What I Want

No, I don’t want strangers to read me as a man. I’m not a man, why would I want strangers to think I’m a man? Would you (hypothetical non-male participant in this conversation) want people to read you as a man?

“oh, but I thought…”

I want people to read me as genderqueer. I want them to look at me and decide, hm, genderqueer. Isn’t that also what YOU (hypothetical binarily gendered participant in this conversation) want, or even expect? You expect people to read you as your actual gender, not something “close enough” that isn’t actually even close, don’t you?

“but realistically… people are only going to pick from male/female. Don’t you prefer one over the other?”

Say you have green hair. Would you prefer people think you have blue or red hair? Would you, (hypothetically) a binary cis woman, prefer people think you are genderfluid or genderqueer?

Why do I have to choose? I want people to read me as my gender, is that too much to ask? Apparently it is if I’m not a binary gender. But you asked what I want. I want to live in a world where my gender is an option on lists, and I want people to select that option for me. I want my gender to be affirmed every day in the thousand little ways that binary genders are affirmed, in bathrooms and honorifics and pronouns and “welcome, how may I help you, SIR”. I want to experience the relief and joy and affirmation my binary trans friends experience when they begin to transition and the world starts to read them correctly at last. Confusion is not good enough. Avoiding referring to me is not good enough. Being read half the time one way and half the time the other, and wrong all the time, is not good enough.

So, no. I don’t want to be called sir by random people. It’s not “close enough”. It’s NOWHERE near close to what I want, and you asked what I want.

What I Want

Gendered Spaces II

Some gendered spaces and how I interact with them

1. Bathrooms, obviously. I have to use one or the other. I have heard that transmasculine people should not use the women’s room because they have male privilege and may make women uncomfortable. Which is BS; people should use whatever they feel comfortable with, and everyone else can deal with it. I also hate choosing in front of people who I suspect are trying to fit me into the binary and will conclude that I am “really” whatever gender I choose, because obviously a REAL NB will go in both simultaneously, by quantum superposition. I use whichever feels easier, which has recently usually been the women’s, for a bunch of reasons that I just go with and don’t overthink anymore (I’m still on break from overanalysing my gender feelings).

2. Sports. I used to do judo competitively, and have not in several years. I’ve been wanting to go back, but the septum ring is inconvenient, and also the gender thing. It makes sense for me to compete with other estrogen-based people, but I did not think I could do that and still expect my gender to be respected. Reading about Harrison Browne, an openly transgender man competing in women’s hockey, was very encouraging and made me realise I don’t necessarily have to choose between competing and my gender. (I know people who would say “you can’t have it both ways”, but fuck that trans-erasure noise.) The other good news is that sports at non-competitive levels is much less gendered. I am looking into joining an MMA gym casually, most of which seem to be mixed-gender. I also rock climb casually.

3. Affirmative action (?). Improv tends to be male-dominated. Some improvisers in my city decided to start an all female team in order to combat that, which was annoying. Like… there are other gender minorities whose voices also need amplification? I mean, if you want to have an all female team, sure, but then you don’t get to market it as “combating male domination” imo. Their branding has indeed shifted away from that over time though, so it is less problematic now. People who don’t even consider nonbinary people when discussing gender diversity really annoy me though. I also occasionally get invited to “women in engineering” events and to apply for Google’s women’s scholarships, neither of which are things I feel comfortable doing. idk.

4. Single gender schools. I actually went to a girls’ school a few years before even realising I might not be a girl. Being away from boys who were constantly assumed to be better at certain things did wonders for my confidence and gave me space to excel in those things. Other than a bit of gender policing and compulsory femininity (“we’re teaching you to be cultured young ladies”), it was great. This is why I am hesitant when people suggest that we should get rid of gender segregation altogether. I think what we actually need is better categories, more permeable borders, and to let people choose and move between categories.

Gendered Spaces II

Gender Diversity in Gendered Spaces

I have had heated discussions with transpeople about this. I know (trans)people who think that non-women should never make use of “female” spaces and non-male people should never make use of “male” spaces.

I think that that is a cis-centric way of thinking of the world, and strongly believe that gender diverse people should do whatever works for them with regards to gendered spaces. The vast majority of gendered spaces are designed for cis people, and do not work very well for gender diverse people. It’s not our fault that designers of gendered spaces have no idea and/or don’t care that we exist, and thus we have the right to make the best of the situation by doing whatever works best for us. It pisses me off that people think gender diverse people should deny ourselves resources for the sake of semantics.

If a uterus-owning person feels they will benefit from a motherhood support group, more power to them. If a transwoman feels comfortable on a gay dating app, more power to her. Gay men aren’t obligated to date her, obviously, but if that’s what works for her, what skin off anyone else’s back is it? If you are going to have a scholarship for women when it makes more sense for that to be a scholarship for gender minorities, I am going to shamelessly apply for it.

