Gender Perspectives, Vol. 15

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I aim to highlight diverse kinds of personal narratives and reflections on gender, gender presentation, and identity, to broaden the gender conversation and boost a variety of voices. Check out the rest of the series.]

My Gender is Like a Rose (The Importance of Context from a Linguistic Perspective) | A³
The author of A³ explains their agender identity through the lens of language’s fundamental arbitrariness:

…why is it “wrong” when I say “I am agender”? Why do people snap judgement at me for using a word we have assigned meaning to when I feel it most accurately describes my experience? Why do people say I am “confused” and spew shameful language at me in an attempt to poke holes in my statement? Am I not like the poet and just trying to put into words, arbitrary words, my abstract feelings and experiences and shape them into a recognizable metaphor? How else am I supposed to describe the detached feelings I have with the gender binary?

The Flow of Gender Fluidity | Queer Asterisk
T talks about the process of discovering and coming out with thier genderfluid identity:

I took 12 months to let people in my life know that I’m not actually a woman and waited to see what the impact of this revelation would be. Here are some of the reactions I have heard from various peoples:

“Makes sense.”

“Are you sure?”

“I don’t know what you mean, but I know I love you.”

“This seems like it’s just another one of your phases.”

“Are you sure this isn’t just related to your body image issues?”

“That identity isn’t real to me.”

“Your pronouns are grammatically incorrect.”

“You just look too much like a woman to be trans.”

I don’t really expect non-fluid people to remotely understand that concept… it’s hard to understand from inside the flow! All I know is that my identity flows; it is a dance. It’s a dance with myself, with my environment, within relationships, and within spirit. I flow like a stream or a current of air and even I’m not sure where I will end up.

Why I’m Nonbinary But Don’t Use ‘They/Them’ | Wear Your Voice
Ashleigh Shackelford dissects her personal experience of the intersections of blackness and non-binary identity, and her decision to use she/her pronouns:

Throughout my life, I was experiencing so much of this journey called Black Girl/Womanhood while also experiencing a denial of gender conformity. This complicated internal struggle led me to a very difficult realization as I grew up and found more resources, language and tools for navigating my gender identity: I felt disconnected from the notion of seeing myself as a Black woman, yet I also felt uncomfortable saying that I didn’t identify or experience Black womanhood. So much of the trauma and violence I moved through, and resilience and power I embodied is that of Black womanhood and Black femininity. In acknowledging that, I chose to use she/her pronouns because those pronouns were not afforded to me and they are a derivative and gift of the time I spent in crafting my Black femme-ness in a world that denied me to do so. They represent the work and fight I put into my Black girlhood/womanhood within my alignment of gender expansiveness.

I’m a Trans Guy, Not a Guy: Maintaining Queerness While #datingwhiletrans | Life Writ Large
Germaine de Larch provides a perspective in which transness is an inseperable and essential part of gender identity (though, as the post states, it must be stressed that this is not the experience of all trans people):

…while them calling me ‘boyfriend’ is heart-fillingly-soaringly affirming and seeing of who I am, it is important to me that I am seen as trans, and not a man.

I am not and will never be a man. I am, and always will be, trans. And this is an important distinction.

This being seen-ness as trans and queer is essential. Because anything less would be not seeing me for who I am. It would be an erasure of me.

How has your family taken it or how might they take it? 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge part 13

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s prompt: How has your family taken it or how might they take it?

I find it odd trying to parse my feelings around my family’s response to me coming out to them. The thing is, my immediate nuclear family have all always consistently tried to be good about my queerness, right from when I came out as bisexual a decade ago, to my more recent coming out a couple years ago as genderqueer.

My older brother has been fantastic – I got accidentally outed to him probably a year before I came out to my parents. He for sure doesn’t get it at all, and he continues to be kinda bad at my pronouns (I think, anyway? We don’t live in the same province so it’s hard to really say…), but he has been a major advocate for me with my parents around the whole thing.

I came out to my parents by sending them an email, because I knew this was the sort of coming out that would involve a lot of feels that I figured they might rather have a chance to process before they had to respond to me. I’m quite sure this was the right choice for me, also, because I am terrible at having these kinds of conversations face-to-face.

