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.

Being Out (As Trans) At Work

I work in geriatric healthcare with a personal speciality of dementia – which, all in all, means I spend 40 hours each week hanging out with people who are living in the 40s as literally as one can in 2015. I live in a conservative state with people who are living in the 40s. This is … not conducive to being out at work in any sort of to-the-patients sense. I’ve talked about this before, and largely my feelings on the matter haven’t changed, but there’s a new dimension I never thought about before: coworkers.
Now, in most jobs, I wouldn’t be out to my boss or my boss’s boss or the person with more experience who has the boss’s ear, just because there are no protections for me if that’s why I’m tossed out of a job. It doesn’t matter how cool a boss seems about things; you pretty much don’t know until it’s too late to back out if you can safely come out or not. This also means I’m wary about being out to coworkers – who would tell the boss without thinking, who would tell the boss with the intent of getting me fired?
But there were two people at work who I trusted a lot – let’s call them T and E. I told T once when I was in her car for a 30-minute drive and very drunk. T was incredibly amused by my drunk self’s need to talk about everything, especially compared to my sober, early-morning, don’t-know-how-to-make-words self. The next day, T asked how much of the night I remembered – all of it – and if I had been serious about what I said about gender. I rambled a bit about how all of my gender theory is very wibbly-wobbly and I don’t always believe the same thing for more than an hour and I can believe totally contradictory things at the same time and yes, I am transqueer. T said, “Okay. I’m going to keep calling you ‘she’ to the patients because I don’t know what else to say and they definitely won’t. Let me know if I need to change anything like that, or if you tell someone else.” (The only change I told T was to never gender me before a patient did and to never disagree with that gender, whatever it is.) Nothing else changed in the slightest. If you’re wondering how to be a good ally – here’s your example.
Now, if you’re wondering how to be a bad ally, let’s talk about E. When I told her, she nodded and put on a very obvious “whatever you say, drunk person” face. When I confirmed the following day, she laughed. And then she started to make fun of my gender. And then she started to make fun of my gender in front of coworkers. And then she started to make fun of my gender in front of patients. I asked T what to do; T eventually stepped in and said “this is completely inappropriate but especially in front of patients.” (which, yes, it definitely was, and while me saying things had no effect on E, T at least got the mocking-in-front-of-patients to stop.)
E hasn’t said anything to the boss, per her own report, and I haven’t either, because I don’t know where the boss would fall on this. E’s side, against the queer? My side, against the blatant mockery? Other coworkers are largely staying out of it, which to me says that they are choosing not to join the mockery OR haven’t figured out what the mockery is about. T is staying out of it on my request – neither of us are sure where the boss would fall, and I can deal with E’s shit better if I’m not wondering “have I just signed my own pink slip or brought in another ally?”
I shouldn’t have to wonder that, though. It should be as clear-cut as when one coworker started badgering another about marriage – you’ve been dating for ten years, why aren’t you married, I’m getting married after dating for 3 years, why aren’t you getting married, being single is ridiculous – and the boss stepped down with a polite but firm smackdown of “her personal life isn’t yours to interrogate” and “how would you like it if she were acting like this to you, saying that getting married is ridiculous?” It stopped. Immediately. I should be confident that if I went to the boss with E’s badgering, the same thing would happen, but I could be fired instead.
And that needs to change.

The Gendered History, Part 4

This is the conclusion of this weekend series. I’ll be taking the next few weekends off before starting the next series (topic tbd). In the meantime, check back Wednesdays for continued unrelated posts!

The Gendered History is a personal history, the evolution and experience of my gender. As such, this series contains frank discussion of sexual maturation (specifically of the FAAB body & its genitals), gender dysphoria, expressions of dissatisfaction with body shape, disordered eating, direct physical self-harm, depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide, and similar issues. Other topics mentioned include unsafe chest-binding practices, alcoholism, heterosexism, cissexism, and related.

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When Not to Come Out (Or, It’s Not Always About Me, Except When It Secretly Is)

A couple weeks ago, I visited a home for adults with mental illness and cognitive disorders for a tour, as a precursor to potentially volunteering there. One of the residents was talking with me when another came up and interrupted: “Are you a boy or a girl?”

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