whose gender is different from the gender that I was assigned at birth. And, um, I think that, you know, I, I just really like starting at that 101 place. Um, I don't expect people to walk in knowing these things, even though I am trans, I had to learn all of this as well as an adult in my twenties. And so, um, I don't–I don't–I don't expect people to know it all. And, and I appreciate just the openness and conversation around it.


Sarah (08:43):

Yeah, yeah. I'm with you, Lisa, I loved the whole beginning of the presentation. You really broke it down and talked about the different gender identities and what that could mean. Um, and what that looks like for somebody. And in the point that you made too, you just said it earlier, but in that presentation, you said the same thing. Like not trying to change your mind about anything, but like, we do all have to be in a place of acceptance and inclusion and love, period. Um, and especially in this field. So I think it's always, I think it's always a little surprising that, you know, sometimes people will have–will struggle with using their own personal feelings to impact and influence decisions they make with clients, but it's just the unfortunate reality. And so I love that so many people are able to come and hear that. And I do, I think a lot of minds were more opened and changed for the best. Um, you know, and that's, that's what we hope for, but this is a conversation that has like, we just, it has to keep coming and coming and coming.


Lisa (09:44):

Well. And the hard part is I know we don't live in a world that's binary, but I feel like our SLP world is very binary. It's type A and type Not A. So you've got those like real–like this is how we do everything and it's all mapped out and how could I use they and them with one individual when grammar tells me that's plural! So it is interesting trying to tease apart–it's not just the personal, it's the how I've learned language or how I have made the world work, that I then relay to the people that I work with. It's, it's, it's–this is a huge topic. I mean, there's so many layers to this that it's–you’ve walked a lot of worlds, I think.


Wes (10:29):

I think it's true. Like SLPs can get definitely, um, bogged down by rules and like wanting to do it right. You know? And, um, I think I wish this wasn't the comforting thing, but I think it can be comforting for people to like learn that singular, they/them pronouns are actually grammatically correct? They're in the dictionary. It has–that is something that has been added to the dictionary. Um, the modern dictionary in the past handful of years, um, you can go back in history and find singular “they” used for centuries. Um, but the thing about that is–is why? Why is it that what matters when we should just be listening to people's lived experiences, recognizing that they are human, um, honoring their existence and recognizing, acknowledging that they know themselves better than we can ever know them? Just as you know yourself better than anyone else can ever know you. Um, and using that as our place of anchor to, um, push ourselves, to try out this new language and try to be more inclusive, even though it feels new and uncomfortable to us because these are real people, it's not just language and grammar.


Lisa (11:53):

Well, and I will say– was just going to say, as the parent–I have a child who is trans and uses the pronouns they and them. And I know at first, when we were having the conversations a couple of years ago, it wasn't the grammar that I got stuck on? It's just, you're throwing a lot of information at me that my brain is trying to process. And I think that's where I got stuck. Initially. It was just like, okay, I'm trying, this is all new to me. This is all like new information. 


Sarah (12:19):

You knew something different for 19 years.


Lisa (12:21):

Well, in that way–for me in particular, their pronouns and their name was difficult for me, not because I didn't accept it, but because I was trying to overwrite history of all of the times that I've used different pronouns. So I tried to counsel them too, with even like their grandparents that, you know, this is a process. I literally, this week, this has been now for about two years that it's been family common knowledge. And this week's the first time my–my dad used their chosen name, my child's chosen name. Tyle versus the name at birth. And I was like (celebratory sound) and I came home and I–my child was actually over here after school. I go, “Oh my gosh, grandpa used your name today!” and they were like, yeah, he does sometimes. And I go, that's progress. We've got to take people where they're at and just sort of like keep trying to support them along the–the movement. But then I remember really specifically in the beginning though, getting overwhelmed with information and then all of a sudden it hit me. I don't have to understand everything right now. I will, with time and with experience and with practice and with conversations, I'll get there. So all I need to do right now is accept that this is who they are representing themselves as, and get on board with that and fricking do my best. And I will make, I still make mistakes sometimes, but it's not out of a place of malice. It's just a place of learning.


Wes (13:47):

Thank you so much for sharing that personal experience with your child. And it made me think about this, um, podcast I was listening to it recently with one of my favorite, um, gender nonconforming activists and artists names Alok, and they were talking about how, you know, people get really hung up on feeling like they need to understand before they can start implementing these inclusive practices? And, this is not about comprehension. It's about compassion. That's what they were saying. Like, it's–you'd–you don't need to understand entirely. You just need to treat us as humans. You need to be compassionate and understand that we know ourselves and we can be different. And that's okay.


