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.

Notes from a Presentation: An Introduction to Gender Variance

Earlier this year, I conducted a short program for my local PFLAG group titled “An Introduction to Gender Variance”. In 20-30 minutes, I tried to expose this group of almost-entirely cisgender people  to all the lovely varieties of gender out in the world, and it went surprisingly well.

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Pride

I have never really understood the concept of pride, okay? As such, I’m likely to offend someone. Instead of getting offended, though, please just explain how it is to you, because I am actually quite curious and maybe a little jealous. And you know, I’m not speaking out against Pride or pride, I’m just saying I don’t get it.

I grew up hearing that I should be “proud to be an American” – but I was never really sure why. For one, America isn’t the be-all end-all of awesomeness, and I refuse to pretend that my country can’t be improved. Whenever something good happens, I feel proud of the people involved in making that happen, but I never think “oh, I’m so proud to be American, because X just happened in the country.” If I didn’t do anything to make it happen, why should I be proud? Which brings me to my second and overarching reason for this post – I didn’t do anything to be an American. I was born in this country through no choice of my own and have never had to prove myself in order to claim the title of American (a topic for another day).

Pride is also a big queer thing. I should be proud to be asexual. I should be proud to be genderqueer. I should be proud to be transgender. Only … those aren’t accomplishments. Should I also be proud to have brown eyes?

I can say that I’m proud of the ace community much the same way I’m proud of the people who make good laws happen. I’m proud to be an out transqueer, but that is an accomplishment, in my mind. I’m proud to stand up with my peers for our rights – also an accomplishment. I take pride in my actions, in the actions of those around me, not in basic parts of identity that I can’t really control.

Maybe it’s because I also grew up hearing “don’t be proud” as a caution against overconfidence and haughtiness. So long as it’s not harmful to others, I have nothing against anyone who does take pride in their identity. I wish that I did – then I would always, always have something to be proud of. But I just don’t think that way. Anyone who does want to explain it to me?

January Carnival of Aces – Re/presentation

This month’s theme at the Carnival of Aces is re/presentation, and one of the idea questions was:

How do you think that those of us who are asexual should present ourselves to others as a group, if we should do so at all, and why?

Is it really possible for everyone on the asexual spectrum to present as a cohesive group? I rather think not. No more than it’s possible for everyone who identifies on the queer label to present as one group. We’re too diverse, with terribly diverse identities and goals. Each one of us wants something different out of our asexuality.

There is nothing in the technical definition of asexuality that says “no sex”; it’s not always part of an individual’s working definition. Sure, it’s probably true more often than not, but not wanting sex isn’t a requirement of being an asexual. So nobody can say, “The asexual community is looking for freedom from sex/ual contact.” And because not all asexuals are repulsed by the thought of sex, you can’t say, “Asexuals are looking from freedom from exposure to sexual ideas in society.” In fact, compare asexual me to my sexual mother. I think society needs to be a little more open about sex and variant sexualities. She feels … differently. Very differently.

By the technical definition, the only thing everyone in the community has in common is a lack of sexual attraction – and some of these people want sex and some don’t care terribly one way or the other and some would sex up only a certain person/people and some really really really don’t want sex. But by working definition, people who experience some sexual attraction but don’t want sex can also be considered part of the community. Take in counterpoint the gay community: every member of the gay community wants a sexual and/or romantic relationship with a member of the same gender.

All we seem to agree on as a community is that we want:
– widespread recognition and acceptance of asexuality as A Real And Valid Thing
– positive representation of asexuality in media
– less crap to deal with in personal lives regarding asexuality (a direct result of the first thing)

Here’s the problem with that: nobody can agree on what, exactly, asexuality should be. I mean, we have the technical definition, and that’s all well and good. But we’re inclusive, like I said above. Anyone who wants to identify with the asexual community can do so. There’s no card-check to be sure you don’t experience sexual attraction, and even among all those who don’t, there’s tremendous variation. So maybe we have this technical definition of asexuality, that means shit-all when you’re describing “a person who identifies with the asexual community” which, let’s face it, is what you’re looking for when you think about “an asexual”.