One of the interesting things about my parents’ response to this email is that even though they really did choose to take a lot of time (and I later learned from my brother, who had to deal with all of their feels (oops)) had a lot of ugly processing stages before I heard anything back from them again, they still criticized me for deciding to come out to them that way rather than in person.

Though that has always been the way with my father at least – whatever method you choose to share bad news with him is always going to be the wrong choice, because that’s one of the ways he can make his feelings into something that’s your fault.

But I digress. My parents have been, mostly, pretty good about the whole thing. The first time I visited home after coming out, my dad insisted on taking me out to lunch one-on-one and said a bunch of reasonably smart stuff that at least indicated he was really trying to understand (and some less great stuff – he specifically chose a restaurant that’s owned by a friend of his, and after his friend popped over to say hi, my dad explained that he hadn’t introduced me to him because he ‘didn’t know what to call me’. Because ‘kid’ is a difficult word to use, you know?) I generally felt ok about it all, though.

Later during that visit, he made it very clear that it had been a struggle for him the entire time not to say terrible things to me about it, and I subsequently learned that the night before I turned up had involved a very ugly shouting match where he said awful stuff and my brother stood up for me in very wonderful ways. More to the point, when my brother was telling me the things he’d said in that ‘conversation’, it became clear that at lunch with my dad he had just repeated verbatim the great stuff my brother had said, so it hadn’t come from him at all.

I haven’t actually spoken to my father at all since that visit (weirdly, for reasons unrelated to the above), so I couldn’t tell you where he’s at with it all now, but I also don’t super care.

My mom, meanwhile, is really doing her best, I think? I’ve seen her a handful of times since the initial coming out, and we have been getting along better than we had been for quite some time. There have been some awkward and occasionally dysphoria-inducing conversations, and she sometimes makes me talk her around the same circle over and over again (which makes me feel like she isn’t listening to me, or that she simply refuses to accept what I’m saying and is trying to trick me into giving her a different answer, though I think she is just really going to need a paradigm shift before she can absorb some of this stuff, and I know that doesn’t come easy.)

My little brother, um, I’m not sure if he knows or not? I haven’t seen him in a long time. I really have no doubt that he’d be just as fiercely in my court as he always has been, in the same way my other brother is, though.

So yeah. My family has its problems, but I don’t think coming out as genderqueer made them any worse, so I guess that means they took it well?


Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!

Why does my brain do this? The difficulty of recognizing first-person experiences of abuse and mental illness

I know this isn’t just my brain. I know it is an absurdly common experience. But still, I can’t believe my brain continues to do stuff like this.

Me, at many points in the past: “I have lots of badfeels about this past relationship and there were issues with having my boundaries respected, but it’s not like I was raped or whatever”

Actual facts: this past relationship involved me being repeatedly bullied into doing things sexually that I had set as hard limits. My ‘no’s were next to meaningless. He did sexual things to me when I explicitly told him I didn’t want to.

For the record, I know I was raped. I just still have trouble with saying it.

Me, very recently: “I don’t think I have PTSD

Actual facts: Although it’s been a while now since this last happened (I may have mostly recovered), I have experienced repeated, vivid, uncontrollable flashbacks to the aforementioned relationship. On more than one occasion during these flashbacks, even though it was years later, I have been momentarily genuinely scared that I was still in that situation, and that the intervening years had all been a weird dream. That’s how real they were.

I don’t have a diagnosis of PTSD. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t get one now – though I do still sometimes have the sorts of trauma-related dissociative symptoms I described in my post on being triggered, I think the diagnosis would be different. But yeah, that was a thing my brain was doing for a while. And yet at the time I never made the connection between that and PTSD.

Why is it so much easier to give credence to and put weight on other people’s experiences of these things? I think it especially applies to all forms of abuse and definitely sexual violence. It also seems to apply to mental illness, though – so often people will describe textbook symptoms and follow up with “but I don’t think I’m really…” or something else that suggests they don’t think they deserve to be taken seriously. People will say “I don’t think I was really abused, but…” and then go on to describe clear-cut, textbook, and/or often outright extreme instances of abuse they have experienced.

