Archive for the ‘genderqueer’ tag
I’ve used this before to refer to genderqueer people who apparently don’t want to transition, largely in response to certain bloggers who attacked binary trans people (and especially trans women) for transitioning and being conservative/regressive, as well as some gross comments I’ve heard and seen from others in various places about transitioning trans people (always assumed to be binary). But these are not from a majority of genderqueer or non-binary trans people I’ve talked to – really only a few.
But I think this is oxymoronic and inaccurate. And I think, as a guest poster discussed a few months back, it plays into the “trans enough” thing that I don’t think any of us win. And I mean, like I said, I have played into this. I am not going to say that this is a huge cause of divisiveness among trans people (but it is a cause), but only because there are so many and I think certain other tendencies are much worse. But that doesn’t really make it okay?
So, the assumption behind cissexual is that you have someone who doesn’t want to transition, and has no issues with their body or how their body is gendered. And I don’t believe this is actually true for all non-transitioning genderqueer people. I have heard from at least a few genderqueer people that transition is inaccessible to them without lying, and perhaps without a transition that doesn’t fit their needs – and that they are not comfortable with their bodies but have no place to go… or they transition from one binary position to the other because it is the lesser of two evils.
And this is really about access to health care and transition, and about how WPATH and the DSM privilege binary transitions about everything else, and how medical ethics say that it’s wrong to alter a human body into a form that wouldn’t “exist naturally,” whatever that is supposed to mean.
When you are looking at a trans person who has not accessed transition or has not fully accessed transition, and who has a non-binary gender, you don’t really know how they relate to their body and sex and gender and whether they’re okay with their state of transition or lack thereof. I would rather err on the side of caution and deal with what people say and do before applying labels to their bodies that may fit very poorly.
Post edited to remove erasure and a bit of fail
Appropriation of genderqueer identities seems to be trendy in several communities I’m in lately, so I thought talking about how it occurs – and what it reinforces both on a community level and systemically – would be a good place to start with my guest blogging. None of this, however, should be an excuse for binary gendered people (especially cis people) to decide who is and isn’t genderqueer enough.
First, I’d like to talk about what genderqueer is and isn’t. Genderqueer, in terms that are likely to fit everyone who is genderqueer, is having a gender where neither man nor womon is a fully adequate description of it. Or, as I tend to view gender as an interaction between one’s self and others, genderqueer is the state of constantly being misgendered in some way in a binary gendered culture. There are varying levels of discomfort with that, and many genderqueer people prefer being read one way or another, whether because of comfort or safety, but genderqueerness will always be somewhat unintelligible to the dominant culture as long as the dominant culture constructs gender as a binary. In some ways, this is a source of shared experience with binary gendered trans people; the difference is that while many binary gendered trans people have the experience of their gender being read correctly by the majority of the people around them all or a majority of the time, this isn’t really a possibility for a genderqueer persyn on an individual level (unless one were to limit oneself to a very definitive social circle who “gets it” and not interact outside of that, which is impractical and generally undesirable).
Things genderqueer is not:
1) between male and female; while some genderqueer people identify as between male and female and/or man and womon, not all relate to binary gender in such a simple way, and some do not define their identity in reference to binary gender at all.
2) between trans and cis. One, many genderqueer people access some form of medical transition (which, while it affects the power relations between oneself and others, is irrelevant to whether one is trans or not). Two, not being adequately described by man or womon self-evidently makes one trans.
3) not all genderqueer people use genderqueer pronouns! They don’t make anyone more or less genderqueer, and people have a lot of varied reasons behind their pronoun choices. I tend to say genderqueer pronouns rather than gender neutral pronouns, as I, and a whole lot of other people who use them, have a whole lot of gender; this isn’t to imply that they’re the only pronouns used by genderqueer people.
When I’m talking about genderqueer identities being appropriated, I’m mainly concerned with cis people, as binary gendered trans people don’t have the systemic power to oppress other trans people, though, of course, appropriation can cause hurt, even if it isn’t systemically oppressive. We’ll look at the reasons that cis people might appropriate genderqueer identities, and then discuss what it looks like, and what sort of responses might be appropriate, from binary gendered and genderqueer people.