Lisa (14:33):



[Unintelligible overlap between Lisa and Sarah]


Sarah (14:39):

I get too, because I was thinking about it. I mean, there's still so much I wanna talk about with Summit and those questions too, but it did just make me think of when you had, um, during Summer School that we hosted for all of our subscribers this summer, and we had you, um, participate, it was just like, like what five minutes or something, you did a video, um, you know, and we say whatever you want to talk about, you're coming during the week during you where the, um, speech room should be a safe place. And so, you know, whatever you want to talk about with that, and in your, everything that you talked about really was about letting those students know and talking about that, like allyship and showing that you’re a trusted ally and a resource and that, you know, that they feel love and safety. And I just thought, like, it doesn't get more easy, great for me to understand that, but we needed to hear it. You know, it was just, we can talk, we'll talk more about some of the points from summer school too, and things that you recommended later and, Lisa, were you going to say something? I feel like I cut you off.


Lisa (15:42):

Oh, no, no, no, no. I don't remember what I was even going to say. Um, so let's go back to again, if we're going to reframe this too, in the SLP Summit experience, I think going back to what you said, Wes, that people SLPs in general, just [are] tell me what to do. I want to do it, right. So it's not even necessarily about personal feelings or not? So that's where I felt like a lot of the questions that you got in Summit were related to that in, in particular, um, like at what age should I start? You had given the reference of the Gender Unicorn. Um, at what age do you start to introduce these concepts? What if I'm using tests that specifically have norms for male or female, and just tell me what to do and I will do it. So when you're encountering that kind of, um, nervousness from people where just–I just want to do it right, what do I do, where can I start?


Wes (16:40):

Yeah. It might not be what people want to hear, but I truly believe like the real starting places doing some self-reflection. Um, and perhaps, um, finding some sort of course or finding people online that you can learn from, um, or getting the Gender Unicorn and filling it out for yourself. Um, because I'm–I'm more than happy to share the specific things to do, some suggestions, right? I do not have all the answers, but ultimately like the way that we're going to sustainably move forward, um, and really create these safer environments for our students is by having a better understanding of our position in–in relationship to gender and the power and privileges that are, are at play within that system? Um, but when it comes to like, um, a more, um, outward action that someone can do, um, I think like–um, sorry, I'm totally blanking on what you mentioned as the examples that people were asking about.


Lisa (17:55):

So one of the examples is I don't even know at what age to start teaching pronouns or introducing that there are a variety of pronouns or asking children–when do we ask them to self identify their pronouns? So that was one piece of it, another piece of it–and we probably have more peppered into the questions too–but what if I'm using a standardized assessment and there are norms based on gender, am I using gender assigned at birth? Am I using the I, the child's, um, gender identity? And so maybe even if we start, like, we mentioned the Gender Unicorn, and I will link to that in the show notes, but for those that, that might be a new concept, can you just break down what those kind of steps are if you're completing the, the Gender Unicorn?


Wes (18:42):

Yeah, for sure. So, um, the Gender Unicorn is looking at, um, basically looking at all of our, um, relationships to gender and sexuality? And it it's like a visual map for us to kind of plot ourselves and see how we exist among all these spectrums. And, um, the first thing on there is gender identity, which is essentially a person's like deep knowing, it's their internal sense of their gender, of being like a man or woman, or both, neither. Um, and it's something that isn't necessarily visible to other people. So because it is that internal sense of knowing, um, what is visible to people and is also on the Gender Unicorn is our gender expression. Those are the outward things. Those are pronouns and our name and our voice and our body language and the clothes we wear and the haircuts we get and things like that. Um, and we also have on there, our, our sex and our gender assigned at birth. What did the doctor say when we were born? What were we assigned? We weren't just assigned the sex, male, female, intersex, but we were also assigned a gender because, in our culture, are our anatomy and our bodies are so strongly linked to this idea of gender. And so, um, right? In some of my workshops, I talk about like, when a baby is born, the doctor does not say, oh, they have a vagina. They say, it's a girl! You have a baby girl. So it's like this expectation, right away. And then the colors and the clothes and the way we talked to them, it's all being taught from infancy. Um, and so to circle back to like that first question about when can we talk to kids about gender and about their pronouns? From the time they're ittie biddies, from the time they're toddlers–I mean, I talk with preschoolers about this all the time. I don't have children of my own, but I work with a lot of preschool kids. And, um, it's at a very age appropriate level, it's things under the right children are learning language, right? They're understanding what to call people and how to talk about people. And the two ways that we talk to and about a person are by using their name and using their pronouns. And so we needed to be able to check in to make sure we're using the right words. And it doesn't need to be this elaborate explanation to a three or four year old, right? But it can be something as simple as, um, so my–my pronouns or my words, the words I use, are he/him, some other people use she/her, or they/them, what words do you use? What are your words? And give them an opportunity to share. And then, if they start–if they start labeling someone else like oh, that's a she and that's a he, we can–we can just let them know like, oh, maybe we can't really know without asking, let's go ask. Let's find out. Um, and kids really adapt to that very easily and they understand, and then it's no guessing. There's no guessing, you don't have to place, um, inaccurately made assumptions about someone's gender pronouns, just based on that gender expression, just on what we're seeing. Um, knowing that for many people, you know, for many people that aligns? Right, that assumption is going to be accurate. Um, but there are lots of people where it doesn't align, like me. Um, when I was younger and I didn't present as masculine as I do now, um, people didn't assume the correct pronouns for me, like your child, their pronouns are probably not assumed correctly most of the time. Um, and so it's–it's having this awareness and being able to teach them from a young age, just normalizing it? They're understanding how the world works, they're sponges. So then they don't have to do all the unlearning that we are having to do as adults.


