I am genderqueer.
When speaking to another non-binary friend they described their experiences as feeling as though “everything is right and everything is wrong all at the same time”.
There is no surgery that can fix my dysphoria, no pronoun that I have found, no name, or space, or label.
Yet both bathrooms have felt comfortable, both sides of the clothing store have bowed to my appeal.
I have been told that I am not trans* enough. That my position in the middle of a spectrum is not valid, that I am simply playing with social constructs out of rebellion and youthful deviancy.
But this genderfucking is not just a game to me, it is the essence of my being and throughout my life I have always felt that my body and my mind held too much personhood for either end of the binary.
I have no preferred pronoun. My experience has taught me that words are too arbitrary to express the complexity of my position as a non-binary being. I am both and I am neither. I am the most comfortable and free and the most inhibited and frustrated.
When I am expressing my femininity I am seen as a cis-woman, yet feel like I am in the most freeing of drag. When I am with a cis-man I am seen as hetero, yet I feel like the queerest I could ever be.
I have, for a long time, wrestle with my identity and how it fit with my politics, my sexuality, and my personal expression. I have found a strange complexity in the confliction between these three.
Politically I am a woman. I have viewed the patriarchy through a young girls eyes, however involuntarily. My feminism fights a male-dominated domain and strives for a world where gender does not matter, so that I may release this political womanhood. But, while I still fight for women, I must share my experiences as a woman, however involuntary those experiences have been.
Sexually I have felt the most queer when sleeping with men. I am masculine in nature and that has let me experience sex through the eyes of a man. My attraction to women seemed natural to me, seemed normal too me, and too vanilla. I have always felt like a fag, and sometimes when I am in the right clothes, I am called one.
My expression is based on my feelings. In the morning I pick a mask: one is of a pretty boy, one of a hard-femme, the other of a mix of both and a representation of neither.
Everyday I struggle to exist in a world constructed to believe that I do not. The language I have is based on a binary I do not align with and these facts have caused my mind to fight my basic instinct of personal identity.
My advice to the friend quoted above was the same mantra I must whisper to myself when I wish myself into existence: You do not have to explain yourself to anyone, the only person who must comprehend an identity is the one expressing it.
There are clearly gaping holes in my theories, problematic wording in my explanations, but it is only because I have become too tired trying to explain these feelings to myself to try and relay them to anyone else.
The feminism I practice fights for gender equality. This is not to be read as equality for women. It is deliberate in its vagueness and strives only to break down a society run on socially constructed gender roles and a false gender binary. The world my feminism seeks is one that has erased all concepts of gender from its mind and does not need silly explanations of natural feelings in the jargon of the oppressors that have created this frustration.
Virginia Woolf said, in her essay “A Room of One’s Own”, that, ““A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” However, I would like to make the argument that those two basic needs must be fulfilled for anyone to do anything remotely brilliant, successful, and intellectual, and that not everyone is afforded the privileged of a space of their own to grow within.
Think about anytime you have needed to clear your head, take a breathe, or a step outside simply so that whatever seed of intellectual or creative inspiration had just crossed your mind could grow and develop. These moments to ourselves allow our minds to wander and to reflect upon itself, and a lot of the time that wandering feeds great and beautiful words, songs, ideas, or strategies. But what would happen to all of those deeply personal developments if you did not have a space to go to, a place to separate yourself from the distractions of the outside world?
Not all people, within our society, have the privileged of that sort of space. It is an issue of class and class, in many cases, is highly influenced by race, gender, and other intersecting identities. With white women getting paid ~76 cents to every white man’s dollar, black women ~65 cents to a white man’s dollar, and latina women getting paid ~56 to every white man’s dollar, it becomes very clear that a person’s ability to have a private space to themselves, money to sustain them, and consequently, the ability to grow creatively and intellectually is based a lot on gender and race. (On top of that, in the vast majority of states in the U.S you can get fired for being openly trans* and trans* people have no protection under equal housing laws, therefore disadvantaging another group from reaching their full capabilities.)
It may seem like I am simply over analyzing a lovely bit of Woolf, but this “private space” privilege is just another way that our society maintains straight-white-cis-male dominance within government and society. When only rich white straight cis men are given the opportunity and the space to develop as individuals to their fullest capacity, we create a society and a culture that is comprised of art, music, literature, film, and scholarly work, that is inspired by only one point of view, misrepresenting and perpetuating the oppression of the majority of the people who will be taking it all in.
HRC vs DOMA
A piece of legislation known as DOMA (The Defense of Marriage Act) is now the biggest opposition to the HRC’s fight for marriage equality. However, it seems like these two groups may be fighting for the same thing, the defense of marriage.
The nuclear family ( traditionally known as Dad, Mom, Kids) arose out of a new and blossoming economic structure known as capitalism. Now, when I say capitalism in this setting I don’t mean the type of capitalism we have now, I am simply referring to the switch from communal living and the sharing of basic goods and needs, to the privatization of material goods and capital.
