(Re)framing Gender

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…

Hi my name is…and I am genderqueer

This is my experience and identity: genderqueer, wanting a choice of pronouns depending on who I am with and where I am; choosing to bind or not; how I feel about going over the edge and having surgery when I see others who have taken that path; wondering if a low dose of Testosterone (T) could be enough; how frustrated I feel when someone assumes I’m male or female based on something like my facial hair or voice; and trying to walk the line and push the limits of where genderqueer ends and trans* starts, while everyone around me jumps-ship by increasing their amounts of T and having top-surgery.

But it didn’t start that way; I wanted to be a genderqueer who was trans-ish and not think about needing to inject T. I chose to ‘transition’ in order to bring myself more into the middle as non-binary instead of still being seen as a lesbian, female or girl. I feel like I need hormones to do it though.

For me however transition isn’t about moving from one gender to another, it isn’t that liner. I view everyone’s gender journey, including my own, as individual and ongoing. I am not even sure if transition is a term I would use for myself, as I am not going from one thing to another. Are you really transitioning if you’re not attempting to reach an end result?

Being genderqueer gives me the choice of not needing to transition, a space to feel comfortable with my chest and what’s between my legs, not wanting male pronouns and also disliking female ones. Being genderqueer gives me visibility and the opportunity to challenge myself, and others, to always search for who I really am. I don’t want to lose my ability to be me (whatever that means).

I have had doubts as well. I thought that I would begin to feel more comfortable with and within myself. In a way I have, but I’ve also had moments where I panic and feel confused with where I am going with all of this. I guess you could say that my relationship with myself has been a rollercoaster. The doubts are a way to constantly check-in with myself as to where I want to go. However, so far it is easy to keep going and not think about the future. In the end I will never be 100% sure of how far I am willing to go, but I want to see how it would feel to morphs into something more masculine. But how far is too far? I am not sure if, or when, I will stop, as I’ve not been looking that far ahead, assuming it would all be ok, or that I wouldn’t need to think about it. I do spend time thinking about it though, but it is more something running in the back of my mind. I know I am no longer trying to reach anywhere, I am happy simply traveling along and seeing where I go, where it all takes me.

Coming out as genderqueer has been difficult and I’ve only told a few close friends. I don’t know how to come out; I feel it is easier to understand someone who physically transitions from one gender to the other.  It can be much harder for someone who looks the same but wants to be called by a different name, use different pronouns or starts using the accessible toilets.  It’s a challenge trying to educate friends and colleagues about who I really am, but like tonight, it’s easier with complete strangers.

I prefer gender-neutral pronouns, but rarely correct people using female ones for me, especially at work, whether it’s a staff-member or client. It’s still a tricky place for me, where people ‘she’ me all the time and refer to me as ‘her’ or a ‘lady’, which makes me shudder. I do find it amusing and odd though when people refer to me as ‘he’. I find it uncomfortable to be referred to as male and I think this feeling is more to do with where I am at and not feeling trans* enough. Another genderqueer friend explained her need to retain female pronouns so she wouldn’t disappear within the trans* spectrum and lose who she is while presenting as quite masculine.

What other people see and think about me is both important and not. It’s important for me feel that I fit in somewhere, to be seen or heard as part of the wider trans* community, but sometimes I’m not even acknowledged; sometimes I feel rejected by binary members of the trans* community and I wish I could say “Hi, my name is… and I am genderqueer and not invisible”. But in a world still set-up for men and women it’s hard to navigate if you identify outside, as non-binary, even in a community where gender should be fluid. Because of this treatment and my own lack of confidence, I question if I am trans* enough. Sometimes I feel being myself and choosing not to bind and keeping my name, is that my gender identity and pronouns aren’t respected. However, when I feel insecure about my genderqueerness I do bind my chest, as if to conform to other people’s expectations of what trans* or genderqueer should be.

Now I deal with gendered things on a day-to-day basis – some days are good and some bad. I might feel jealous when I see an acquaintance who has had chest surgery, or I may be perfectly content with the way my body is. Choosing the middle of the road wasn’t going to be easy and I think in a way it shows how hormones could help but wouldn’t suddenly change everything and make it better. It’s a far cry though from the beginning of my gender journey, when I was questioning all. The community didn’t know who or what I was (I don’t think I did either at the time). It was almost like I was too lesbian/female to be seen as queer or possibly trans*?

In the end I just try to enjoy my journey and survive in a mostly binary world. Throughout my own journey I have sought-out people who might be sharing a similar path to me, hoping to simply talk to someone who might understand. Meeting with other genderqueer individuals makes me feel understood and almost a peace with myself. No one else seems to ‘get me’ and more importantly it is hard for me to talk about some stuff that I think other people won’t get. I end up holding myself back, not talking, not expressing how I feel and possibly isolating myself further. My mentors are what help me get through these rocky periods in my genderqueer journey. Many of these mentors are online acquaintances or people who I now call friends – I don’t think some of them know how much their words have helped me.

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