Lisa (22:46):

Or that you see on a page. I follow a look on Instagram and Alok identifies as they/them and is beautiful. I don't even know how else to describe them. Like makeup, hair, clothes, very hairy legs and chest that–displayed in many dresses. And they will call out some of the hate that they get as a result of gender expression maybe not matching what somebody thinks like–you can't wear a dress, you've got all of that hair, it's not beautiful. And it's–it's so fascinating if we can start to kind of reshape some of this thinking that, like you said, it goes back to birth. When–if somebody knows you're having a girl, or when we ask what's the gender of our baby, we ask in utero, like they give us that, you know, before, and then you get all the pink gifts or the blue gifts. It is a shift in mindset for sure.


Wes (23:38):

Yeah. You know, it's it's, so these, these concepts are so ingrained in us. It can be hard to even recognize them. Right? That–that, um, someone wearing a dress, first of all, should, shouldn't be a woman and look like a woman and should not have any hair and should just be totally flawless and elegant and, um, where does that come from? Like, why that–what–where did that rule? Like, that's not a rule! Like it's a made up rule. Like people, we made it up! [Lisa chimes in with “We can unmake it”, Wes agrees] Like it doesn't, what does that–I love Alok so much. Um, I think everyone can learn so much from following them on Instagram. They are brilliant.


Sarah (24:28):

I loved when you talked about, too, that was kind of eye opening for me in your Summit presentation, when we were talking about that idea of gender expression and we do, we do make those assumptions. And, you know, so like, to me, when I'm working on pronouns with a student, it's very clear–what I would say clearly looks like a little girl, we're going to say she is riding her bike. And so it was that idea that–rhat in of itself was a powerful moment for me to go stop doing that. Like, we've got to stop making assumptions that I know how, you know, what that person's, um, gender is based on how they look. And so let's talk about that a little bit, because literally this is–here's going to be my confession for this episode is, um, we've got some to fix in Toolkit. Cause we've got some pronoun baseline data assessments that have pictures of boys and girls and more than one person, and that's the only time we say they/them and, you know, so, we've got some work to do. But first and foremost, like standardized tests, that's kind of another subject somebody asked about that, we said. But for the purposes of working on pronouns, you said, the first thing we do is just ask the child. What do you see? Right?


Wes (25:41):

Yeah. Ask a child, like establish, even backing up one step, first establish like you sharing your pronouns with them and sharing with you. And then yes, you can ask. You can also, I think, um, I think even my preference beyond that would be to tell them, so, um, if–if it's like a picture, if it's a drawing or something like that, um, to, to just name what the pronouns are, let them know. So it's no longer a quiz. Take the quiz aspect out. Takes the guessing–it's not a guessing game. Just let them know the pronouns and then practice using the correct pronouns. Like that's what we're trying to do. Right? We're trying to help these kids use the correct pronouns, um, the correct set of pronouns or the correct possessive pronoun, whatever it is like, to use them correctly about that particular person. So if the person is around and is in the room, or is a family member or something, then yes, have, have the child ask. Model what it's like to ask, find out that information. If it's not someone you can ask, let, let them know what it is. This is Sally, her pronouns are she/her/hers. This is John, their pronouns are they/them/theirs? Let's practice, you know, like how would you say this? Or let's do an example, you know, instead of, um, instead of surrendering to that, those assumptions and that guessing.


Lisa (27:23):

What if we're looking at it from an assessment piece to see if they have syntax correct? What is a good way to maybe probe that and make it very clear for them upfront to then see if they have the correct pronouns?