Why can’t we be kinder to ourselves? Why can’t we believe our own experiences of these things, and trust in our responses to them? Is it just that the idea of being an abuse survivor, or living with mental illness, is just so othered in popular narratives that it seems impossible it could ever apply to us? I suspect the logic often goes something along the lines of “the way I feel isn’t the way I imagine abuse/rape survivors (or PTSD sufferers etc.) feel, therefore that can’t be what my experience is”.

Or is it something else entirely?

On “ladies”, and not being one

I realized recently that my relationship to the word “ladies” (specifically, my feelings around being included in a group of people being called “ladies”) is a little complicated.

Ideally, generally, I prefer not be called a lady. Because I’m not one. And when someone thinks I am, they are not really seeing me, and that is a uniquely uncomfortable experience.

And mostly, I don’t get called a lady. It happens sometimes if I am out with a lady friend (or someone else who is perceived as such) that wait staff will call us “ladies”. I always cringe inwardly but don’t say anything, because hey, passing short-term relationships like that often aren’t worth it.

Though there is always that little voice in my head that is miffed – how hard is it to just not gender people? “Folks” is an easy enough go to, and more recently I was pleased with a waiter who just called me and a friend “you two” (as in “how are you two doing? Can I get you two anything?”) – it worked very naturally and made me happy.

It also still happens at work. Because I am not out at work (Yet! I swear this will happen though!) I am often lumped in with the “ladies”. And this is where complicated feelings happen.

The thing is, ladies are often awesome people, and it can feel like a compliment be counted as one of them. It all depends on who is saying it really – a waitperson on auto-pilot is just off-handedly misgendering me, but people at work are including me in something pretty great.

To be honest, one of the things I love about working in public libraries is the sheer lack of men. Going to a departmental meeting and being the only person there who isn’t a woman as amazeballs, y’all. My bosses are all women, and the only men working at my branch (though this isn’t true system-wide) are entry-level workers. It is a strange and lovely experience.

And when these amazing people include me among their number, part of me kind of wishes I was one of them.

Of course, I *am* one of them in all the ways that count to me – we are working together to make our library awesome and engage kids and help people with all of their various needs. And I don’t think this will change significantly ifwhen I come out as genderqueer.

So yeah, I don’t know what the point of this is. Just, having mixed feelings about being misgendered is weird, is all, and I felt like writing about it!

I’m curious of other people have had similar feelings?

“Discuss your relationship with the term transgender” 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge part 12

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s prompt: Discuss your relationship with the term transgender

I absolutely identify as transgender. My gender is not the one that my doctor/parents guessed I would have when I was born, and I was not raised in a culture that recognizes any non-binary genders in a way that defies the trans/cis binary.

I do mostly just use the word ‘trans’ rather ‘transgender’ when talking about myself, but I for sure just mean it as a short-hand for transgender, so this is not an important distinction.

And that’s really all I have to say about that. I don’t have a complex relationship with the word transgender. How unlike me!


Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!

On inclusive and exclusive spaces, and why actively cultivating “safe” exclusionary spaces is vital

I am inherently suspicious of any group of community or event that claims to be broadly inclusive. Or more specifically, I know that attempts to be equally inclusive of everyone will always, always result in exclusionary spaces where the least privileged perspectives are the most marginalized.

In speaking about why I distrust the very concept of ‘the GSM community’ (or ‘the LGBTQIA+ community’), I recently wrote:

I am far, far more interested in hearing from communities of black trans folk, or autistic queer people, or fat femmes, than in listening to anything that can be credited to ‘the GSM community’ at large.

This is in part because I acknowledge that it is important and vital for me to continue to listen to and make space for the voices of people who experience oppressions that I do not. I cannot help but be complicit in oppressions if I do not even know they exist, and so I feel a deep responsibility to be always learning about others’ experiences of marginalization.

It as also because I know the power of groups that are deliberately and mindfully exclusionary of relatively privileged people. I know the power of explicitly and actively centering and amplifying marginalized voices above all others.