Sometimes transpeople find themselves in single-gender schools. I know people who think they should remove themselves ASAP, and have no right to demand people gender them correctly. That is not how school works, and centers cis feelings over transpeople. Leaving a school is disruptive, difficult and takes time? And if someone comes out at your school and you now KNOW there is one gentleman present, is it that hard to stop addressing everyone as “ladies”? This isn’t about “men making female spaces adapt to them”, this is about cis spaces refusing to acknowledge and adapt to trans realities.

Anyway, here is a story about Harrison Browne, the first openly transgender man competing in women’s hockey. He is putting his medical transition on hold in order to keep competing, and that is what works for him. His teammates respect his gender identity, as they should. Somebody making use of a gendered space that isn’t named their gender is not invitation to misgender them, or decide that they are “really” that gender. Should he instead join the men’s team? No, if that’s not what he wants. Gender categories in sports make no sense anyway; where are nonbinary people supposed to go? It makes more sense for people to be categorised by testosterone/estrogen levels if the advantage of one over the other is significant enough that we must have separate categories, and it is helpful for many gender variant athletes to think of the categories that way when the only other option is to stop doing a sport they love.

There are many barriers to gender diverse people doing sports, and lots of other things, because the cisheteropatriarchy did not think to make space for us. Yes, gendered spaces need to do much better, but it is unfair to expect us to simply not do those things until the world catches up and creates nonbinary judo tournaments. Meanwhile I think that (1) gender diverse people should be allowed wherever they feel comfortable and it makes sense for them to be, and (2) their genders should be respected while there.

Gender Diversity in Gendered Spaces

Gender Break

In which I take a break from taking a break from thinking about gender to bring you: Week One Update.

I have identified as trans for at least half a year, but never quite settled completely into it. A shakeup is due. For a while now I’ve been feeling a building amount of angst about my labels. I started on the daily blogging series #31daysoftransvisibility to find out if that would help me feel more secure in my trans identity, but it did not. Eventually, last weekend, I had a minor gender crisis (actually a rather regular occurrence), jettisoned all my gender words, abruptly left my trans support group which I talked to A LOT, etc. So I have been on gender break.

Not being in the support group group-chat has given me much needed space and time away from constant trans Discourse. (The group has grown in recent months, and slowly moved in that direction, with very clear lines between “us” and “the cis”.) I also took down this blog for a few days. Both of these things removed the regular reminder/pressure that I’m “supposed” to be trans, and that a significant part of my identity and social life has grown around that. I have also put myself on a mental gender break, during which I will not scrutinise, attempt to label, or put pressure on my gender feelings, I will use my brainspace for other things, and I will focus on the non-gender related aspects of my identity.

My gender is <comfortable silence> . I have been much gentler with myself and things are a lot quieter in my head, which is a huge relief. Today out of the comfortable silence words (nonbinary girl) tentatively emerged for how I feel, but I’m still not putting pressure on them yet. Am I trans? <shrug, more comfortable silence>. I feel strongly that people can claim the label “trans” if they want, and that nonbinary people are “by definition” trans. And so I had claimed the label, and had always been political about it, because lots of people would deny us that right. But hey, maybe it just doesn’t fit right now? That is perfectly fine, and we are all good, and it is going to be okay.

(This blog is pretty much now a gender blog, which was not the original intention when I started it… I might decide to write about other things here, in view of the gender break. Apologies to everyone who only follows me for Gender Talk :P)

Gender Break

Gentle Reminder to Cis People before #TDOV

It is transphobic to say about a transwoman: “wow, she has better legs/makeup/hair/etc than me”.

Why is this a compliment? You would not say that about cis women. Angelina Jolie has better legs than you? Of course she does. Laverne Cox has better legs than you? Suddenly surprising. The implied second half of “she’s prettier than me!” is “…and I’m a real woman”. The implied premise is “all cis people are prettier than all transpeople”, and so you assume that transpeople will be happy to hear that you find them an exception.

Femininity and womanhood do NOT belong to cis women. Trans women and gender non-conforming femmes are not “trying to become women,” we are women and femmes.

Cis people are not the arbiters of gender. Transpeople do not aspire to meet your cissexist standards, and do not need your backhanded validation. Stop being surprised that a transperson might have X attributes that are more attractive to you than you, a random cis person, who is not (gasp) a standard that everyone aspires towards.

(This post is an expansion on the small block-quoted idea of the many in this post by Alok Vaid-Menon on transmisogyny.)

 

Gentle Reminder to Cis People before #TDOV

Canned Gender Worms

Lately I have been thinking about worms and cans.


I came across this post about being cis-by-default, and that is definitely how I used to feel about my gender. I, and a proportion of cis people, happily identif(y/ied) as the gender we were assigned at birth because that’s what we were told, and we never had much reason to think about it.

