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Men’s Toilets

21 Apr

Over the last few months I’ve been using the men’s toilets, on occasion, however I am still more comfortable with unisex or female toilets despite my facial hair. There have been jokes about me being a bearded lady, maybe that’s why I’ve not had a problem (thus far) in female only spaces…? Do they really think I have this affliction (facial hair) and allow me into the women’s bathrooms because they feel pity for me? Surely not…

Anyhow I’ve been choosing the men’s bathrooms if a) I am out and about with someone else who is male/passes as male; b) I feel confident enough; c) the other toilets available have a crazy long line and I really need to pee (and am feeling brave); d) I don’t feel safe walking into the women’s; e) I am not with family; f) I feel like I don’t have a choice.

Other thoughts:
– I still do not feel okay around male family members and being in the men’s toilets with them, which is hugely around me not having really said much about being on T or my facial hair.
– I’ve walked out of a few men’s toilets after walking in and feeling my confidence vanish. There are so many “rules” in the men’s bathroom, like don’t look at anyone or make small talk (which I’ve been socialised with being brought up as a girl).
– Why is there only one cubicle in a men’s bathroom!?!?
– I fluctuate between still feeling like I am an impostor when I go into men’s toilets, and knowing that men don’t really pay attention to who walks in or what they look like (but still…)
– I will be visiting Europe in August and September so that will be an interesting experience on the topic of what toilets do/should I use.

Would this genderqueer marry?

20 Aug

Relationship challenge no. 220 of being genderqueer/non-binary (and in a poly relationship). Somewhere in the last few weeks the discussion about long-term, committed and monogamous relationships have come up in conversation with friends.

Unbeknownst to me some people think that because I am (a) genderqueer/non-binary, and (b) in a poly relationship, that I would not want to marry. I suppose the dilemma might be how do I fit into the current “Mr. & Mrs” title, or that because I am in a relationship with a (technically) married man that I couldn’t, or wouldn’t want to “walk down the aisle”. This lead me to asking myself the question of, if I could get married would I want to? If the answer is yes then I can start to find what term I would use instead of “Mrs”. What I dislike, what triggered me, is the assumption that genderqueer/non-binary equals not wanting to marry. Those closest to me were basically trying to tell me that getting married/weddings look one way, and one way only—completely conformed to traditional gender expectations. It would be a challenge to negotiate issues of gender expectations while navigating the wedding world, and/or trying to plan a wedding that felt authentic and unique to me.

So, this got me questioning that tired old argument that “marriage is between a man and a woman”. Do people who believe that, believe that those who identify as genderqueer/non-binary in any fashion should not be allowed to marry at all? Is that what I am actually dealing with? It feels really hard now to be vulnerable and open myself and my relationship to possible criticism, exclusion, or just confusion, regarding gender role assumptions or heteronormative expectations; let alone when it comes from friends and family. No one should have to feel uncomfortable and outside of a range of ‘normal’ in order to celebrate their (legal!!!) marriage and loving relationship, especially when all someone might need and want is to feel represented and celebrated for their uniqueness and beauty. Keep in mind, these were all good-intentioned friends and family (they just weren’t educated on what it means to be genderqueer/non-binary), who understood my gender and relationship status, but also had some presumptions as to how “weddings work” (and trying to put me/my experience into a box), thanks to the very gendered wedding industry.

Then two days ago I was reminded of these latest conversations while driving home from work and hearing the following lyrics of Missy Higgins’ “The Special Two”:

When you’re young you have this image of your life
That you’ll be scrupulous and one day even make a wife
And you make boundaries you’d never dream to cross
And if you happen to you wake completely lost 

When I was a small child, being raised as a little girl (although tomboyish) I too dreamed of marriage and a wedding. Playing pretend in kindergarten involved white sheets to make up a dress, and creating a circle of teddy bears and dolls to represent the guests. I felt okay marrying my best female friends, boys I had crushes on, and daydreaming about one day being a “Mrs” to my favorite superstar. In adolescence when I accepted my attraction as queer I still fantasied about two wedding dresses / going in drag and wearing a suit, while attending rallies for same-sex marriage. I still have an old notebook full of my collages from magazines, which included pages of wedding images and ideas. The bridal wear section in op shops as an adult was often a must just so I could try on meringue-looking dresses while laughing at the hilarity of it all, sometimes even joking that I would one day walk in the Zombie Shuffle with a blood-spattered dress because “even zombies deserve the right to get married”.