Wes (27:42):

Yeah, assessments are so tricky, do you notice how I'm pushing off that conversation? They’re so tricky. Um, but I think, right, okay, in relation to syntax, um, there are different ways to approach that. I know some people who, if the syntax is correct, regardless of what they would have assumed the pronoun set to be, they just mark it as correct. If it's incorrect, no matter what set of pronouns it is, then it's incorrect. Right? The syntax is incorrect. But, but if you're trying to get a sense for, yeah, like how, why are they saying he instead of she, like, why, why are they choosing that set of pronouns? Uh, that's where it gets really tricky. And I think that, um, helping, like, if–if you're able to understand maybe the–the culture of–that they're coming from, like, are they, do they live in a household or a school community where it's a based on very binary gender roles and rules, and that's the only thing that you've been exposed to? Or do they come from a background where they've actually been exposed to diverse gender expressions and gender identities, because that could play into, um, if they're making, um, an inaccurate, um, remark or not.


Lisa (29:03):

Well, and I just had the biggest A-Ha–that if we were even showing a picture that maybe whether it, the gender expression is more female or male or whatever, if the child says she is running or he is running, that would be correct because you're looking at the subject pronoun versus the typical syntactical error is him running her running. So you're–if you're truly testing syntax, then that's not going to be an error if they say she or he, or–but then you'll get, so I'm just playing devil's advocate–


Sarah (29:41):

Whether they can identify that person's gender we're quizzing the order of how they're–of how they are using the words together.


Lisa (29:49):

Yeah. The only one, I think that throws a wrench into that theory though, too, is the “they”. ‘Cause it's still they are. [Sarah, in the background, yelling “Let’s talk about the They!”] Well, I think of, you know, my–our friend, Victor, Sarah, always try so hard with my child to say they/them. And, um, but there'll be like, “them is”, “them is–what are–what is them doing right now?” And I'm like, oh my gosh, he's trying so great. And then I'll just model. But, so, what about like too with the kids? I guess if we had a whole slew of, they are for singulars too, that maybe just that kid sees everyone as nonbinary! Who knows!


Sarah (30:24):

Again we’re such rule followers! They can be, um, singular, but a singular pronoun goes with a singular verb. so it is, it's like, but it is, like, “they are.”


Wes (30:40):

Yes. Okay, so, think about this. Think about this, okay? Let's say you work at a school and recess just ended and there's a jacket in the middle of the playground sitting in the rain and you have no idea who it belongs to. So you go get it and you bring it to the front office. Right? And you say, “Someone left their jacket outside. If they come looking for it, let them know that you have it in, in the office.” Um, there you are. You're thinking about one singular person, you know, that jacket belongs to one person and you are just automatically, without a second thought, using they/them, because you just don't know if you are supposed to use he or she, you don't know how to make that assumption. And so you're using they/them.


Lisa (31:34):

Yep. That's it. It makes sense. Well, even it's interesting–


Sarah (31:40):

So “they is” we're not saying “they is”--


Sarah (31:44):

No, no, you'd use it. You always pay them. Whether it's singular or plural, it sounds the same. It's just contextual clues and cues that let you know if it's about one person or more than one person.


Lisa (32:00):

Well, and it's funny, I, even, when I'm talking about my child to their father, sometimes I'll say they are blah, blah, blah. And he'll say, we're still talking about Tyle, right? And I'm like, yes, we're talking about Tyle. That is their pronouns. So it is, it's funny. People are–it is, I think it's just the exposure and getting used to it. And um, even I thought one of the questions that came in on your course for Summit was, is it ever, um–I've been working with kids for years or I work with older kids. Should I still–we've been using pronouns. Do I still stop and introduce my pronouns at this point?


Wes (32:36):

Yeah, that's such a good question. 


Lisa (32:39):

And they may have been assuming pronouns for a long time! I'd be curious what you think of that.


Wes (32:45):

Yeah. Um, I think yes. And I think that you can do it in a way by being honest and transparent about, hey, I just learned something. I just learned that I can't always know what are someone's pronouns by looking at them. I've been making all these assumptions. I want to let you know that my pronouns are he/him, what words would you like me to use about you? Um, and I want to add onto that, like whenever you are asking children or teens or whoever it is, what pronouns you should use for them also ask them who can I use those with? Because some children might be using different pronouns with you than they are with their family. Um, or with their other teachers. If they feel extra safe with you, they might feel comfortable sharing a different set of pronouns with you, but they might not want that to carry out into other parts of their lives. Um, so that's a really important piece. I just wanted to make sure to add.