If you can’t put together a description of a person in the asexual community (“may or may not experience sexual attraction, may or may not desire sex, may or may not have a sexual history, may or may not have a sexual present, may or may not wish for a sexual future” is sort of unhelpful) the way you can put one for the gay community together (“would like a sexual and/or romantic relationship with same gender” is a pretty good working model), then it’s going to be harder to find actual goals that the entire community is working towards. And it’s really hard to take community goals that may or may not fit any given member’s personal goals and actually get somewhere with them. If you can’t describe an ace, you can’t describe what the ace wants. And this disunity of goals means that presenting the asexual community as one cohesive group is going to be nearly impossible.

But is that a bad thing? I think not. Celebrate diversity. Besides, the fact that we do stick together, that we are a real community and support each other’s similarities and differences, despite not having a cohesive presentation – that speaks more about the members of this community than anything else ever could. I’m proud to be part of a community built on diversity, acceptance, and support. That’s more important than any cookiecutter presentation could ever be.

On Identity

I’ve had some curious reactions to people saying “I identify as X Gender” lately, and I finally had the time to sit down and think about why. It’s all in the word ‘identify’ – how many cispeople ‘identify’ as their gender? They say “I am X Gender” without anyone batting an eye. Why isn’t that the norm for the rest of us?

I am some things. I identify as some things. I identify with some things. There is plenty of overlap, but you might be surprised at some of the categorization – I was. Let’s take a brief look at a few examples for me:

I am:
genderqueer
transgender
a procrastinator
grey-asexual
a high school graduate
caucasian
a college student
intelligent
kinky
I am not female.

I identify as:
genderqueer
transgender
asexual
kinky
To a lesser degree, I identify as a student, intelligent, caucasian, and a procrastinator.
I do not identify as grey-asexual, a high school graduate, a (specifically) college student, or female.

I identify with:
nonbinary-gendered people
the trans* community
the asexual community
students
intelligent people
kinky people
females and those with the cisfemale body type (however you’d like to word it)
I do not regularly or actively identify with caucasians, procrastinators, or high school graduates.

Look at that – I don’t identify as all of the things that I am. I threw in some silly examples to show that that’s pretty normal (many high school graduates don’t identify as such, especially if they are also college students and/or graduates), but there are some interesting ones in there too. I don’t identify as being disabled, though I am and identify with. I am grey-A but ID as asexual; in ‘identify with’ I count grey & demi as part of the community. I am not female, I do not identify as female, but I identify with females, as I’ve mentioned before, because we share many of the same issues/histories/relationships with our bodies.

That’s certainly not an exhaustive identification list, but (slightly silly illustrations aside) it’s pretty much my main list of this-is-who-I-am words. Which set do I use most often? “I identify as.” Because it’s a statement of fact in addition to being a statement on what matters most to me. (Things like caucasian and student are mostly dependent on the situation in which I am – in a race discussion, I identify (privately as well as publicly) as Caucasian, because I am aware of the extent to which that affects my views and knowledge; it is otherwise not an important part of who I am in my eyes.) And yet, I don’t phrase that list as “I identify as.” “I am” these things. I am all of the things I identify as*, and so much more.

So back to the original issue. When I say “I identify as genderqueer,” I feel like I have left a lot of room for discussion. I feel like I’m quietly whispering “probably” at the end of that sentence. I feel like people will think they have the right to question me. I feel like people will see ‘identify’ as weaker than ‘am’ – I feel like they won’t see it as a statement of fact and will take it instead as an opinion. This is why I say “I am genderqueer.” This is why I say “I am transqueer.” It is a fact. I don’t know why other people make different choices, though I’d love to hear any thoughts on the matter from other people.

I don’t want to hear that implied “probably” every time you say you identify as X, but I do. I hear it because I’ve had people hear me say it when I didn’t mean to. I hear it because somebody, somewhere is hearing it from you and questioning you, even if only silently. I hear it, and I will back you up to them until that “probably” disappears, until the day when I can stand up and say “I identify as genderqueer” and have it mean “I am genderqueer, and I take pride in being genderqueer, and I fight for genderqueers, and I stand by genderqueers.” Because that’s what I want it to mean.