Now with everything that’s been said I am just not sure anymore…

Preferred name and pronouns at work – Part 2

10 Mar

Yesterday I was approached by one of my work colleagues, who happens to be a gay male, wanting to discuss my recent email. He wanted to know why I sent it, what gender neutral pronouns were and how on earth you would expect someone to use ‘they’ while you could just use their first name (ok valid point). He then progressed into asking me if I was a hermaphrodite… At that point I was caught between thinking “what the… did he just say that?” and wondering if I should explain to him how:

a) that term is perhaps not appropriate;
b) explaining the difference between intersex and trans*; and
c) that is none of his business (which I didn’t in fact think about until this morning).

Throughout the last week several counsellors have thanked me for my email, asked me about it a little further and also helped educated others who have not felt comfortable enough to approach me. I however, wrongly, assumed that some of the queer staff at work would have some idea about gender diversity. By the end of yesterday I actually felt quite upset and angry that I allowed myself to be so vulnerable and didn’t have my wits about me to say how that question was both inappropriate and non of his business.

Overall however I had over 15 emails acknowledging my request, congratulating me and supporting me. One person asked, via email, if I could clarify whether I would like my preferred name and gender neutral pronouns to be applied only when dealing with clients who may refer to me by name and/or in general. Thankfully my response didn’t reflect my thoughts and feeling of ‘what part of preferred name and pronouns do you not understand!?’.

30 Day Genderqueer Challenge Day 22

9 Feb

Discuss how your clothes do or don’t reflect your gender.

I am so pleased I got asked this question because it has been on my mind since I had a discussion with a friend about gender, clothes and femininity. We had begun to talk about starting T and I talked about my own experiences and how initially I felt I was trying to be ‘seen’ as genderqueer, which meant changing what I wore and binding my breasts. Now I dress less masculine, however I am still not 100% comfortable with wearing dresses or skirts again, unless it is for a fancy dress event. As we were talking my friend mentioned that they had a female jacket that they didn’t feel comfortable wearing yet because it was too feminine. Somewhere between them telling me about the jacket and my brain mulling it over I realised how sad it was that clothes were being perceived to have a gender.


(Re)framing Gender

17 May

Last night I prepared a short piece for (Re)framing Gender fundraiser and IDAHOBIT event. Originally it must a much larger piece that I had submitted to ‘Letters for my Siblings’, which got turned down. I re-wrote the piece in place of not having had enough time to develop a drag/gender performance for the night.

I wanted to share it on here as I’m needing to shorten my ten-minute piece down to five minutes to ensure no-one is left out. This is what I would have read if time allowed…


30 Day Genderqueer Challenge Day 19

11 Dec

Do you feel comfortable answering questions about your gender to friends? Acquaintances? Strangers?

I was just about to say that I am more than happy to answer questions about gender in general, but I guess when it comes down to my gender it depends on who asks.

Sometimes it is easier when it is coming from a stranger, for example when I might be facilitating or running training around Trans* 101 or gender diversity. No one knows me so I don’t really care about other people’s judgements and am more than comfortable challenging inappropriate questions or assumptions made.