Cis people appropriate genderqueer identities for several reasons. One of the biggest is as a political statement. This occurs when someone decides that they are totally down with smashing the gender binary, and that they’ll show it by taking on a genderqueer identity. Closely related to this are people who appropriate a genderqueer identity to “shake things up” in what they perceive to be a particularly heteronormative community or region. Both of these share the common theme of appropriating other people’s identities and oppressions to serve what the appropriator perceives as a good ends, thus using other people, whom they have hierarchical power over, as a means to an end. While creating a culture where all genders, not just those of man or womon, are viewed as equally valid should certainly be part of any larger anti-oppression goal, reifying cissexism to do it is not going to accomplish it. In the latter case, a cis persyn’s judgment of a community or region in regards to transphobia are very likely to not be entirely accurate, and serves to mask that transphobia is one of the vital means of control and oppression of the entire dominant culture.
Some other reasons that genderqueer identities get appropriated are to seem radical and cool – as an attempt to grab attention and positive regard from one’s community. While certainly everyone in a community should start from a point of getting attention and positive regard, this is a busted way to do it – as it’s a way of getting perceived positive aspects of being genderqueer without getting the actual negative. The final most common reason that comes to mind is someone claiming a genderqueer identity only when called out on misogynistic or transphobic behavior. Yes, all genderqueer people are, to varying extents, subject to sexism and cissexism (as they are neither men (or at least not uncomplicatedly men) or cis), however, one’s behavior can still reflect the oppressive dynamics of the dominant culture even if one isn’t privileged along that axis – trans people can enact transphobic behavior against other trans people, people who experience misogyny can be misogynistic toward other people who experience misogyny, etc. So, first off, it doesn’t get one out of the busted actions one did, and secondly, generally, it’s pretty transparent.
So what does this appropriation of genderqueer identities do? The most obvious effect is that it makes it harder for actual genderqueer people to get their identities recognized and respected. Either people trivialize what it means to be genderqueer, portraying it as either a fashion choice, or nothing more than a statement of views about the world, or they view people that don’t match the legitimate, to their binary gendered perceptions, of genderqueer as appropriating genderqueerness. The people most subject to being viewed as not legitimately genderqueer are genderqueer femmes and genderqueer people who are perceived to have been assigned male at birth. This is because the people who to binary gendered perceptions are most obviously genderqueer are those who fit the most common expression of genderqueerness accepted by larger trans and queer communities: perceived to be assigned female at birth, white, college educated, young, thin, temporarily able-bodied, and masculine in a way that is often perceived as boyish.
The more serious concern is that when cis people can appropriate genderqueer identities for their own ends, there is no need for actual genderqueer people. The appropriation of genderqueer identities makes it easier to erase us, our lives, and our identities. Who needs to acknowledge the existence of actual genderqueer people or their needs when one can just put on a mask of genderqueerness whenever one feels like?
People who appropriate genderqueer identities are often only genderqueer when convenient, which is different from managing one’s outness in regards to safety. Generally, it’s only something that comes up when the appropriator feels they have something to gain from putting on a facsimile of a genderqueer identity – whether it’s avoiding accountability for their words and actions, or trying to force conversations about genderqueerness in particular or transness in general to be about them, it’s about fulfilling their wants and needs.
None of this is to say that binary gendered (and particularly cis) people should feel free to disrespect the identities of anyone they feel is appropriating a genderqueer identity. Normally, that’s not your call to make. People with a binary gender, and especially cis people, should never disrespect the pronoun preferences of someone, even if they feel their identity is appropriative. In general, people with a binary gender should focus on the harmful actions that are occurring, and not their judgment of someone’s identity. It’s vital that we work to create communities where it’s safe for genderqueer people to be out and articulate their identities, particularly those who are often invisibilized, erased, or silenced, and binary gendered people deciding who is and isn’t genderqueer does the exact opposite of that.
Some important notes: while it’s occasionally useful to talk about community dynamics for groups of genderqueer people in terms of them being AFAB or AMAB (Assigned Fe/male At Birth), it’s generally pretty busted to use that to categorize individual genderqueer people. While some genderqueer people do feel that the sex/gender they were assigned at birth is a part of their identity, many of us do not, and it’s invasive and cissexist to ask anyone what they were assigned at birth, particularly as a way for a binary gendered persyn (or, especially, a cis persyn) to decide whether they’re “really” genderqueer or “trans enough”.
Also, conversation here needs to center genderqueer people, and not the concerns of cis people or binary gendered trans people have about genderqueer people.