Other things I’ve been writing: November 2016

Your monthly round-up of non-Valprehension things I’ve been writing!

It’s all bookish stuff this month! I only wrote one blog post for the library:

A (kind of) review of Ivan Coyote’s Tomboy Survival Guide

 

But I have also started putting together various recommended reading lists for the library, some of which are ongoing works-in-progress!

 

For Adults/General audience

21st Century Feminisms

Neurodiversity

Laugh-out-loud Memoirs

Non-binary genders in fiction and memoir

 

For Teens (and other folks who love YA!)

Good Stuff without the Romance

Teens Can Change the World!

 


More of the other stuff I’ve written!

The “Shit Cis People Say” Alphabet: A is for Attention (as in, you’re just doing it for the…)

Welcome to my new Friday blogging series, the “Shit Cis People Say” Alphabet. One letter per week for 26 weeks! Lets’ see if I can pull it off.

A is for Attention!

One of the weirder ways that cis people sometimes try to invalidate trans people’s genders is by claiming that we’re just pretending to be trans “for the attention”.

…Which, I find it hard to believe that the people making this argument even believe it themselves. Surely there are better and easier ways to seek attention? And, given the continued invisibility of trans people generally, (yes, despite this golden age of lavish media attention we supposedly have right now – it definitely seems that at least half of the random people I see making cissexist claims about ‘only women’ having periods or ‘all men’ having penises, etc. are doing so out of pure ignorance/forgetfulness of the fact that trans people exist, rather than a deliberate denial of trans people’s genders), if this is a bid for attention, it doesn’t seem to be working all that well, to be honest.

Here’s the thing cis folks: yes, trans activists and others are currently doing their best to demand attention be paid to trans issues. Because our lives are currently unfairly and unnecessarily disadvantaged and made difficult in countless ways that could be easily fixed, if people just managed to hold the idea of our existence in their heads on a consistent basis. We need to be visible, and we do want attention. And sometimes, when we talk about our lives and our identities, we do so for the purpose of increasing the visibility of ourselves and our struggles.

But that is an *entirely* different thing from the idea that our existence as trans people, that our identities themselves, are formed out of a bid for attention. We do make bids for attention sometimes *because* we are trans, and because of all of the ways our trans-ness causes us to be marginalized. But our trans-ness is not in and of itself, a bid for attention. Most of us just want our identities quietly respected in the way that most cis people’s are everyday.

Got it? Good.

“Like everyone else, people who are LGBT start out as babies”: a book review

Cover of the book Understanding Sexual Orientation and Gender IdentityYes, that is an actual quote, from the newly published children’s non-fiction book (copyright 2017!) Understanding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. It’s is just one book in a series from GLSEN under the banner “Living Proud!”

This book is hot mess, y’all. Such a mess that I need to rant about it.

Despite what the title implies, the vast majority of Understanding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity is very specifically focused on the topic of ‘homosexuality’. Which, that’s a perfectly fine topic for a book and all, but it’s not great for one that claims to be about sexual orientation generally, let alone sexual orientation *and* gender identity.

Gender identity is addressed only in the first chapter of the book, “The Origins of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”. Right off the bat, we learn that the definition of gender identity is “A person’s self-image as either a male or a female, no matter what gender they were assigned birth”.

Oh, yes. We are off to a fabulous start, folks.

The book is, unsurprisingly, relentlessly binary in its discussion of both sex and gender, with the exception of a special text box acknowledging that intersex people exist. The paragraph on intersex people concludes that “many intersex people live happy and satisfying lives outside of the ‘normal’ female and male gender identities,” which is the only inkling we get that non-binary genders exist at all.

So much for “understanding gender identity” then. How about sexual orientation?

As I mentioned above, for the most part the book really only talks about homosexuality.

Outside of uses of the LGBT initialism, bisexuality is mentioned a grand total of four times:

  1. in the opening glossary, within the definition of ‘sexual orientation’ (which provides the options of heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, and asexual (which, yay ace visibility for once, I guess!?))
  2. in the phrase “gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, transgender or questioning”, shoehorned in suddenly at the end of a paragraph about the importance of the nature versus nurture debate around ‘what causes homosexuality?’
  3. in reference to Freud’s (*sigh*) theory that everyone is bisexual
  4. in the phrase “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month”, in an image caption.

Asexuality’s only mentions are the two mentioned above. It doesn’t even merit an entry in the “Series Glossary” (a list of vocabulary words from the Living Proud! series, many of which do not appear in this particular book), or the index.

In fact, a full three out of the four chapters of the book are explicitly focused on homosexuality/being gay. First we have “Born Gay: Biological Theories of Homosexuality”, which concludes with a quote from Dr. Qazi Rahman, who states “as far as I’m concerned, there is no argument any more – if you are gay, you are born gay.”