Sarah (33:46):

I’m so glad you just said that, I would’ve never thought of that question. I would have assumed–again, assuming it's so dangerous–but I wouldn't assume they would tell me if they didn't want me to, but you're right. Oh that's–okay, I love that.


Wes (34:01):

And I also want to say that [A pause as he and Lisa figure out who is going to speak] oh, sorry. Okay. I want to–I want to share that I have had multiple people reach out to me after I have, after they've attended one of my workshops, um, to let me know that that next week they shared their pronouns with their students and opened the door for their students to share if they wanted to and some of their students told them a different set of pronouns than what they had been assuming the whole time. So it is appropriate and worth it to do it even though you've been working with these kids for a while already.


Lisa (34:41):

And that goes back to what Sarah, you were saying, why we included your talk, in that the speech room is a safe place. That's what we want to foster for our students, all of our students. Um, there–there is a question that I think kind of connects into this too in the, that was from your Summit course that when families opposed. So maybe they know, but even if they oppose, and if we're writing up reports, that is–and I don't even know if there is a right answer for this. This is a really tricky kind of topic. What do we do? We're supposed to have all the answers about everything.


Wes (35:19):

Yeah. Right. I wish–I wish I had all the answers. I wish that there was only one answer for everything. Obviously it's much more nuanced than that. But, um, from my perspective, I would say if this: if we're talking about a student who, right, has essentially come out to you as trans or non-binary or gender expansive, right.? It's using a different set of pronouns and their parents do not respect that, but you do. Um, so what to do in the–in the writing right? In the documentation? I would honestly let the child know, be like, just have, like be real, have these human conversations communicate as practicing different ways of communication. Like, I know that your pronouns are she/her/hers. That's how I see you. That's the words we use in speech and in school, I also know that your parents are still using your old pronouns of he/him/his. And so when I'm writing to them about you, I'm going to use those words and come to some agreements or even, um–depending on like your relationship with the student or how old the student is, um, or their, their, um, developmental cognitive abilities–like it could be more of a conversation and coming up with agreements together about what that looks like. Um, but I think it's okay to, like, allow it to be nuanced. And the most important thing is like making sure that you keep reminding this student that, um, you see them. And that you will use their words. Um, like the research is very, very clear that when kids, when LGBTQ youth have adults who use their pronouns, like their likelihood of committing suicide drastically decreases. It's like when, when, when, um, when adults are not using their affirming words, it is so much more likely that it's going to negatively impact their mental health and that they will try to commit suicide. And so that is another anchoring place. Like, remember, it's not just these words, like it, it is about people's mental health and it is about their livelihoods.


Sarah (37:36):

Yeah. You said that during Summit, I actually had pulled it up. Cause I loved that, “In the heart of it, all pronouns matter because they greatly improve quality of life”. And, and so, oh gosh, I know there's so many–there's so many things I wanted to ask. Um, this seriously could be like a six hour episode, but I promise we’re not going to hold you that long, but I did want to talk about when you–when you were just saying that having that child know that you are a safe place. Um, and so you talked about what does that look like, How do we do that, and one of the things that you had recommended–um, this is going back to Summer School. I know we were like hopping all over the place, um, was to signal your allyship. Can you talk a little bit about what that looks like?


We (38:18):

Yeah. There are so many ways to signal allyship. I think that, um, one of the first things that pops up for me is, um, finding, like, non-verbal ways to signal–like visually signal to people that you are a safe place. And so, um, um, so I know like for me as a trans person and for lots of the trans and non-binary people, I know we are just constantly like scanning the room, scanning our environment, anytime we're in a new place to gauge how much we can show up as ourselves. Um, and so having things like little–little stickers, um, that show pride flags or little signs that say this is a safe place or in this room, we believe XYZ, all these inclusive phrases, um, having different, um, sets of pronouns, including, um, other pronouns, besides he and she like up on your wall, just, um, having–having different, um, representation in the literature and books that you have in your space, all of those things really help signal your allyship.


Sarah (39:43):

Yeah. I love that. You had said something about the lanyard, um, you know, having something on your lanyard and I–I like messaged you on Instagram, like right after I had listened to your, this, your–your part of the presentation. I go, can you make all the things? I want all the things all the buttons and stickers. Like I just thought it was coolest idea. It would've never crossed my mind. So it was so great that you shared that,


Wes (40:07):

Um, lanyards and just work badges in general. Like whether you have them on a lanyard or on your belt loop or wherever it is, like that is such a cool place to signal because it goes with you everywhere. Um, and an important thing to add, like if on your badge specifically, you know, where your, where your name is? Put your pronouns also, and you can get creative props to do that. Um, some, some workplaces, if you–if you ask them, then they might try to get you a new one where it's included. Um, I've had some success with that, but, um, I've also seen so many people just find their own way to add it on.