There are things that marginalized people are reluctant to say in the presence of the privileged, in the presence of their oppressors. There are things that need to be said, truths that burn inside of hurting people, that cannot be adequately addressed when the perpetrators of that hurt are listening.

For example: most women experience varying forms of harassment, objectification, or other forms of dehumanization or humiliation on a fairly regular basis, simply for being in public where there are men. Women can, and do, talk about these things publicly of course, and it is important that all of us who see this happening refuse to be silent.

However, when a woman is processing the trauma of a new, particular, experience of dehumanization at the hands of a man, it is often important for her to find a space to do so where there are no men. The reason for this is simple and terrible: because we live in the kind of patriarchal world that teaches men to dehumanize women, woman can’t even speak out and describe their experiences without having men use those experiences as fodder for their own prurient dehumanizing interests.

I’m going to say that again, actually: any time a woman speaks out publicly against her own dehumanization, and especially when she describes in detail how she was dehumanized, there are people who will use that information to further dehumanize her. It is that fucking awful. It is that fucking inescapable.

The only way that many marginalized people can even begin to process their victimization without being actively re-victimized by their effort, is by doing so in a space that excludes their oppressors.

But it’s not just that, even.

In addition to allowing for healing and processing, smaller groups and communities focusing on particular oppressions, or better yet on particular intersecting oppressions are far and away more likely to be able to get shit done.

There is this thing about public conversation about oppression; I’m sure you’ve seen it many times. When someone tries to start a broadly public conversation about what might be done about some particular form of oppression they experience, that conversation will almost without fail be derailed into a conversation all about convincing those who don’t experience that form of oppression that it does actually exist, and that it is, in fact, a problem.

By simply excluding people who don’t experience that form of oppression, or by allowing them to attend only as long as they understand that their role is only to listen and support, we allow the conversation to move past proving the existence of oppression into actually planning movements to improve the lives of people facing that oppression.

Exclusive spaces are absolutely necessary because there are some things that oppressed people only learn to name and recognize in the safety of their own communities. Exclusive spaces are necessary to have the occasional opportunity to escape from our oppressors and process our experiences.

The converse of this a weird one, though: inclusive spaces that claim to value everyone equally are never truly inclusive; they will always alienate the people most in need of community. The only truly inclusive space is a space that works actively to undermine the power and voices of its privileged participants, and to bolster the power and voices of those who are traditionally silenced.

If you aren’t actively dismantling the existing power hierarchies, you will always wind up reproducing them.

Dating while genderqueer: I’m torn

There is a thing I see a lot in dating-related online spaces and real life events that makes me uncomfortable. But I can’t decide whether I outright condemn the practice or not.

This concerns non-binary people and the ways in which we navigate the often overtly binarist mechanisms of organized date-finding spaces (for lack of a better term?) Again and again, I see (afab) non-binary people responding to ads from people explicitly seeking female partners or women (depending on how they choose to word it), specifying that they are afab and checking to see whether they count or qualify or whatever. It is possible that amab enby folx do this as well, but I haven’t really seen it so I can’t say.

And this icks me out. On more than one level, really, and the levels actually contradict each other. Because it feels like these people’s thought process may actually be “well, I have a vagina so maybe that’s must be close enough” or something. And that’s sad and fucked up in multiple ways.

On the one hand, I feel your pain, fellow enbies trying to figure out who might want to date you in a binarist world – OKC only tells me whether people are interested in men and/or women, and unless they make a point of mentioning in their profile (rare), there’s no way for me to know how they will respond to an enby like me.

But on the other hand, can we like, just *not* contribute to the idea that if someone says they are into women, that means they are into people with vaginas? Because that is cissexist on so many levels. It is flat out transmisogynistic to equate those concepts.

I know that a lot of the people who say they are into women really do mean they are only into vaginas, and that’s why you want to clarify. But here’s the thing: why the fuck would you want to date someone who is that cissexist? Do you really believe they won’t misgender you? Do you really want to enable someone else’s transmisogyny?

Because you really, really shouldn’t.