Before the privatization of materials there existed a society where everybody in a community was taken care of. Adults moved from partner to partner as they pleased, children were taken care of by all those who were no longer children themselves and food and shelter was shared as needed. This society worked outside the confines of the nuclear family for one reason, the existence of human compassion.
There is a story of a French soldier who comes upon a Native American tribe in the newly “discovered” Americas. Seeing that the nuclear family did not exist there, the French soldier asked the chief how he knew which children were his if he has so many partners and he had married none of them. The chief replied, get this, that it didn’t matter which kids were his! Why not? Because he loved and cared for all the children in his tribe! Crazy right? Imagine, a world where people cared about everybody and not just those who happened to be related to them. Now, the French soldier felt that he needed to know who his children were for one reason only, so that he knew who to pass his money and material goods down to. Without marriage you cannot guarantee which child is biologically yours, and without a legitimate heir your money does not stay in the “family”. To a community that cares about everyone, they might actually use the materials of the deceased to better the whole of the community, not just hoard it all under their family name.
Now, the queer movement started out as a radical protest against everything normative, oppressive capitalism being one of them. So, the fight for marriage equality seems to me to be in direct opposition to the ideals of the queer community. On top of the political implications of marriage, the definition of marriage is only being fought to change the gender of the two people entering into the marriage, same sex, or opposite sex. This perpetuation of marriage also instills the traditional social codes that are associated with marriage: gender roles, parenting, monogamy, and sexual abstinence before entering this institution.
This fight also poses no threat to heterosexual dominance. It is the norms set out by vanilla heterosexuality that is being upheld even by gay marriage, and it does nothing to critique the political and social problems that are historically associated with it. Not to mention that this form of gay rights alienates many different identities that now are being demonized by the straight community and the gay community: those individuals that are involved in the kink community, are polyamorous, asexual, gender deviant, or politically radical.
The gay rights movement has turned its back, very openly, on the more deviant identities in the queer community. Loud queers that flourish in their differences instead of trying to assimilate to heteronormativity are told to shut up and let the gays get their marriage equality while trans* people still have little to no rights on a state and federal level, and young adults who choose to be sexual active outside of monogamous relationships are slut shamed and alienated.
So the HRC and DOMA can both go back to their SUVs, domestic partners, and yellow labs, but I refuse to trap my soul behind the rainbow picket fence.
queer, adj.: strange, odd, peculiar, eccentric. (OED)
In layman’s terms, this word stands for anything and anybody who has refused to assimilate. It is an umbrella term that stands over all whose gender expressions, sexual kinks, partners, political beliefs, etc. fall outside our society’s definition of “normal” and “socially acceptable”.
For a large portion of my life I identified as a lesbian. I fought hard for marriage equality and the don’t ask don’t tell repeal. I slept only with women, shunning those who were attracted to men, thinking my sexuality made me a stronger woman, a better feminist, more open minded. I felt safe within the community of the femme and butch dichotomy and found a sisterhood within women who love women. However, the sisters I thought I had found a refuge in from the harsh homophobic world were quick to turn their backs on me when I started to stray from the path of what I now see as homonormativity.
This alienation and revelation came directly after I started dating a cis-gendered man. The group of people I had once heard preach about the equality of love and being accepted for whoever you are attracted to seemed to end when I fell outside THEIR idea of normativity. Sure they rejected the straight world’s view of normal, but it seems the mainstream gay movement has set up their own definition of normal and has become just as closed minded as the hetero bigots they fight so desperately.
The mainstream gay movement has created a space that preaches the idea that “we’re just like you!”. It is a political strategy that forces heteronormative ideas, like marriage, the nuclear family, and pro-military patriatism, ideas that have traditionally been in direct opposition to queer communities, so that the small minority of white, middle class, vanilla monogamous gays can gain some legal ground while they leave the rest of the queer movement behind.
In my gender bending, kink inspired, anarchy driven, opposite sex relationship I feel more queer than I ever had sleeping with other women. It is the idea of anti-assimilation that brings the queer community together. It doesn’t matter who you sleep with, how you dress, or what your partnerships looks like, it is the complete rejection of a sexist, racist, queerphobic, trans*phobic, capitalist society that links all people together under the multifaceted queer umbrella.
The mainstream gay movement would love us to shut our mouths, quietly accept the fate of marriage and a nuclear monogamous family, behind a rainbow picket fence, but the queer know better. We understand that we ARE different from the hetero’s, from the normative breeders, and that is what we embrace when we identify as queer. So every Bondage Queen, Poly-lover, Asexual God(dess), or Genderbending radical that has felt marginalized by all normativity (gay or straight) has a place within the queer family.
So, I don’t care if my former lesbian sisters have a problem with me dating a man. I am queerer than I’ve ever been and no matter what junk my partner has got, I will always refuse to assimilate.