Footnotes!
*asexuality is the interesting exception here. I am grey-asexual, but I identify as asexual without the grey. Part of that is because it’s just unwieldy, to me, to say “grey-a” all the time, but also, hmm. Here is what I said about it a month ago:
I’m not sure how to explain that. Clearly I identify with grey-A privately. But it is less trouble not to do so publicly. And it is not worth the explanation most of the time in not-public. (by which I mean, if you completely rule me out as a partner because I identify as ace, you’re really not going to change your mind when I’m grey-A (or if you do, it’s not going to work out), and I am saving us both some time by simplifying it some.)
And all of that is true, but it’s only part of the story. I do identify as grey-A privately, a little bit, enough to say “this is what I am”, but I identify more strongly as asexual. It’s like … I’m grey-A on a technicality, but I feel more at home with the plain aces. I’m cozier there. I’m not sure how to explain it, but each time I try, I get a little bit closer.

On the Conflatation of Sex & Gender

Once upon a time, s.e. smith wrote a post called How Shall I Describe My Body?, in which one finds the following quote:

But I wouldn’t describe myself as “female bodied” because my body is not “female,” it is genderqueer. I have a genderqueer body. Describing it as “female” not only erases my gender identity, it conflates gender and sex, it reinforces a binary view of gender, and specifically it reinforces a cis binary view of gender.

I am a genderqueer person. I have occasionally described myself as “female-bodied”; I occasionally identify internally with having a “female” body. Maybe there’s better language than this. I’ve seen “female-typical body” used, but I imagine that’s problematic in its own right, as well as being unwieldy. However, my body is shaped (and behaves) like a body that tends to indicate its inhabitant is female. That doesn’t change the fact that I am not female. However, it also doesn’t change the fact that I share something with people who have the same type of body, no matter if they’re female, genderqueer, or male. It’s that camaraderie that I am identifying with when I say that I have a female-typical body. Female-bodied is a regrettable shorthand that I have previously used; I’m making an effort to change my own language.

And yet, a part of me can’t help but think that yeah, my body is female. I am genderqueer; it does not agree. This is why I also identify as trans: there is a disconnect between what I am and what my body is. I am other than my body. How is it conflating gender and sex to recognize that my body’s sex is other than my gender? If anything, it’s the opposite of that. (Neither my brain nor my thesaurus offers any antonyms) What better way to deconstruct the link most cis people make between sex and gender than to openly and blatantly say, “My sex is female; my body is female. My gender is genderqueer; I am transqueer”?

I don’t feel like I’m conflating gender and sex. I even more don’t feel like I’m reinforcing a binary view of gender. If I feel the need to emphasize that my body is female, instead of saying “I am female”, then someone will realize that there’s a reason for that. Even more importantly to this, I have never called myself female-bodied without also stating my gender. There are things that I do that reinforce a binary view of gender. This is not one of them.

FONSFAQ: Genderqueer, gender expression, gender variance

Frequently (Or Not So Frequently) Asked Questions

Genderqueers, Gender Expression, and Gender Variance

The FONSFAQ project was started quite accidentally by dingsi; you can find more information about its history as well as a full list of subjects that have been covered at the topic masterlist. This particular list was started by pipisafoat, who decided to be productive with all the frustration ou was feeling about people’s general lack of awareness on genderqueer issues. The topic was expanded to be more inclusive, various people asked various questions, and some more people chimed in with answers. The GQ-FONSFAQ was born and continues to grow today. This post is a mirror of the original masterlist on Dreamwidth; most of the answers are hosted on DW as well.

What exactly is the topic of this FONSFAQ?

Genderqueer is a label that many people take as their primary gender identifier; it is also sometimes used as an umbrella term to include people who identify as genderfluid, bigender, transgender, agenda, third gender, etc. You may also see me use the term “GQMF” – this is just something that makes me giggle, and the term should not be taken too seriously. Gender expression is a blanket description of the things all people do that can reveal their gender identity. This includes the clothing/makeup/scents/shoes that people wear, the words that people use to refer to themselves and others, and the way people act. Even if you are not genderqueer, you express your views on gender constantly and probably not consciously. Gender variance, sometimes called gender nonconformity, is gender expression varies from and does not conform to the dominant gender norms – that is, the traditional binary genders of ‘male’ and ‘female’. Any questions or comments relating to these themes are welcome!