Acquaintances, especially people who I might be starting to get to know, sometimes make me feel a little more uncomfortable in answering questions about my gender. A work colleague for example would trigger a mild anxiety attack as I feel uncomfortable as is being ‘me’ at work. I think everyone assumes I am a lesbian and no one has ever asked anything else about me. I’ve told a select number of people at work about my involvement within the trans* community and disclosed my pronoun preference, but that is about it. My comfort level with other acquaintances really depends on many factors like how did I meet this person, do they understand the basic trans* stuff, what questions are they asking and how do they identify.

Very few friends (who aren’t trans* themselves) have asked me about my gender and overall I am more than happy to answer. I have to say one or two people have asked me very personal and possibly inappropriate questions, which at the time I answerd too quickly and honestly. It wasn’t until I was recounting the conversation with trans* friends that they flagged it as not appropriate – even for someone who I consider a friend. I suppose at the time I got caught up on ‘educating’ them about trans* stuff that I didn’t think about what questions were ok not to answered. For this reason I’ve often referred people to the Dude Trans Male Zine section of appropriate and inappropriate questions.

Adapted from the 30 day Trans challenge and the 30 day [GSM] challenge

30 Day Genderqueer Challenge Day 16

7 Aug

How does your gender factor in to your future plans?

I think gender will always factor in my future plans; wether it be a year, five or more.

Reflecting back on my 30-something years I can see gender clearly:
– pronounced ‘female’ at birth
– called a tomboy in kindergarden
– thought I was a boy in primary school
– enjoyed dressing in pretty pink dresses as much as I scraped my knees in the playground
– questioned why I grew breasts
– discovered the word ‘lesbian’ in high school
– developed crushes on butch lesbians and androgynous men
– dabbled in the drag king scene in the late 90’s
– uncovered the term ‘transgender’ with the Y2K bug
– started reading about hormones and transitioning in my mid twenties
– began exploring and questioning my own gender in 2008
– bought my first binder and outed myself as genderqueer in a friend’s book 2.7yrs ago
– got my first T shot just over one year ago in June

Adapted from the 30 day Trans challenge and the 30 day [GSM] challenge

Questioning T

24 Jun

I missed the first FTM Shed gathering yesterday because I am still trying to get over my cold and was exhausted after attempting to walk around South Yarra, Prahan and Windsor. There was also a part of me that wasn’t too sure about going as I don’t identify as FTM or masculine identified. I wanted to go because I wanted to find someone else like me, but as I scrolled through the Facebook event list I saw ‘guys’ and ‘men’. I still don’t feel like one of the group and I think I never will be. I didn’t sign-up for hormones because I wanted to belong to a community, but I guess it would have been nice. Well there is always the next one…

Two-weeks ago I took a week off work, which meant I had three days off. What was supposed to be a relaxing week turned out to reveal that I was in fact burning out and was feeling a little low. I needed to withdraw from everything and everyone in order to feel stable again. I don’t feel I am quite there yet but the time off, plus last week when I had a cold, has given me enough energy to battle on. The reason why I mention this here is that it affected how I see my genderqueerness and how I related to it as well.

Over the past two months, where a lot happened, I gradually felt myself decline. I complained that I was constantly tired, couldn’t sleep well and found it hard to concentrate. During that time I also didn’t feel like I was ‘me’, meaning that my gender/genderqueerness was of no importance when needed to survive seemed to overwhelm me. I was a little confused when I realized this – was my identity and taking T even important anymore? I missed T shots, was overdue for others and thought “why do I both?” when I did. I am still struggling a little and still have the questions of “why is this so important?” when it is so easy to put it on the back burner?

Before going to bed last night I noticed that two-weeks of facial hair growth was obvious enough to me to have to do something about it. Annoyance mixed with disgust battled for attention as I took my hair clippers to my chin and sideburns. I was worried what people at work would think of a ‘chick’ with tits having facial hair. In my mind I was worried that facial hair wasn’t for me – unwanted side effects of T. I knew I would get facial hair, I got excited about it, I didn’t mind it, but now that I am getting a beard I am wondering if this is it? There is a lot more I could explore, like do I have an stopping point or what other changes am I wanting, what would I do if I continue and grow a beard? All questions asked of me pre-T, but I couldn’t answer because I had no experience. I wonder how many other people ask these questions of themselves…

I can say what I am happy with and what I want: deeper voice, some facial hair, no menstruation, being seen as more masculine, increased sex drive… I wonder if I can cope with the hair growth stuff? I mean, that seems to be the only thing really making me question taking T at the moment, but what is a bit of facial hair!?

