I expect most people will see that title and scroll on past, possibly unfollowing me in the process. That’s okay. For those of you that do read this, I hope you consider my thought processes and point of view and then engage in some respectful discussion if you disagree. (I would love to understand your point of view, if you can explain it with respect. Love.) Content note for this post: discussion of hate crimes, so expect violence (including lethal and sexual) and discussion of various identities.
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.
(Welcome to an impromptu four-part series on my intense love/dislike relationship with Orson Scott Card, posting daily this week.)
Orson Scott Card is an extremely prolific writer, primarily of science fiction and fantasy. One of his books is being made into a movie. He can’t seem to focus on one series at a time, and he can’t seem to decide when a series is over, returning to it years later with something completely different. He has created several distinct universes in which his characters reside, and he’s done it well enough that they stick in my head for decades after reading. Several of his books are on my favorites list. He’s also actively against most things I’m actively for, including basic human rights for all people.
There are people now getting concerned about Card’s involvement in the film adaptation of Ender’s Game. The studio doesn’t seem to be replying to the controversy. Many people are predicting Card won’t be involved in publicity, but others are saying his personal views are enough to taint the entire movie regardless. I’m not even going to pretend that his books aren’t themselves problematic from both feminist and queer points of view, because they are, but more on that later.
(Warning: the following post contains talk about experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts as well as dismissive and/or negative societal reactions to these. There is also mention of terminal illness.)