As some of you already know, I identify as genderqueer. It’s a term I’ve known since the 90’s, and claimed for myself in my mid-20’s (during the mid 2000’s). After spending twelve years believing I was a “trans-man”*, and supporting my partner at the time through the beginnings of his transition, I realized that I didn’t wish to change my body. At all, really.
Of course there are things I would change, I’m sure everyone wishes their ears didn’t stick out, or their hips were a little narrower, or whatever, but I liked my breasts, for all the damage I’d done to them binding with duct tape for so many years. I liked my genitals, too, once I figured out how they worked.
I didn’t know what being a woman felt like. I’d never really been one. I “decided” I was trans at 16, after spending a few years believing I was butch, simply because I’m not a societal ideal for feminine. I was at a loss. I knew what being a man was, I’d been one successfully for years, but it wasn’t right. Never really had been, if I was honest.
I discovered there were “feminine” things I enjoyed, like wearing skirts and carrying nice purses (that’s my “girly” indulgence, right there lol) but I much preferred my cargo shorts and chained wallet.
Classic social gender roles are ridiculously damaging. Twenty-seven years spent confused because I must be certain things because of random bits of myself that make me comfortable. I felt pulled in all directions, even more so because autism and multipotentiality give me interests across the board.
I like reading, and long skirts, so I must be a girl. But I like chained wallets and action figures, so I must be a boy. Back and forth like a ping-pong ball. In my early 20’s, I dated a person who considered themselves genderqueer. Being politically driven, and trans-identified, I’d heard the term since it first coined, but being trained to truscum**, I didn’t know what it really meant.
They explained to me that they just didn’t bother with gender or roles. They picked and chose what terms they would like and accept (They preferred they, I remember, but accepted “she” as they were afab***) like still referring to their (just as genderqueer) life mate at the time as their wife. It really struck a chord in me at the time.
Several years later, after the realization that I didn’t want to change my body, but dealing with the confusion of where I fit, I remembered, and claimed it for myself. I did some research, and discovered new pronouns had been created by someone in the corner of the internet: xe. It resounded with me in a way I never felt before. It felt so good that I didn’t even have to tell people. I kept it close to my heart like a treasured secret. I had something that felt like me.
I told a few people, some laughed, some scoffed, some said “I’ll try” and then didn’t, some said “I’ll try” and then tried, failed and never bothered again… and I didn’t care. In my own head, it’s how I referred to myself, and no one could take it away from me.
I believed I was no longer allowed to consider myself transgender. The term was now fleshed out, in the mid-late 00’s. Transcending gender. Except I didn’t mind being called she, I didn’t feel that my “birth name” was my deadname****, it didn’t bother me.
Many years later, I realized that I am allowed to identify how I want to. I am definitely transgender. Not only am I non-binary, but I have journeyed through gender.
And I’ve fought as hard as I can for transgender rights. I was part of the lobbying group that added “gender identity and expression” to the NYC Human Rights Commission’s anti-discrimination policy – a huge win, in the 90’s.
I founded Family Transcends, the FIRST trans-exclusive big-sibling mentorship program. I loudly shout against transmisogyny, trans-sexism, and racism in the trans community. I fight against it from the very bottom floor. The current political stance of the transgender community at large has become very bigoted against non-binary transgender people. There’s an aura of non-importance, because many of us can pass (this is called “conditional passing privilege”), so we do not face the same risk as other transgender people.
This is the wrong way to think. Dividing the community into those who can pass and those who face risk openly is as bad as the truscum I was taught to believe. We are all transgender, and as such we all matter. There can be no division, there can be no separation, like there is between “us” and “them”.
If we divide “us” into us and them, then what? It creates an elitist class within an oppressed class. Literally, a “my oppression is worse than yours”. What does this accomplish?
It’s a frightening trend that shows no sign of ending without serious work to do so. Quite recently I was told by someone that I’m “not trans enough” to have an opinion on trans matters. It hurt badly enough that I was knocked on my ass for several days. This is an alarming trend within the larger trans community, the division to isolate non-binary people is hardcore.
By the same token, the language we as activists has changed, and not necessarily for the better. As activists we are supposed to be the leaders of the fight. It is our job to know the political language. Remember the “PC” movement in the 90’s? Everyone suddenly began using our language. With the increase in awareness of the public, we should have evolved. Instead, we began to pick each other apart for being “pc enough”, and for privilege. Privilege. I’m not certain people even really understand the concept anymore.
Privilege comes in two types: Social, and Institutionalized.
Social privilege is how you seem to other people. It has passing privilege for some types of trans people, and passing privilege racially. It’s the privilege people give you because of how they see you.
Institutionalized privilege is what you’re given because of your qualitative traits; race, economic background, education level and/or cisnormative gender.
The way privilege works is tricky, and often blindly spread cross-board without realizing there are exceptions and loopholes to the rules. A transgender woman may still experience “male privilege” when she appeared male to the public; that’s structured privilege, along with social passing privilege.
On the other hand, within the same “oppressed group”, in this case the conversation is about transgender people, squabbling about privilege from one trans person over another is ridiculous, unnecessary, and damaging.
I have never been politically correct, ESPECIALLY as an activist. It’s my job to break norms, to create new words when we need them, to use them and educate and move on to the next thing. We’re being trapped by our own language; we’re allowing ourselves to become overly sensitized by it. We can no longer make mistakes among ourselves. We check each other with increasing frequency, and judge each other on the value of how correct we are. Fuck that. It’s my duty as an activist to challenge things where I see idiocy, and I will continue to do so.
When blood runs thin,
*Referring to female-to-male GAP (gender-affirming procedure,as opposed to sex-reassignment surgery) seeking, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) desiring. My use of the hyphen in this case is pointed – during the 90’s and even into the double-naughts, the “trans” was hotly debated, as most people who identified that way considered themselves pre- or mid transition. Those who had completed the process (according to the archaic definitions of such) and could now pass, considered themselves, simply, men.
**Truscum is a term for transgender people who believe they have a medical condition, and transition will “fix” them, and they won’t be transgender anymore. Many truscum claim this term for themselves, and many gender-inclusivists use it as a slur for transmisogynist and transsexist behavior.
***Assigned Female At Birth. afab or dfab (defined) and amab or dmab are always preferable to “biological” as gender itself is ingrained and has nothing to do with our genitals or even chromosomes. Some people accept “birth sex” but I personally find it erasing.
****Many trans people find their transition***** to be their rebirth, and thus their chosen name is their birth name, the old name/identity being dead.
*****Transition refers to the process in which a trans person becomes their authentic self. For some, this process involves HRT and GAP, for some, like me, it’s a mental thing, a social thing or something else entirely. All of these are valid.