Sarah (40:48):

Yeah. I saw, I think I told you this too! I went to Walmart like three days after watching this and they had a button, um, on their badge. And I was like, this is really cool. I go, is everybody Walmart doing this? And they go, I don't know, I'm doing it. You know? Cool. Um, but yeah. Oh, I liked, yeah. I thought that was such a good idea and then speaking of allies, and we talked a little bit about this with the Shante in our episode that we just had with her too, is what that looks like to be an ally. Like I think, you know, especially for so many of us where we've got some unlearning to do and we're really trying and trying to progress and, and move, you know, uh, past all of the incorrect things that go on in our brains. Um, but being an ally is like more than just words, it's actions. Um, and so I think that's the thing too. So I love–I love the idea of signaling it showing you are one, but like, how do we show up everyday in our lives? Like as an ally?


Wes (41:51):

Yeah. Well, I always find it kind of hard to answer this question, and I know that ally shouldn’t mean something different to everyone. Um, but I think what, what I always like to come back to is, um, looking through the lens of quality of life? And thinking about, um, how, what can I do to make sure that, um, I'm improving quality of life and not decreasing quality of life. And so, some of those things could be, um, I really think that using inclusive language is a huge one like that is an action. We're constantly using language modeling, inclusive language modeling, gender neutral language, we don't know, um, if everyone fits into those binary categories is really important. Um, and also just, you know, coming back to–to, um, seeing people, everyone just wants to be seen. And so if you can just, you–you can just listen, listen to what people are saying about themselves and then honor, and be compassionate about what you hear. Um, it doesn't need to be grand gestures? It really is those like small moments and those little things that to us are very big and very impactful.


Sarah (43:26):

Yeah. And that's it for number two, on my list of ways we can make the speech room a safe space. Uh it's you said, listen to them, trust them, affirm them. And I loved that. I thought again, it's so–it seems so simple. And this is making me think, ‘cause when we were having that conversation about what age do we start working on this and how, what does it look like, how do we introduce this idea, that's my pronouns and what are yours, you know, answering those conversations. And then obviously introducing what could be a new concept to a lot of people, which is there are more pronouns than he/she, and, you know, um, anyway, it makes me think of, there's obviously going to be kick back. I–I see a lot of things, I have to get off Facebook. I can't stand it anymore, but I see a lot of things where it's like “Oh my God, these people indoctrinate–those liberals indoctrinating my kids in school setting, don't teach my kids things that, you know, I don't agree with, blah, blah, blah, blah!”. And I think–I kind of thought like, how would I handle that if that, you know, came? Where somebody thought–I was–that's what I was doing, was trying to, like, change that child's family's belief system. Um, I'm going to answer, I'm just gonna answer, I'm just gonna start answering with that: “No, I'm just trying to improve quality of life over here. And um, everybody wants to be seen, so that's what I'm doing.”


Lisa (44:47):

I think of that one family you worked with, I’m thinking of that one family you worked with too. There's so many biases around communication in general, like the family that you worked with that didn't want to introduce AAC because they wanted their child to be verbal. So we're battling this in different ways in our field. You know? It's more about just setting the example of why are we doing this? And for all of the reasons: it's quality of life, you know? That's, that really is the answer that we're–we're trying to–to improve quality of life. So there was a question that I don't even know if you have the answer to this but, you know, I'm counting on Wes again to have all of the answers, but


Sarah (45:30):

Oh I thought you were asking me, that you're gonna ask me, I thought I had all of the answers. 


Lisa (45:34):

You have all the answers, they're usually right, but I'm just going, I'm going to go to Wes. Um, has ASHA been at the forefront of encouraging the use of inclusive pronouns? Have you seen anything in research or articles written about any of this?


Wes (45:51):

Um, they're just–they're certainly not at the forefront of this, um, push towards inclusive pronouns. I don't–I know that there, I know that there are some articles out there. I know there are some, um, maybe some like courses, um, that, that address inclusive words, inclusive language, um, including pronouns? But, um, beyond that, um, I don't really, I haven't really seen much. I don't know if there's anything else going on behind the scenes that I don't know about or that's out there that I just don't know about, but.


Sarah (46:26):

Has ASHA asked you to present at said conference? Have you been invited?


Wes (46:32):

I was not invited to this conference this year. No. Um, but I do know another trans SLP who was so there's representatives.


[Unintelligible overlap]


Lisa (46:42):

I don't mean to cut you off. I have heard rumors that you might be coming to Arizona, or we hope that maybe you're going to be asked to come to Arizona. So look for that email and say yes, because that's where we're at and we want to see you.