30 Day Genderqueer Challenge Day 13

5 Jun

How do you deal with gendered things? Clothes shopping, bathrooms, forms, etc.

Once upon a time I was ignorant, it was bliss, or was it? Now I deal with gendered things on a day-to-day basis – some days are good and some days they aren’t.

Clothes – I buy clothes where I want, and lucky for me I manage to avoid the whole gender thing in-between the racks of fashion. I still struggle to walk into a men’s/women’s only store on my own ( I wear clothes irrespective of their gender – do clothes actually have a gender?) as I either feel I don’t fit or that people will wonder what on earth I am doing. Women’s clothes sometimes fits better but a lot of the time I don’t want to wear it because it is for ‘women’. Men’s clothes are more appealing because it gives me more of an androgynous look, but alas they are either too big, doesn’t fit that well or just don’t appeal to me. As for shoes I stick to basics and am usually seen wearing my red Globe high-tops. I’d like a pair of men’s shoes but I have ‘issues’ with shoes fitting me and being comfortable so I’ve not bothered yet.

Bathrooms – I’ve rarely gone into men’s toilets unless a) I’ve desperately needed to pee and it’s a queer venue, or b) I’ve gone in with a male friend and I’ve kept my head low. I don’t mind going into the female toilets if I have to, but I much prefer accessible/unisex toilets.

Forms – I have most of my documentation saying ‘female’ as that’s what I am biologically. If I come across current forms, that aren’t legal documents, I will usually tick both male and female or the ‘other’ option if it’s available. I rarely select ‘male’ as I am not and don’t want to deceive or lie, trouble is ticking ‘female’ doesn’t make me feel any batter! I now actively choose to not select any gender if my only two options are ‘male’ or ‘female’, something that often either causes issues or get filled-in my HR without my permission.

Language – I prefer gender-neutral pronouns for myself and try to respect other people’s preferences. I rarely correct people using female pronouns for me at work, weather it’s a staff member or client, simply because I am not ‘out’ as genderqueer and can’t deal with having to explain it to everyone. In the end however I don’t mind ‘female’ pronouns if someone has asked me my preference first – I think it is all about asking instead of assuming.

Adapted from the 30 day Trans challenge and the 30 day [GSM] challenge

30 Day Genderqueer Challenge Day 3

22 Jan

What’s your favorite ways of upsetting gender roles / genderbending / genderfucking?

I’ve been on ‘T’ for quasi six-months and have enough facial hair to either pass as a pre-pubescent boi or a bearded woman. I am never quite sure how people see me, or more to say I am sure queer people see me as part of the trans* umbrella while workmates might just think I am hairy for a lesbian.

Since starting ‘T’ and my voice dropping I’ve found myself binding my chest less and less, however this is more about comfort and wanting to be able to breath than not wanting to ‘pass’. I still try to flatten my chest with sports crop tops and wearing baggier tops. I enjoy dressing in shirts as much as I like my girly tops, only thinking about my dress choice for a couple of seconds before not caring what gender I am perceived as. For a party I don’t mind going in girl-drag and am thinking about possibly buying a tutu. Where most trans* guys are waiting for chest surgery and to grow a beard before wearing a dress out in public to genderfuck I am quite happy to do it right now while I am still growing facial hair and my boobs intact.

Mostly however I genderbend by just being me and genderqueer – I allow myself to wear and be however I feel and just smile if someone is confused in the process.

Adapted from the 30 day Trans challenge and the 30 day [GSM] challenge