Contradictorily, the next chapter (“Becoming Gay: Psychological Theories of Homosexuality”) concludes that “…human behavior is such a complex combination of mind and brain – the psychological and the biological working together – that it is nearly impossible to separate the two”, before segueing into the question for our final chapter: “Why Does It Matter?”

This last chapter provides a broad overview of the ways in which the question of choice with respect to sexual orientation has been rhetorically important to LGBT (or, since transgender people aren’t mentioned at all in this chapter, LGB) civil rights struggles.

I do want to be clear here; much of the content of this book is totally fine, and some is even pretty ground-breaking for a children’s book! But I have no idea how a book primarily focused on the nature/nurture debate about homosexuality wound up with such a misleading title.

Better yet, one of the other titles in the series is Being Transgender, which has the same authors as Understanding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, because why bring in transgender people to write a book when demonstrably uninformed cis people can do it, I guess? I may need to review that one one I can get my hands on it as well.

What does Genderqueer mean to you? 30-Week Genderqueer challenge part 30

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

THIS IS THE LAST WEEK FOLKS! I DID IT! I may be taking a bit of a writing break, or at least cutting back for a while going forward, but I will be back, probably with more blogging challenges even.

Today’s prompt: What does Genderqueer mean to you?

…I suppose I should have seen this one coming. Of course this is a great way of culminating a challenge like this. And yet, I suspect I’m going to give a lacklustre answer here.

I’ve spent a good few years, and spilled out thousands of words, about what genderqueerness means to me, about why it’s important to me, and everything else. I’m actually feeling a little burnt out around the topic these days, but here we go.

I think I’ve said before that genderqueer is more of a political identity for me, while my gender itself is better described by other terms – genderfluid, agender, non-binary, and others, depending.

Genderqueer is, to me, explicitly about active resistance to gender norms. It’s an openly political, and sort of deliberately aggressive way of identifying. The deliberate act of queering things is pretty much always about either dismantling existing structures, or revealing their arbitrary nature, and the fact that there are other options. And genderqueer is pretty explicitly about the queering of gender.

So, that’s my short answer to what ‘genderqueer’ is about for me. And it’s all you’re getting today :P

I’d love to hear any thoughts you have though!


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

Relationship anarchy and me: November 2016 Carnival of Aces Submission

[This post is in response to the November 2016 Carnival of Aces, hosted by It’s An Ace Thing on the topic of Relationship Anarchy]

Oh boy, do I have thoughts about this month’s theme! I suspect this post will be a bit of a rambly mess, but at least some of y’all seem to enjoy my rambly messes, so I guess this one’s for you!

Before I dive in, though, a quick(ish) definition: relationship anarchy is best described as the attitude that the only rules governing the function and form of your relationships with others are the rules set by the people in those relationships. In practice, this means consciously relinquishing (though not necessarily going against the tide of) societal rules and definitions for what relationships (of whatever kind) should look like, what they should mean, and how they should be valued.

The relationships a relationship anarchist participates in could look like anything: they may make monogamous sexual and/or romantic commitments, or they may not; they may prioritize biological family, or romantic partnerships over other relationships, or they may not. The point in relationship anarchy is not to fit  or to defy any particular relationship models, but simply to try to build relationships without any regard for those models in the first place.

Hopefully that makes sense?

Now, me!

I have long felt a great deal of affinity with relationship anarchy – because a lot of societal norms around relationships don’t work for me anyway (I’m not straight; I am demi*; I’m … um, just don’t ever tell me bio-family relationships are inherently valuable, mmkay?), I’ve naturally gravitated toward trying to finding my own path through the wilderness of human relationships.

I’ve also been thinking about this stuff a lot, because I’ve been dealing with a lot of disruption in my romantic/sexual (the two very much go hand-in-hand for me – at this point, I feel it safe to say that I don’t experience sexual attraction unless I am falling in love with – or already in love with – someone) entanglements over the last 1-2 years, and I’ve been actively trying to figure out what sorts of relationship structures I want to have in my life.

I haven’t had an exclusive sexual or romantic commitment in more than a decade, but at the same time I don’t take ‘polyamorous’ as one of my identities, particularly. Polyamory is something I’ve been practicing for some time, but it’s not fundamental for me; it’s the way my relationships have been built over the last while, for a complicated bunch of reasons, none of which are as cut-and-dried as they once were. For the first time in a long while, basically, it’s something that’s at least open to negotiation for me.

