Small brown face, large white space.

I am a brown psychotherapist. I say this because my difference in the profession still feels relevant. I am a very small minority. As a Women of colour I claim this singular identity as indicative of commonality, distinctiveness, and community within the profession. In terms of visibility, the body of the “therapist of colour” is comprised of an amalgamation of all the various identities, mixed into one self. As such there is an implied responsibility to present as a singular representation of all the the claimed communities covered by that label in a professional capacity:

Gender, as well as identity can be a powerful determinant of experience in professional, racial, and ethnic contexts. Beyond any societal categorisations based solely on the physiology of the body, gender affects how we interact with, and are perceived by the groups and environments we inhabit. With regard to the notion of perception, more specifically how one sees and is seen, is defined in multiple philosophical theories of the self. How we understand our individual identity in is part formed in how we are recognised by others and the hooks such recognitions are based on. The absence of appropriate recognition, or even misrecognition is harmful in so many ways, both unconscious and in the conscious way we interact. It will undoubtedly affect how we form our identities in a professional environment.

Social constructs of gender are ever present at work. The hegemonic nature of higher education spaces forces those of different races and cultures to negotiate and compromise identity in order to ‘fit in’. Bodily misrecognition enriches the feminist reading of multidimensional identities. “Bodily misrecognition,” refers to the perceptions of others about the ways in which women of colour interact in the classroom. Bodily misrecognition occurs when women of colour enter hegemonic academic spaces where inaccurate perceptions about them based on racial and gendered stereotypes are prevailing and inescapable. This leads to a need to manage the body, both physically and behaviorally, in order to come to some kind of mutual acceptance of their authority in a room with their peers. All of this leads to a sense of feeling alien and inauthentic. Developing false selves to cope with the difficulty. The phenomenon of body management appears and is interrogated ubiquitously in feminist literature as a negotiation with male-oriented approaches, but further thought needs to be given to how it affects other forms of difference as they present in academic settings.

“Father, Mother, and Me/
Sister and Auntie Say/
All the people like us are We/
And everyone else is They.”
— Rudyard Kipling

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