If we define “having a gender identity that matches assigned gender” as being “true cis”, a significant amount of cis people are not truly cis in that sense, and are only cis-by-default. (The corollary is that defining cis that way, as most transpeople do, erases the experiences of and alienates cis people who do not experience being cis that way, and a better definition may be “not actively disidentifying with assigned gender”, an oft-conflated but non-equivalent alternative.)

Some survey results:

I only identify with my birth gender by default: 681, 45.3%
I strongly identify with my birth gender: 586, 39.0%

As for me, being female never bothered me until I started reading about gender theory and trying to put my finger on my gender identity, a thing I was told I should have. Since beginning to experiment with gender, I have discovered that I do have an internal sense of gender; it just hadn’t been announcing its presence too loudly, and I had to tune in to it with experimentation. In the process I also became gender-adjacent, and gender started taking up a lot of brain space and being very difficult to deal with.

My suspicion is that if many, or maybe even most, cis-by-default people spent a few months thinking about it intensely they might identify as something else. The flipside is that had I had less free time on my hands and been less motivated in trying to find accurate labels, I would still be identifying as cis. Would I go back to being cis? Had I never learned or tried out the word nonbinary, would I be happier, with less dysphoria, more accompanying cis-privileges and more mental capacity to think about other things? (And also, does this make me Fake Trans?)


Someone left a comment on my #31daysoftransvisibility series about ignoring their feelings about gender until “you find yourself married and realizing that you should have taken care of this before”. Then it hit me that unopened cans of worms are still there.

Lots, in fact the vast majority, of cis-by-default people live their entire lives being happily cis. But also some of them/us realise at some point that we are not, in fact cis, and adjust accordingly.

Canned Gender Worms

Androgynous Benefits

You know what really pisses off cis “”allies””? Trans people who are happy and/or *gasp* proud of being trans.

I once got into an argument with some dude who thought I was taking advantage of “the system” by using whichever bathroom was convenient. Wow being able to pee. So advantage. Very benefit. But to be honest, so what if there are benefits? It’s not like people are being trans for the benefits. Some people are only okay with trans people as long as it doesn’t seem like we are getting anything out of it, and have enough proof of Suffering.

That is also the unfortunate thinking behind people only convinced by the “born this way” argument: we only support the queers because they’re born that way and can’t help it, poor dears. Obviously nobody would choose to be queer if they could be cishet, the clearly superior option.

“I’m really sorry you are afflicted with this condition, and I will respect your pronouns out of my amazing magnanimity and kindness. I may withdraw this support as and when I see fit, if at some point I decide you are not Real Trans enough by my standards. God bless my tolerant heart :3”

The fact that some people are proud to be trans disrupts the idea that granting people basic dignity is an amazing act of charity performed for the poor and downtrodden as proof of being a good person.

I do not like that so much of trans activism even by trans people centers the trans experience on suffering. “being trans is really hard and we wouldn’t do this for fun” is convincing but not true for every transperson: literally the only requirement for being trans is to not identify solely as your gender assigned at birth, suffering 100% optional. Yes, depression and suicide rates are staggeringly high among transpeople, but do you really need to wait until somebody is about to kill themselves before you believe they are what they claim to be?

This idea hurts transpeople who may feel like their identities and genders are invalid if they are not suffering for them. But I started this post with the express purpose of pissing off cis people, so here is a short list of Benefits that I shamelessly enjoy, some by passing myself off as whichever binary gender is convenient, because it’s not my fault that most people don’t know that my gender exists:

  • I get to use whichever toilet has the shorter queue
  • Ladies’ nights. *shrug*
  • Being able to compliment strangers on the train without coming across as threatening
  • Platonic physical contact with friends of all genders without coming across as weird
  • I get to pick and choose social norms to adhere to, especially re: dress codes, makeup, and dance parts
  • Actually I just get to escape a lot of gender policing because people don’t know which set of rules to apply to me
  • I can potentially date people of any gender and orientation
  • 300% of opportunities for gendered jokes
  • Trans community
  • A great filler conversation in awkward situations
    • *awkward silence*
    • “so did you hear? I’m trans :)”
  • Androgynous strangers don’t bother me the way they seem to bother some cis people
  • There seem to be quite a number of androgynous models right now. So many benefits! No need to employ two separate people to model your male and female lines! See also: acting. I will play any gender, someone employ me pls…
  • Sports. I’ve been thinking about this, and decided it makes the most sense for me to participate in the same category as other predominantly estrogen-driven people.
  • Just by leaving my house and living my life I confuse and inconvenience the cisheteropatriarchy. My existence and happiness are revolutionary.

 

Additional reading on being “born this way”:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/09/queer-by-choice-not-by-chance-against-being-born-this-way/244898/

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160627-i-am-gay-but-i-wasnt-born-this-way

https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/born-way-bad-defense-need-stop-depending

Androgynous Benefits