Outside Questions: How can someone tell if they are transgender or genderqueer?

For the first time, I’m tackling a question someone asked elsewhere and posting it here. It’s not an uncommon question, it’s not an easy question, and it’s not even a completely clear question, terminology-wise. How can someone tell if they are transgender or genderqueer?

The first thing I want to address is what may be implied by the “or”. A person can be both transgender and genderqueer. I am one such person! I sometimes shorthand it to “transqueer”, but I also sometimes shorthand “speed limit” to “splimit”. I am genderqueer because that is my gender. I am transgender because my gender does not match my assigned at birth sex, and because I say so. It’s important to note that not all genderqueer people are trans; you only are if you say you are. This is a word you can choose for yourself, not a word you can choose for someone else (excepting cases of choosing for a fictional person, though I know writers who would argue that even the fictional person is choosing for themself and that you’re just writing down their choice).

Second: how can you tell if you’re transgender? Like I said, this is a personal choice. Most people look at the definition of “gender different from the sex assigned at birth” and then, if the definition fits, choose if they wish to use this word. Some people use it for a while and then stop using it for various reasons, none of any more or less value than others. This word is a choice. This word is for YOU to choose for YOU. Not for someone else to choose for you. Not for you to choose for someone else. For you to choose for yourself, and for you to respect another person’s choice regarding whether or not it is used for them.

Third: how can you tell if you’re genderqueer? This is even more personal, I think. This is your personal journey with your gender identity and gender expression and even in what words you like best and least. If you’re not sure, I would start by reading other people’s accounts of their own journeys, or of their feelings and perceptions and experiences of being genderqueer. Here’s mine. Google (or another search engine of your choice) will help you find more, I’m sure.

An extra note: how can you tell if someone else is transgender or genderqueer?

By listening to what they say. By reading what they write in their online profile, on their Facebook page, in a letter or email, on their forehead in Sharpie if that’s how they choose to tell others. If you suspect but aren’t sure, don’t tell others that they are. I would even caution against a straight question, unless you’ve already expressed multiple times (sincerely, honestly, understandably) that you are supportive of this person regardless of their gender. If you haven’t expressed that but want to ask, start expressing it. Make your friendperson feel safe with you, and they’re more likely tell you whether you ask or not. Make them feel unsafe, insecure, or unsure, and they’re not likely to tell you at all.


7 thoughts on “Outside Questions: How can someone tell if they are transgender or genderqueer?

  1. This is a really welly rounded article. I like that you focused on it being the individuals epxerience/s and choice in terminology that matters the most, because too often people ignore that and try put the own definition or terminology on someone else. Thanks!

  2. Ultimately gender and the expression thereof is highly personal and individual. This is a great and wonderful thing, but of course it has its downsides. Precisely because it is so personal and unique is what makes it so hard for other people to understand and is also why it is so hard to come up with common definitions and understandings…

    • It is harder to understand without rigid definitions, but people manage to understand male and female genders without rigid definitions, whether they realize it or not. I would rather someone be aware that they don’t entirely understand but know how to respectfully interact with others (i.e. using the words the individual has chosen) than to provide a false sense of complete understanding and let someone put their foot in their mouth. I’m hoping I’ve accomplished, or at least started to accomplish, that goal here!

  3. I keep coming back to this article and love reading it. I was wondering if you’d be open to me sharing/posting it on my blog with all credit to you and links back to this website of course. I couldn’t find a way to reach you other than to comment, so if you’re interested, just send me an inbox through my blog’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/thegayav?fref=ts)

    • I’m sorry; I didn’t see this comment until now. You can of course share this and any other content as long as I’m credited with a link back to this blog. I’m glad you feel strongly enough about this to ask!

  4. Pingback: Outside Questions: How can someone tell if they are transgender or genderqueer? | The Queer Av

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