Answered Questions: A Link List

Genderqueer And Related Identities

  1. How do you know what gender you are? My question is referring to androgynous people, but also to everyone else on the spectrum: how do you know if the gender you were born with is ‘right’ or not? – answered by pip in an entry and lizcommotion in a comment
  2. What is the difference between being genderqueer and having an unusual but still binary gender presentation? Am I correct in thinking that being transgendered does not necessarily make one genderqueer? – answered by v_angelique in an entry and rhivolution in an entry
  3. How does genderqueer fit into the binary of cisgender and transgender? Is it separate and its own category? Is it possible to be genderqueer but okay with the world assuming you to be your assigned gender? – answered by pip in an entry
  4. Please discuss identity, presentation, and language as it concerns a genderqueer person within a plural group! – answered by haleskarth in an entry
  5. What are the words you use to describe yourself? How have those words changed, and/or what words have you used that you no longer use? – answered by pip in an entry and rabid_bookwyrm in an entry
  6. I’m asexual and genderqueer and I’d love to hear from somebody who’s had more experience with being both. But mostly I’m interested in learning how other people have separates sexual attraction, romantic attraction, and gender orientation? – answered by pip in an entry

Gender Presentation

  1. I’m good with my intellectual genderqueerness, but I’ve put very little effort into presenting it physically. For people who have been through this, where are some good places to start? – answered by pip in an entry and rabid_bookwyrm in an entry
  2. What sort of clothes/shoes do you like, as a genderqueer person, as those are very segregated in department stores? How do you feel about looking for clothes/shoes/other things to wear? Is there a particular style of dressing that you like and you feel adequately addresses your GQ-ness? If no, how do you reconcile this? – answered by pip in an entry
  3. How can presentation be shifted towards neutral while still embracing aspects of feminine and masculine clothing? For example, wanting to wear handmade earrings but still appear neutral or wanting to wear skirts. How can people with genderqueer identities present neutral while wearing gendered clothes and not just wear jeans and a t-shirt all the time? How can one be elegant and gender neutral? – answered by meloukhia in an entry
  4. Personal hygiene – do you prefer typically male or female products? – do you prefer typically male or female products? – answered by pip in an entry

Gendered Language

  1. Pronouns: Aside from the endless hassle of “getting people to use the right one,” what other issues are there? How about any other gendered language? – answered by pip in an entry

Education and Interaction as/with a Genderqueer

  1. I was wondering if anyone here would share their thoughts on gender neutrality as a concept and ways to talk about gender with children. Perhaps there are things you wish your parents had known or thought about while raising you? Perhaps you know of children’s books or media that has positive portrayals of people who don’t fit gender norms? – answered by indywind with a list of links on the subject
  2. How do you deal with being genderqueer in relationships? Telling partners, losing partners because you don’t fit into a “traditional” gender role, etc. – answered by pip in an entry
  3. Do other genderqueer individuals have similar experiences in spaces devoted to their biological sex? i.e., the muddling of sex and gender, the assumptions that they are equivalent and binary, to a degree where it is alienating and painful? What is an appropriate response? Am I the one transgressing into a space I do not belong, or is there a problem with cissexism leaving genderqueer females (or males) out in the cold? – answered by v_angelique in an entry

Debunking Genderqueer Mythologies

  1. ‘Nonbinary people don’t experience dysphoria’ – answered by meloukhia in an entry

Related Links (Please share if you find more!)

All Questions Previously Asked

How To Ask And/Or Answer Questions

This project is an ongoing one for as long as I can hack it. It is absolutely encouraged that you share this list with anyone and everyone. All people are welcome to participate in any way they see fit!

  • Have a question? Leave a comment with it! Please put “Prompt” in the subject line and limit yourself to one topic per comment, but feel free to leave as many prompts as you can think of!
  • Have an answer? Reply to the prompt with “Taken” in the subject line. I encourage you to type an entry and post it to your individual journal/blog or the FONSFAQ community on DW, but if you would prefer to leave a comment for an answer – better than nothing, so go for it! Please remember to leave a link to your answer when you post it. There can be an infinite number of answers to a question – please feel free to throw in your views on something that someone else has already weighed in on!
  • Have a topic you’d like to talk about that hasn’t been prompted yet? Leave a comment on this entry saying what it is and that you have taken it. Write your entry, post it, and leave us a link!
  • There is only one rule: be respectful of everyone. Any topic is welcome; just do your best to present it without insulting anyone. (A lot can be forgiven, but making an effort goes a long way towards that forgiveness.)