Weirdly, I started writing this post thinking I was going to get around to the reasons that I don’t really identify with relationship anarchy when it gets right down to it, but I actually think it’s a perfect fit for at least the way I try to approach all my relationships. While I’ve definitely internalized some of the messages I’ve been raised with about what various kinds relationships ‘should’ look like, and that impacts my own approach and desires within relationships, but ultimately my relationships are reasonably collaborative efforts, and I’m not bothered when they don’t look like the norm.

I also kind of suspect that this is true for most people when you get right down to it. Even those that feel the pressure of norms very often flout them when it is convenient; some people are more likely to hide the non-normative aspects of their relationships than others, I guess, but I’m not sure that’s a relevant distinction here.

What this says to me is that relationship anarchy is more important as a concept than an identity (at least for me). I think it is important to actively talk about how it’s ok and probably even important to let your relationships deviate from norms, because trying to use a one-size-fits-all model is a recipe for disaster in most cases. Relationship anarchy is a great model because it centres mutual consent and active communication rather than assumptions around relationship questions like sexual and romantic exclusivity, what does and does not constitute a breaking of any such commitments (since there is often a great deal of disagreement about this), and many other things.

I also think that the principles of relationship anarchy is particularly important and potentially useful for ace and aro people, simply because it is a model that inherently creates space for whatever kinds of intimate/interdependent relationships people want to build. The idea of making a lifelong commitment to someone that doesn’t involve sex and/or romance is still strangely revolutionary/unthinkable to many people, for instance, despite that fact that it may very be an ideal for many ace and/or aro people.

So, I guess I’m very happy to have this as a topic for the Carnival, and I look forward to reading everyone else’s submissions!


*er, ok, some kinds of relationship norms actually fit better with demisexuality than allosexuality (wait before having sex! Don’t do it with lots of people! or whatever), but nevertheless, within the (largely non-religious) dating eco-system where I find myself, it’s more of a problem than not.

Gender-neutral and/or non-binary alternatives to fangirl/fanboy

I found myself thinking recently about the lack of gender neutral or non-binary language for the terms fangirl and fanboy. I understand that ‘fan’ is actually gender neutral, but it doesn’t transfer to the verb form very well – ‘fanning out’ doesn’t quite work like ‘fangirling out’ does.

Anyway, a combination of googling and a call-out to my friends on facebook produced some pretty great options, and I wanted to share them here!

I only found one specifically non-binary term, but I’m ok with that because I kind of love it:

  • fanby. It’s a portmanteau of fan and enby, and I think it’s lovely.

Even given that, though gender neutral options are useful for talking a collective groups of fanbies, fangirls, and fanboys. So here’s the highlights of what my awesome friends (plus google) turned up:

  • Fanbody. I’m not even sure what I like about this one, but it definitely works. Fanbodies works too.
  • Fanchild/Fankid. I like that these linguistically matches boy/girl to some extent. They also seem to be what my enby friends use for the most part, so! I find fanchildren weirdly hilarious, and definitely like fankids as well.
  • Fanfolk. Or alternatively, fannish folk. This is only useful in the plural sense, I think, but I quite like it for that.
  • Fanpeep. So cute! Fanpeeps is also fab.

What do y’all think? Any other ideas?

Some positive genderqueer experiences: 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge part 29

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

Today’s prompt: Some positive genderqueer experiences

Full disclosure: I’m feeling a little burnt out on this writing challenge (or maybe on writing in general just now? Hard to say, but there may a blogging break in my near future). But I’m gonna finish this first by gum, because I’m so close now.

So, positive experiences relating to or resulting from being genderqueer! In over-long point form, as I think of them, because that’s how I roll:

  • There are few things that have been as thrilling to me as a genderqueer person as those first few times when someone looked at me and didn’t immediately slot me into one or another binary box. Even though I don’t specifically try to shape my appearance to defy that sort of categorization as much as I used to, the feeling of freedom that comes from escaping that miscategorization is one of the things that makes this entire journey worth it.
  • Any time anyone who isn’t me corrects someone else on misgendering me is great. It’s nice to know the entire weight of that isn’t always on me, and it makes me feel protected and cared for, always, even when it’s a relative stranger.
  • When coming out as genderqueer, the most positive responses take one of two forms: “Oh sorry, I didn’t know” followed by changing the language used to talk about me is kind of the gold standard in a bunch of ways, but I have also had moments where my coming out catalyzed interesting, thoughtful, and well-informed conversations about gender. The latter, though, is harder to pull off, and attempts more often leave me feeling drained or interrogated than energized or validated.
  • The moment when I realized I’d managed to successfully update my own internal sense of self as a non-binary solidly enough that part of me is genuinely confused when I am read as a binary gender was pretty cool. To me, I’m just so obviously not (though I get why people still slot me into one or the other box as a matter of course, for the record)

Non-binary readers, please tell me some of your positive experiences around being non-binary!


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