Wes (47:03):

And I will absolutely say yes, I am–I'm so excited. It's been so fun. Um, I, first of all, I owe you two, like so much because, um, you know, having access to your platform definitely broadened my platform. And, um, it's been really, really fun and getting to connect with like school districts–school districts especially in different states. Um, and I'm having a lot of with it. So keep them coming my way.


Sarah (47:32):

It's so cool. Yeah. That's where I wonder, you know, we talk about ASHA, that’s a funny one, man, because even, you know, we've have the privilege of being able to collaborate and meet so many people–um, not just through like attending conferences and stuff, but because of Summit and like we're just constantly out there just trying to consume information so that we can share it, knowing what our audience needs and wants. Um, and so to us, it's very simple. Like we just look and think, well, one, we ask, who would you like to hear from and what topics do you want? What do you need more information on? And then number two, we're just always like out there observing and paying attention. Um, and so we know that I honestly, I can't tell you a Summit where anyone was like, well, that was shit, you know, like, why'd you waste my hour? Um, because–and I'm not just like, that's not a humble brag. We are just really good at it because we pay attention. Like we are paying attention. And so I'm always like, ASHA–are you guys–because they love researchers and they love their PhDs and they do get the big games. You know, you have to always get the Michelle Garcia Winners and you know, you'll get those, those people, who've got some kind of big following or whatever, but it shouldn't–it fascinates the shit out of me me. So that's why I wanted to know is that a phone call from ASHA, or.


Lisa (48:53):

That wasn't a humble brag, that was an overt brag. I would say, I don't know if you would would ever consider this, but you know, in the leader in, and also in their blog though, you can submit to–to be in there. And I can't think of anything better than to see your face and hear your words in the national leader and to get that kind of reach. And that's what it is. It's–ASHA, I know it can be a little behind the times on some things, but they do have the reach of reaching a different audience that you're not currently maybe reaching. So that would be the only benefit.


Wes (49:32):

It's true. I appreciate you bringing that up. I had this idea like, years ago to write an article to submit it for the Leader. And I, like–I started like one paragraph and it's still–it's still like in my Google Docs somewhere. I never–I like to have not gone back to conquer it, but, um, maybe, maybe I'll add that to my list.


Sarah (49:52):

Yeah. Put that on your to-do list. I'm sure it's small.


Lisa (49:56):

Like every time we talk to Wes we're like, and we want you to do this, make buttons, make stickers, write for the Leader, present for this, do this. So that next time we email Wes is going to be like, yeah, I'm busy ladies, sorry.


[Overlapping laughter]


Lisa (50:11):

[As Wes] I’m still catching up on the to do list from the last conversation.


Wes (50:16):

I have so much fun collaborating with the two of you anytime I get. So, um, yeah, I appreciate it.


Sarah (50:21):

Well, I really am dying for you to visit Arizona.


Wes (50:27):

SLP Summits are always the best. Like it's my favorite thing to look forward to.


Sarah (50:33):

That’s so awesome. I know. And that's, it really why it was created. I mean, okay, let me be real: I think we talked about this a lot, how it was created it, and there's a variety of reasons, but one of them was, we were sick of ASHA not asking us to present either! We're like, you know what? F, them we'll throw our own conference, you just watch. And then I'm like, we got way more people than you do suckers. 


[Overlapping laughter]


Lisa (51:00):

So I think calling ASHA a sucker is, we couldn't end on a better note. So [Sarah laughs loudly and insists they are not ending it there] ASHA if you’d like to contact Sarah her email address is Sarah@--


Sarah (51:21):

No! I know I wrote some other things down, give me a second. I’m just kidding but I do–I didn't want to be–we kind of talked about who you're working with, aged, you said three to 18, but I also want to hear more about like, what it is. Are you in a school, is it a clinic?


Wes (51:44):

So it's a, it's a private it's through a private practice, but it's community-based so I go around to different, um, a couple of different like preschools and childcare centers? And then home visits. That's where I'm at.


Sarah (52:02):

And what's–what is it as a specific, um, uh, what's the word I'm trying to say, which–


Lisa (52:11):

Is there a focus is–


Wes (52:13):

Yeah, I'm working, like, with all the kids with all sorts of communication challenges, um, nothing specific right now, speech and language. Um, not swallowing. I don't know how to do swallowing, but–


Sarah (52:28):

Yeah, we don't either. I just–the idea of you, I could see you in preschool too, preschool was my favorite. Oh gosh, I do. I loved it.


Wes (52:38):

Uh, they're fun. Yeah. I have, I have some fun kids and it's been, it's been nice. I'm also getting to engage with some older kids since I only was with preschoolers for such a long time? Um, and it's just different types of conversations that we get to have that I'm enjoying. So it's been fun.


Sarah (52:57):

That is cool. Yeah, it is really cool. Well, we will definitely–I'm going to share all of those. Um, any of the resources that got mentioned, I will put them in the show notes, including your website and where they can find you and, and do you do, um, I know you said you're working with school districts. Do you do Zoom in, is it online? Do you go in and like show up and do, uh, conferences or courses? 


Wes (53:22):

Yeah for Q Inclusion for our workshops–um, right now they're virtual, they're all virtual right now. Um, we, we, especially as vaccines, roll out more and more, especially with kids and, um, keep watching numbers and just where the virus takes us. You know, we'll be more open to doing in-person, um, in the near future? But it's so nice doing these virtual because we can, we can access you wherever you are. Um, you can access us wherever you are. You don't need to, um, have the funding to fly us out there, you know, to host us somewhere. We can just show up virtually and, um, as much as I really love doing them in person, when I used to be able to do that, um, there have been some really, um, beautiful conversations that come out of this virtual platform, so.


Sarah (54:18):

Yeah, I'm going to, I'm going to share your contact information with–there's an organization here, One Community, that we support. And it just, I think are–are they only in Arizona? I can't remember if they're only in Arizona, but anyway, they had done–so we live in, in Mesa, which is just right outside of Phoenix and it is primarily a pretty conservative area. In fact, we worked downtown on Main, their Main Street, um, which is just now kind of catching up with what a cool downtown should look like. And so I think within maybe like the last five years, we got some bars and a brewery. Like I'm not even kidding when I tell you, like, that's how conservative this community we live in. And so we, the mayor that we have here now, he's like the freaking coolest, I just love everything about him and what he's doing to really just change the downtown and Mesa general. And, but he was able to pass a law, um, with, I can't remember if it was just in this last February? It was recent. They, so they passed that about, um, inclusion and diversity and safety in, in the buildings and–and what's going to be required. And anyway, it was just really, really cool. It got a lot of kickback because there was a lot of people who, you know, think, oh no, the bathrooms! And I don't want a bathroom, you know, shared by, like, you know! It was a lot of that kind of stuff anyway, but I thought, oh, that'd be so amazing to have you come and talk to, um, the community and, and I think they could use it. So we all need, in school districts, do you do stuff like that too?


Wes (55:44):

Yeah. I would love–I would love that. I, you know, I think so much of the shack can come from this place of, um, feeling for some reason, feeling threatened that like the way that like your lived experiences and your identities are going to be taken away? And I really want to try to reframe that and reshape that because that is really the opposite of what we're trying to do. Like, we just want everybody to have the same privilege and ability that you have to–to claim those identities and to be seen as who you are. Um, uh, so it makes me sad, you know, whenever I hear about the pushback, but I try to–I try to think back to, um, what is what's at the core of that where's that coming from? And like what kind of conversations and dialogue can we start engaging into slowly, um, help us get on closer pages.


Sarah (56:47):

Yeah. Yeah. I know. ‘Cause I think, like you said, it's just a lot of it is just not knowing, but that is coming with a lot of times, we're in a place of fear and I was so proud. I don't share a lot of stuff on Facebook, but I did. I was so proud of me, so I'm not like–I am like a seventh, sixth or seventh generation of this, like, city. So my family have been here a very long time and my grandfather was a civil servant and served in different aspects of the government. And he was always really cooly progressive for being an old grandpa. Um, but anyway, and so to see how this has evolved and changed and, and I just, we were so proud, I think were one of the first cities that passed that ordinance. And then Tucson just came on board and, and Phoenix and Scottsdale and, anyway, super cool stuff. And I just, I love to see that–that these dialogues and conversations are happening and, um, we could not be more grateful to you for having this conversation with us. It's so cool.


West (57:41):

Thank you so much for welcoming me in.


Lisa (57:45):

And don't forget to watch your email! Because somebody asked us for your contact info for the Arizona Speech and Hearing Association. And I was like, yes, yes, please! And I was going to email you actually to say, keep an eye out because we want to hang out. So hopefully that happens next year, live and in-person and, until then, we're just grateful to connect virtually.


Wes (58:09):

Yeah, that sounds great. I will keep my fingers crossed.


Sarah (58:12):

Yeah, I know it's going to happen for sure. And then I'm going to take you to the one brewer we have downtown.


Lisa (58:21):

Next year we might have another one, Sarah!


Sarah (58:23):

Yes, sure! Thank you, Wes.


Wes (58:29):

Thank you so much, it was a pleasure.